Alfonso Méndiz and Aurora Oliva explore the dehumanisation of soldiers in films about the Iraq War

The dean and lecturer of the Faculty of Communication Sciences at UIC Barcelona have published an article in the journal Historia y Comunicación Social, in which they analyse how the representation of the combatant has changed in contemporary cinema.

Dean of the UIC Barcelona Faculty of Communication Sciences, Alfonso Méndiz, and lecturer Aurora Oliva, published an article in the journal Historia y Comunicación Social in which they expose the dehumanisation of soldiers in war films, specifically in films about the Iraq War.

The article analyses how the depictions of soldiers has evolved throughout the history of cinema, thus revealing how different societies have perceived and experienced armed conflict. Until the Vietnam War, soldiers maintained their hero status, an image endorsed by social approval of conflict as a way of ending the great dictatorships of the 20th century. Following the Vietnam War, soldiers were stripped of their heroic status as audiences saw the violence they werecapable of and the trauma they were exposed to at war. In fiction about Vietnam, the myth was torn down, sparking a process of dehumanisation that would subsequently be strengthened by cinematic narratives released towards the end of the millennium.

Films about the Iraq War depict a double dehumanisation: that inflicted on the opponent and that experienced by the soldier during and after the conflict, including the anguish for what they lived through, the existential crisis or a loss of the meaning of life. The dehumanisation of soldiers, especially in Iraq War films, does not stop with the end of the war, but emerges above all after they return home. It is a bitter and unsuccessful reintegration, because society not only fails to approve of their "heroic" actions, but also scarcely gives credit to the suffering they have undergone or the fact they have put their lives on the line for their country.

This conflict has been portrayed in more than fifty contemporary films, from the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker (2008) and American Sniper (2014), to those that dealt with more controversial issues, such as non-existent weapons of mass destruction (Green Zone, 2010) or the persecution and capture of Osama Bin Laden (Zero Dark Thirty, 2012). It started early with the productions Courage under fire (1996) or Three Kings (1999) up to Invader (2012), Boys of Abu Ghraib (2014), Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk (2016) or the Homelandtelevision series (2011-2020), as well as Turtles can fly (2004), American Soldiers (2005) andJarhead (2005).


Reference work:

Méndiz, A., & Oliva, A. (2020). La deshumanización del soldado en el género bélico. La crisis del combatiente en las películas sobre la Guerra de IrakHistoria Y Comunicación Social25(2), 527-537. https://doi.org/10.5209/hics.72283