Parallax Views w/ J.G. Michael

Hanoi Jane and the Mythology of the Vietnam War w/ Dr. Jerry Lembcke

May 13, 2020

On this edition of Parallax Views, Academy Award winning actress Jane Fonda made news recently for endorsing endorsing Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders' bid for the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination ahead of the 2020 Election. And with this news came a ghost that has been haunting Fonda for decades: the accusation that the Hollywood star betrayed American troops in the Vietnam War. In the waning years of that conflict Fonda became an outspoken antiwar activist whose efforts culminated in an infamous visit to Vietnam's capitol, Hanoi, that remains a point of heated controversy for many Americans. During this trip the actress cavorted with the Vietnamese, was granted a  tour of POW camps, and participated in broadcasts from Radio Hanoi pleading with U.S. servicemen to stop the bombings. As a result, Fonda gained the scorn-ridden nickname "Hanoi Jane" and the ire of many Americans, including Vietnam War veterans, who've come to see her as a traitor to the U.S. states military and its troops.

Dr. Jerry Lembcke, a retired professor of Sociology at Holy Cross College and a Vietnam War Veteran himself, however, controversially argues that there's a gap between Jane Fonda the human being and what he argues is the myth of Hanoi Jane is his book Hanoi Jane: War, Sex, and Fantasies of Betrayal (University of Massachusetts Press; 2010). Furthermore, Lembcke has made the case that the story of the traitorous Hanoi Jane is but one piece of a broader American mythology pertaining to the Vietnam War. Specifically, Lembcke persuasively questioned the popular notion that veterans returning from the war were spat upon by disrespectful antiwar protesters in his meticulously researched The Spitting Image: Myth, Memory, and the Legacy of Vietnam (NYU Press; 1998). If Lembcke is correct, why do such myths arise and what purpose do they serve for America's collective psyche?

Jerry Lembecke joins us to on this edition of the program to answer those questions and lay out what he considers the myths of the Vietnam War in what is sure to be one of the most thought-provoking and controversial conversations featured on Parallax Views to date. Additionally, Jerry tells us about his experience in Vietnam and what drove him to investigate these matters. All that and more on this edition of Parallax Views.