'No Fortunate Son': Billy Jack and images of Vietnam veterans, 1967-1977

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Prior to the late 1970s the American film and television industries eschewed direct comment or reflection on the Vietnam War. As scholars have often noted, with the exception of the lamentable Green Berets, Hollywood avoided grappling directly with the divisions and disappointments arising from America's most divisive conflict since the Civil War. Yet from the late 1960s through to the war's end in 1975, the conflict did figure prominently in American culture, often through (mis)representations of the war's veterans. This paper will consider some of those issues through an examination of the character of Billy Jack. Between 1967 and 1977 four films (The Born Losers, 1967; Billy Jack, 1971; The Trial of Billy Jack, 1974; and Billy Jack Goes to Washington, 1977) were produced featuring Billy Jack, a Vietnam veteran whose outrage at the decline of America's moral sensibilities was matched by his developing sense of political purpose. Very much the brainchild of Tom Laughlin, Billy Jack developed into a counter-cultural folk hero, who represented both the possibilities for the reintegration of Vietnam veterans into the political and cultural 'mainstream', as well as a concern for the ways in which that mainstream had become alienated from the political system that had so grievously betrayed its citizens.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWhen the Soldiers Return
Subtitle of host publicationNovember 2007 Conference Proceedings
EditorsMartin Crotty
Place of PublicationBrisbane
PublisherUniversity of Queensland: School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9781864999273
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes
EventWhen the Soldiers Return Conference - Brisbane
Duration: 28 Nov 200730 Nov 2007


ConferenceWhen the Soldiers Return Conference


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