Reenactment, fantasy, and the paranoia of history: Oliver stone's docudramas

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Abstract

In the late 1980s and 1990s, American popular culture has been increasingly rife with conspiracy narratives of recent historical events. Among cultural producers, filmmaker Oliver Stone has had a significant impact on popular understanding of American culture in the late twentieth century through a series of docudramas which reread American history through the lens of conspiracy theory and paranoia. This paper examines the films of Oliver Stone-in particular Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, and Nixon-asking why they have achieved popularity and brought about catharsis, why they are the subject of attack, and why it is useful to look beyond the debate about truth and falsehood that has surrounded them. It analyzes the ways in which Stone's status as a Vietnam veteran allowed Platoon to be accorded the authenticity of survivor discourse, whereas JFK and Nixon were subject to almost hysterical attack, not only because of Stone's assertions of conspiracy, but also because of his cinematic style of tampering with famous images. Taking these films as its point of departure, this paper examines the role of images in the construction of history, the form of the docudrama, the reenactment of historical images, fantasies of history, and ways in which paranoia part of the practice of citizenship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)64-79
Number of pages16
JournalHistory and Theory
Volume36
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Philosophy

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