Research

Megan O’Boyle, Political Science

Advisor: Lisa L. Miller,Political Science & Criminal Justice

This project analyzes the portrayal of dead bodies in mass media, particularly film, in wars involving the United States since the Vietnam War. Over time, I find, by way of footage from Vanderbilt Television News Archive, that the portrayal of dead bodies is increasingly sanitized and controlled in the news. I also find that as the number of deceased Americans shown in the footage increased, the individualization of the segments also increased. Those of other nationalities remain consistently unnamed and appear less frequently over time as segments tend to feature individual fallen Americans rather than battlefield carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan. While it is even easier to obtain graphic raw footage in real time, the news has a tendency to sanitize the footage in a way that was not done in Vietnam and chooses to no longer show such graphic pieces without warning. Based on these findings, it can be said that news has changed the way it chooses to portray death, American or other over time. News sources continue through both Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan to portray American soldiers in a more humanized light, allowing for an “othering” of non-Americans featured, while becoming increasingly more sanitized overall.