Revelations in Generation Kill DVD Bonus Feature

The featurette in which Evan Wright and First Reconnaissance Battalion marines reflect on their experiences in Iraq and the HBO mini-series Generation Kill inspired me to reevaluate my assessment of the value of DVD extras. Most bonus features strike me as bogus, but I perceived this one as authentic. (Could this be related to the sense of realism that pervades Generation Kill? These are the flesh and blood bases of characters rooted in non-fiction—even their real names are preserved—rather than actors temporarily stepping outside of fictional roles.)

Furthermore, it discredits the image of soldiers as mindless drones, revealing the articulate thoughtfulness of the real-life models for Generation Kill’s characters. Their remarks compelled me to consider whether or not Generation Kill depicts marines’ deindividuation and blind following of orders, and if so, if this is fair. Does David Simon’s anti-institutional, anti-authoritarian bend rear its head in the mini-series?

It is also interesting to analyze the marines’ behavior in the panel discussion from a psychological perspective. Obviously, they are bound to appear drastically different when safely tucked away in a Hollywood studio than when abroad in the heat of combat. Yet, while a staggering incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental disorders exists among individuals released from active duty in, or on leave from, the military (and many of those who don’t suffer from a full-blown mental disorder still present with disordered symptoms), the men who inspired Generation Kill seem remarkably well-adjusted, level-headed, in touch with reality. This raises a thought-provoking point: Generation Kill doesn’t hone in on war’s devastating blow to soldiers’ mental health but rather illuminates the killing mentality ingrained in the armed forces, the divorce from sentimentality and other unnatural shifts that marines are trained to undergo. In this sense, Generation Kill explores war’s precursors and operations rather than its aftermath, focusing on the past and present rather than the future. How does this course of action separate Generation Kill from other literary or cinematic representations of war?

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