Good Morning Vietnam tells the story of an American DJ and member of the Air Force, Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) assigned to the Armed Forces radio network during the early phase of the American intervention in Vietnam (around 1965). The story opens with Cronauer arriving in Vietnam. Cronauer quickly shakes things up at the radio station by disobeying orders from his superiors and playing Rock and R&B songs instead of the classical, polka and sedate pop music that is standard fare on the network. He also introduces satire, comedy, and cynicism into his broadcasts seen as subversive by officers at the station.
While Cronauer does eventually form meaningful bonds with a number of Vietnamese and begins to understand the true nature and complexity of the Vietnam War, some scenes, especially those involving his animalistic oggling and pursuit of Trinh and the portrayal of a Vietnamese bar owner as almost offensively flamboyant (some stereotypical Vietnamese characteristics are also included), stuck me as offensive.
The most meaningful parts of the film occur as Cronauer develops a deeper understanding of the Vietnam War and its impact on both American GIs and the Vietnamese. Notable scenes include Cronauer's traffic-jam interview of GIs shipping out for the front lines and the montage of Vietnam War scenes, shown to the music of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" - the juxtaposition between sight and sound is stunning. Also powerful is a scene at the end, when Cronauer finds out his ‘friend’ is a Communist sympathizer and, feeling betrayed, yells "we're here to help this country," showing the contradictory nature the Vietnam War. I will definitely be showing at least one of these scenes in class during our Vietnam War lessons.
Over all, Good Morning Vietnam is worth using to examine the American perspective in Vietnam, our own sins and confusion about the war, as well as how much American culture was changing during this time period.