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User-Generated Media and Comedy in War

by Ethan Tussey

by Nicole Clark for IN MEDIA RES

Perhaps the most interesting media related aspect of modern warfare is that soldiers on the ground have the distinct opportunity of representing themselves in media. Sites such as YouTube, which was created in 2005, only a couple of years after the start of our prolonged wars, have provided an outlet for our military members in a way that is uniquely immediate, more raw, and as various as the contributors.

Footage of actual missions and attacks pepper the web. The sheer number of “on the ground” videos are both a blessing and a curse to documentarians, as well as the American public, who are trying to understand the realities of these conflicts against the backdrop of sensationalist dramas that come out of Hollywood. I will leave the discussion of movies such as Zero Dark Thirty, for another time or another curator. But I think one important facet of this phenomenon of self-made videos is the use of comedy.

In “Lazy Ramadi,” SSG Matt Wright and SSG Josh Dobbs parody a famous SNL skit entitled “Lazy Sunday,” both of which use catchy rap-style lyrics to offer a glimpse into two very divergent American experiences. In “Lazy Ramadi,” Army soldiers Wright and Dobbs go back and forth, poeticizing both the serious and mundane elements of life in a war zone. We see them eat jello, complain about heat and bombs, prepare for missions, and daydream about being back home. It is my view that these comedic representations are not only good entertainment, but good for the soul, and largely missing in contemporary, mainstream entertainment.

War is riddled with both intense tragedy and supreme boredom; each extreme can have negative affects on one’s psyche. Comedies such as this serve as catharsis for military members and civilians alike. They, in a sense, teach the wider American audience, while at the same time providing a healthy outlet for the men and women dealing with situations they never dreamed they’d have to. So in the vacuum of professional war themed comedies (M.A.S.H. for Vietnam-era folks comes to mind), American military members are left to provide their own, through user-generated, social media.

User-Generated Media in the Military

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Home videos from the military

from Lazy Ramadi (2006)
Creator: Ramadi TV
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey