American Way of Life is, through it all, presented as anpositive good—working, loving, and hunting. At the end,nthe remnants of the cast gather to sing “God Bless America.”n(Compare here the more somber and understatednending oiThe Green Berets.)nThe defense of the American Way of Life against thenenemy from the East is also the theme of Cimino’s latestnoffering, The Year of the Dragon, in which Mickey Rourkenplays a graying Vietnam veteran out to destroy a Chinatownndrug lord with close and explicit ties to the drug traffic innSoutheast Asia. Few reviewers missed the movie’s direction,nand they were as angry at it as they were at Ramho. Thenpoint is made again and again by Rourke himself and hisnclosest friend that he is obsessed with the defeat in Vietnam,na defeat caused by cowardly and self-protecting bureaucrats.nThis time he is going to win, he says, almost in the verynwords of Stallone to Crenna at the start of Rambo.nRambo’s crusade kills many Communists but does notninvolve serious loss to America. Even the treacherousnbureaucrat survives. Rourke’s victory, on the other hand, isncostly, almost Vergilian. The bravest and truest of thosenaround Rourke suffer: a brave young Chinese policeman,nRourke’s wife, both brutally slain; finally, even the beautifulnChinese-American TV reporter that he has lured into theninvestigation (and into bed) is brutally raped. Cruelty andnviciousness cannot deter Rourke. Now, this is a fantasy, asnmuch as Rambo, but it represents a much more maturenfantasy. Virtue will triumph, but we are not allowed to shirknthe cost of that victory. As in Vergil’s Aeneid, a betternsociety will emerge from the conflict, but the cost in humannsuffering and loss is real, and we must face it. In a worldnwhere easy and cheap success is promised from every TVnscreen and full-page ad in magazines, this insistence on thencost of victory is as needed by Americans as much as thenenthusiasm and patriotism of Chuck Norris and SlynStallone.nMovies are fantasies. A nation’s fantasies are also statementsnabout itself. The fantasies of a few filmmakers,nrewarded with devotion and money, have now seeped downninto the television industry. In Stephen J. Cannell’s lightheartednRiptide, serving together in Vietnam is a shorthandnfor masculine loyalty and achievement. On the muchnabused A-Team, it is somewhat more. The A-Team is angroup of 20th-century Robin Hoods, helping the downtroddennagainst the wealthy and the brutal. Why are they on thenlam from the U.S. government? You have to listen carefully,nbut the reason is, in a word, because they invaded NorthnVietnam without (or is it against?) orders. The invasion ofnthe North is the great hidden, unspoken American fantasy.nWe could have won the war if they had let us—thenthematic thread that unites most of the movies we havendiscussed. Its role in the success of the A-Team’s appeal tonthe American psyche is important, and TV critics wouldnrather talk about anything else.nMore explicit and often impressive is the role of Vietnamnin Glen Larsen’s Magnum, P.I., where Tom Selleck andnhis friends are Vietnam vets who have never really recoverednfrom that experience. The three American buddies arensuccesses in their way, and they love one another and arenloyal to one another, but their careers and personal lives arenstunted by the war, its disorienting horror touching themn241 CHRONICLES OF CULTUREnnnwhen they least expect it. In one episode, a Vietnam medicnhas devoted his life to caring for the family of a friend whonwas killed in the war (by drug dealers, not by Charlie). Hisnfriend’s wife has grown to love him, and so does his son.nHe, however, is committed to revenge and in the endnassassinates the drug dealer at the cost of his own life.nSelleck finds it hard to explain to the now doubly widowednwidow why she had to lose two men she loved. “You see, wenshut our eyes and we forget. He shuts his eyes and henremembers.” This past season Magnum returned with hisnwhole crew to Cambodia to rescue the leader of thendemocratic resistance from the Vietcong. Here, too, thenbravest—a young man, a wife, an old soldier—die, butnwhen the others get back, they all agree that freedom isnworth fighting for. They were right to go back.nWhen did the American people begin to realize that itnwas us against them? I wonder if the turning point in moviesndid not occur about the time o( Walking Tall. Buford Pussernwas a tragic hero. They took everything from him, pridenand family and wife, but he never gave up until they killednhim. Our POW’s returned from North Vietnam with ansimilar lesson, real heroes like Rear Admiral James B.nStockdale and Senator Jeremiah Denton. Courage andningenuity can triumph over brutality. They can torture usnand kill us but they cannot make us give up.nThe rational response to the totalitarian torturer and thenliberal social engineer is to give up, keep quiet, and donthings their way. Out of a deep courage and commitment tontheir way of life, however, the American people are findingnnew heroes in the men who went through the frustrationnand defeat of Vietnam and will not be fitted into their mold.nFor Americans, heroes are where you find them. Surely nonother people ever took policemen as their heroes as we didnin the 60’s and still do. Now we are admiring the batterednveterans of a lost war. Some, like Jim Stockdale andnJeremiah Denton, were real soldiers. Many are fantasies ofnVietnam warriors. Under their banners, the war continues.nT.S. Eliot thought that we fight for lost causes “becausenwe know that our defeat and dismay may be the preface tonour successors’ victory.” If the films that appeal to thenpopular imagination are evidence, the war is not over fornmany Americans. More, they are willing to see abusivenportrayals of the leadership that lost the war and brought onnso many of the fruits of the 60’s. This you will not learnnreading “important” magazines or public speeches. ThenAmerican people have discovered in the darkness of thenmovie theater and the privacy of their homes what theynwant to applaud. The security of the voting booth hasnbegun to proclaim the same message. The liberal Bourbons,nwho have learned nothing and forgotten nothing, arenbeginning to stir uncomfortably in their couches. The criesnfor equality and compassion that blare from the loudspeakersnare being drowned out by a mob crying for excellencenand victory, both personal and national. As yet, onlynpopular art reflects this resurgence, but a satiated andnsleeping elite may awaken one morning to discover thatntheir cynical Vietnam misadventure was the harbinger ofnthe great popular revolutions of our time. “Sir,” Rambonasks Richard Crenna, “this time, can we win?” ccn