JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 275
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Nancy K. Miller
universally shared experience: "The ability of a name to bring back every
single memory you have of that person is far more realistic and specific
and much more comprehensive than a still photograph, which captures a
specific moment in time or a single event or generalized image that may
or may not be moving for all who have connections to that time" (4:10).22
Where and how will the memory of the war remain alive? Image or
monument? Film or stone? The documentary about Maya Lin's work
records the testimony of a woman at the hearing in Washington over the
design of the memorial who drew the comparison: "I speak as an
individual, a member from the general public. What are the memorable
images from the war? A guerilla shot at point blank range? A naked girl,
afire, running, screaming down a dusty road. I think Maya Lin was right
in going beyond these kinds of images. She resolved all the pain and
conflict of that unhappy time in a simple message of sacrifice and quiet
heroism." Or perhaps, as I'll suggest in conclusion, this is a false
opposition; perhaps we need both image and monument.
Despite the capacity for manipulation that the image presents, the
image of the girl persists in its iconic fixity, even under the press of
postmodern culture-most famously, in Wag the Dog. In Barry Levinson's
1997 political satire, an eerie pre-figuration of the Clinton scandals (but
whose basic concept remains painfully current, given the charade sur-
rounding the hunt for "weapons of mass destruction"), a representative of
the White House (played by Robert De Niro) is hired to find a way to
distract the public from a presidential sex scandal. He hires a Hollywood
producer (Dustin Hoffman) to create a fake war that will seem real to the
public by making a television movie of it that will pass as the news. In the
initial conversation between De Niro and Hoffman, De Niro explains why
he needs the producer's services. He recalls for Hoffman's benefit,
slogans of past wars, and as he speaks, black and white images flash
quickly making his point: the marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima,
Churchill making the V for victory sign with his fingers, and the Napalm
Girl. "You remember the picture," De Niro says blithely, "fifty years
later, you'll have forgotten the war." The point is made cynically, but at
the same time the power of the simulacrum perversely testifies to the
resistance of the original image-to the still horror of black and white.
The trailer for the made-for-television phony war builds on the image of
a girl running from a burning village. The icon is kitchified for the update:
the girl, clothed and slightly older than the original, wears a kerchief on
her head to suggest Eastern Europe, and she carries a little kitten to certify
Here’s what’s next.
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/21/: accessed November 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .