What I’ve Been Watching: Television – Generation Kill

generation_kill.jpgGeneration Kill

In 2001 HBO and BBC teamed up with Speilberg and Hanks to make Band of Brothers, one of the most ambitious and expensive mini-series ever made.

It told the story of Easy Company in the 101st Airborne as they trained, landed and fought together in the Second World War.

In many ways Generation Kill, which comes from the same creative team that brought us The Wire, is a modern-adaptation of the aforementioned series. Instead of Nazi-occupied Europe, the setting is Iraq. The year :2003.

Like Band of Brothers it’s based on a book. Generation Kill was based on the account of Evan Wright, who’s normal job is as a writer for Rolling Stone magazine.

He spent two months with The Marines of 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, as they spearheaded the allied invasion of the country ruled by Saddam Hussein.

The fact the series is based on real accounts makes it an incredibly insightful look into the experiences of a modern-day soldier.

Man of the issues are exactly the same as those depicted in Band of Brothers: poor equipment; incompetent senior officers; the compradore between the men; letters from home bringing both euphoria and despair.

We also see exactly the same spectrum of characters: the lieutenant perfectly in touch with his own men and the war; the captain who is unable to keep his cool in combat; the distant but highly incisive sergeant; the wise-cracking, quick-talking corporal.

However, there are also some differences (at least in this depiction): the unashamed swearing and ‘gutter’ talk, for example. As well as the increased accountability/threat of court marshals coming from the high risk of civilian casualties.

The latter issue takes up much of this series narrative, as soldiers take a lot of time both aiming to avoid, and dealing with the consequences of, killing innocent members of the iraqi public.

The show is a pretty compelling argument for why males and females should always be integrated in society. The type of behaviour, language and bravado displayed by the men together is so extreme, coarse and misogynistic that initially at least, it’s difficult to warm to the characters portrayed on screen.

However, as you do get to know these flawed individuals you see their intelligence, bravery and concern for the people who’s country they were invading. These are ordinary, real men taking part in an extraordinary generation-defining event.

If I had one criticism of Generation Kill: it’s that it perhaps doesn’t concentrate enough on what makes this generation of soldiers so different to the soldier that fought in Vietnam or the Second World War.

Despite being brought up in a very different culture, it seems once they’re in combat not that much has changed. The songs they sing may be different, the language potentially more colourful, but the structure of the army and mentality of the men hasn’t.

Given the title of the series, one might expect a more thorough examination of these issues. However, perhaps this more a problem with the eye-catching title than the execution of the story itself.

Despite this, it’s still a compelling show which would sit very well alongside Band of Brothers on any DVD shelf.


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