Last Tuesday I had the marvelous opportunity to witness the rarest of sights: a show the likes of which you have never before seen in your life. I’m sure many of you have heard of it. It was called – and this is entirely from memory – Ride the Thunder.
Now I know many of you have already seen the film. I only saw it because of your glowing reviews. But I was amazed to discover that – unlike what many of you said – this was not in fact a movie about a white American’s account of what happened in Vietnam.
Oh no no.
This was in fact a horror film!
I mean, within the first few opening scenes I was treated to the gory spectacle of a white man wearing the hollowed-out skin of a Vietnamese man working his mouth like a sack puppet pretending as though he were in Vietnam. Surely this can be the only explanation as to why – although the movie purported to be set in Vietnam, everybody spoke in English!
Enthralled, I kept watching. And to my delight I was happy to discover that this alchemical puppetry not only continued on from the first scene, but was actually a meta-commentary upon the whole of the film itself!
You see – as the creators of Ride the Thunder probably intended to do – faced with the terribly inconvenient body of experience and suffering and loss that the Vietnamese population endured during the Vietnam war, they decided to polish the heroism and tenure of American GIs the only way they knew how: by erasing all experiences of Vietnamese people from the film.
And all the better for it too because if they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this lovely concoction of a sock puppet movie.
But what was most remarkable was that in the immediate aftermath of the film, many of the people I spoke to didn’t seem to have noticed that the men, the stories, the soul of Vietnamese existance had been hollowed out and propped up upon a white hand. They said, “I really enjoyed the movie!” “Finally, a story I recognize!” “That’s exactly how I remember that time to be!” said a woman to her husband in Vietnamese.
Confused, I wandered out of the theater and into the dry Southern California air. I watched them as they ambled back to their American-flag bedecked cars, drove off into sunset, and left me behind in their dust wondering how it was that they had missed something so obvious.