From books and music to movies and video games, the United States military has impacted our society in countless ways, including its popular culture.
For example, the classic novel Catch-22 and the later film based on the book paved the way for the many later military stories that portrayed the unseen aspects of war, We Are Mighty explained. The novel portrayed B-24 crewman Joseph Heller dealing with the complicated aspects of both military leaders and the ethics of war in ways that have impacted numerous future works.
One less-known influence from military life includes the classic children’s author Dr. Seuss. Theodor Seuss Geisel, the author’s real name, was a political cartoon author during World War II before joining the military.
Geisel joined the Air Force’s animation department, writing films that led to his later post-war focus on children’s books. Few know that the writer behind “Green Eggs and Ham” previously wrote training materials for military officers.
Another area popularized in the military was the use of comedy on the airwaves. For example, comedian George Carlin served as an Air Force radio tech at Barksdale Air Force Base in the 1950s and started working as a local radio DJ. He was court-martialed three times over his controversial acts.
A host of films, books, fashion trends and even video games now find themselves the result of various levels of military influence. Popular games such as “Call of Duty” or “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six” focused directly on military themes, while a variety of other top game franchises build on military themes that range from weapons to character dialogue.
Several military films continue to highlight the focus of the Armed Forces in theaters. From “Dunkirk” to “Hacksaw Ridge” or 2022’s popular “Top Gun: Maverick,” some of the nation’s enduring titles emphasize America’s military personnel overcoming adversity to fulfill their duty.
Many, however, overlook the many examples of the military in other films. For example, the Armed Forces are seen in several of Marvel’s films, including the Avengers franchise, which portrays military members working to help the general public as superheroes take on intergalactic enemies.
Not all portrayals are positive in modern films. In the latest “Avatar: The Way of Water,” military characters exist among both the “good” and “bad” guys as director James Cameron’s blue alien creatures defend their homeland against human forces out to exploit their planet.