The IIS Monthly Discussion Series yesterday (10/8) invited Daniel Pranajaya, a student majoring in History and International Relations at the University of Exeter, UK to present the topic of “The Glorification of War in Popular Media”. In popular media such as games, novels, and movies, war is often depicted as a heroic and patriotic action. Pranajaya presented his research on why and how the three popular media glorify war to 14 participants from various faculties at Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM). Nurhawira Gigih Pramono, researcher of IIS UGM, moderated the discussion.
According to Pranajaya, the glorification of war is driven by three factors. First, nationalism framed the war as something that must be done in order to maintain the national sovereignty. Second, war used as state’s propaganda instrument. Third, war as remembrance to the younger generation. We can see these three factors then form the pattern of war description by three popular media. In war-themed games like “Call of Duty”, “Skyrim” and “Modern Warfare”, players will play a major role associated with the ‘war hero’. Game actually shows the correlation of war and acts of violence – like killing enemies as much as possible. However, players are required to continue to do so in order to continue the game. According to the discussant, the developers war-themed game tend to create those formula intensely so that players get the sensation of ‘glory’ as a war hero which they do not have in real life.
If the game glorifying the war by encouraging its players to feel the real experience as a ‘hero’, novels and movies shows war as something ‘patriotic’ through the perspective of the main characters. Through novel and movie, people are brought to an atmosphere of war and how the main character survival effort. The novels, movies, and games then have similarities in the context of war depiction; killing is necessity. But the majority of novels and war films only focus on tell the main character’s activities during the war and rarely narrates how the character lives after the war. Especially in Hollywood movies, the main character is always portrayed as a mere heroic figure which blurred their humanist side.
Pranajaya then brought the discussion to answer the question on how the portrayal of war in popular media influenced people’s perspective on war. On game, the glorification war lies in its gameplay, not in the storyline. So the impact can only be seen at the individual level, not at the communal level. While the movies reflect public’s attention to the recent war of their country. Pranajaya exemplified how the Hollywood movie in the decade of 60-70s regularly depicted US intervention in Vietnam War. And in from the year 20000 until today, war-themed movies mostly took stories about the invasion of the US in the Middle East – especially Iraq and Afghanistan. Movies are also proofed to be a powerful propaganda instruments. The screening of “Top Gun” has great impact in boosted the interest of young Americans to register as a US military pilot.
At the end of the discussion, Pranajaya added that in recent year, indie game developers tried to produce alternative narratives in video games. “This War of Mine”, for example, tells a story of a civilian group in the midst of a civil war. Players have the opportunity to choose every action they take to survive, whether through violence or not. Each selected action will have different consequences for each character. The game was even studied seriously by UNESCO and the Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development as an alternative for peace education in a working paper titled “Empathy, Perspective and Complicity: How Digital Games can Support Peace Education and Conflict Resolution”. Also, novels such as “The Flag of Our Fathers” – later being filmed with the same title – “Band of Brothers”, and movies such as “Platoon” and “Dunkirk” despite still highlights the horror situation of war, featured the main character who experienced a desperate situation on the battlefield, a dilemmatic decision when dealing with the enemy, to experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD); something that are experienced by actual military personnel. Pranajaya suspected that the emergence of alternative war portrayals by the popular media is driven by the market demands because people nowadays are less interested with the mainstream pattern of war depiction. [ARY]