“I’ve Got a Hunch We’re Going Around in Circles”: Exceptions to American Exceptionalism in Hollywood Korean War Films

Junghyun Hwang


Hollywood Korean War films primarily aimed at integrating American citizenry into national narratives of cohesion and teleology by displacing contradictions onto the exteriority of American identity. The films dismiss the Korean War as not worth fighting for, yet simultaneously propose that fighting is the only viable option to cope with the futility of war. This paper argues that this closed rationality of we-fight-simply-because-we-fight is a symptom of cold war liberalism. And the cold war subject, caught in the circular movement of finding-while-missing the meaning, prefigures a postmodern subject of drive that transcends the fundamental lack in the process of subjectivization and finds satisfaction in the endless circular movement with no destination. Crucially, American exceptionalism functions as the state fantasy in this process of denying/displacing inconsistencies inherent to the imagined national identity. This circular rationality, which constitutes the paradigmatic subject-position of latecapitalist American culture, was constructed in the early years of the cold war, and its cultural manifestations can be traced in Hollywood films about the Korean War.

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ISSN: 0044-8060
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