Visual consumption, collective memory and the representation of war

Godfrey, Richard and Lilley, Simon (2009). Visual consumption, collective memory and the representation of war. Consumption, Markets and Culture, 12(4) pp. 275–300.



Conceiving of the visual as a significant force in the production and dissemination of collective memory, we argue that a new genre of World War Two films has recently emerged that form part of a new discursive “regime of memory” about the war and those that fought and lived through it, constituting a commemoration as much about reflecting on the present as it is about remembering the past. First, we argue that these films seek to reaffirm a (particular conception of a) US national identity and military patriotism in the post–Cold War era by importing World War Two as the key meta‐narrative of America’s relationship to war in order to “correct” and help “erase” Vietnam’s more negative discursive rendering. Second, we argue that these films attempt to rewrite the history of World War Two by elevating and illuminating the role of the US at the expense of the Allies, further serving to reaffirm America’s position of political and military dominance in the current age, and third, that these films form part of a celebration of the generation that fought World War Two, which may accord them a position of nostalgic and sentimental greatness, as their collective spirit and notions of duty and service shine against the foil of what might frequently be seen as our own present moral ambivalence.

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