Generation Kill’s Reflection of HBO’s Modus Operandi, Social Commentary, and Reception

I’m intrigued by how Generation Kill serves as an exemplar of HBO’s established style of raciness. Its expletive-laden dialogue parodies our generation’s communication style, constantly featuring words such as “dick,” “cock,” “pussy,” “cunt,” “damn,” “shit,” “fuck,” “motherfucker,” and “asshole.” Perhaps this language is exaggerated among marines, or perhaps the series’ writers are seeking to make a statement about the present youth as a whole. After all, distinctions in the characters’ speech extend beyond profanity to referential slang characteristic of contemporary forms of addressing one another, such as “bro,” “bra,” “dude,” “dawg,” “homeboy,” “homie,” and “homes.” How do subtleties—which perhaps aren’t so subtle due to their repetitiveness—in characters’ language reflect the greater aims of Evan Wright, et al. to serve social commentary specifically targeted toward current adolescents and young adults?

I think that a solid study of Generation Kill involves us placing the mini-series within the context of existing media representations of the Iraq War. The 2003 invasion of Iraq drew unprecedented media coverage and raised weighty questions about media bias, censorship, and propaganda. However, there haven’t been a wealth of fictionalized portrayals of the war, and those that have been released, such as the 2007 feature film In the Valley of Elah and the 2008 television mini-series House of Saddam, have suffered commercially, failed to garner warm critical reception, or both. (The same can be said for cinematic portrayals of the September 11 attacks, indicating that, as far as small audiences are concerned, perhaps the public feels that it’s too soon to digest fictionalizations treating devastating, controversial events that are so recent in our nation’s history.) It’s worth considering that innumerable books have been written about the Iraq War, but very few have been adapted into productions, like Generation Kill. Of course, the majority of these books are nonfiction, journalistic accounts, not dramas rooted in fiction. Still, so is Generation Kill. And so, I wonder, what brought Generation Kill to the screen? Did David Simon’s moxie allow for the adaptation, or does Wright’s book contain outstanding value? And why do we suspect that Generation Kill attained such limited viewership when it aired, though it secured wide critical acclaim? How adeptly are its themes presented, and what are the circumstances that underscore how it was received?

One response to “Generation Kill’s Reflection of HBO’s Modus Operandi, Social Commentary, and Reception

  1. I think you make an interesting point about the use of obscenities in Generation Kill, but I’m not sure the author’s of both the book and show intended to make the use of obscenity a thematic element, but rather employed so many profanities for a sense of realism. As an adolescent male approximately the age of the younger characters on Kill I would find it completely inauthentic if these Marines didn’t swear like sailors (although I’m sure the Marines wouldn’t appreciate the use of the metaphor to refer to them). However I do think that this “narrow” vocabulary does help contribute to a sense of ignorance that many of the Marines embody. I think part of what Simon is trying to do with Generation Kill is demonstrate how the military systematically encourages soldiers to blindly accept orders, and this gives them a simplistic view of the world. Part of this simplistic view is the ignorance their use of profanity demonstrates.