Making Feminist Sense out of "Charlie Wilson’s War"

Citation:

Larson, Janet. 2015. “Making Feminist Sense out of ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 17 (1): 77–99. doi:10.1080/14616742.2013.835527.

Author: Janet Larson

Abstract:

Charlie Wilson's War (2007), Mike Nichols's film about the womanizing Congressman who engineered black funds for the CIA's proxy war in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, is historically misleading but highly instructive, because in packaging dominant American masculine identity and war politics as popular entertainment for post-9/11 audiences, it reveals the sexed and gendered ‘politics of the visual’ in global affairs. This intertextual study of ‘Charlie Wilson's war’ as movie, constructed history and legacy examines Wilson as a prime exhibit of a needy masculinity that, like the film's emasculated CIA, bulks itself up through surrogate military selves. It also analyses modes of the imaginary and specularity in brother-bonding with the mujahidin, tracks the proxy system's loops of masculine identity-and-war-making between Stateside and South Asia in the post-Vietnam 1980s and interrogates the dynamics of imperial ‘un-seeing’ in this campaign and its long aftermath. While US proxy wars proliferate worldwide, the lack of useable political memory about the ground truths of ‘Charlie's war’ continues to matter because America's second ‘good’ war in Afghanistan, bound to the first by gendered causal links, has re-empowered the forces that still menace women's rights and lives.

Keywords: Afghanistan, amnesia, bonding, Charlie Wilson, CIA, Cold War, film, image, imagination, imperial, intertext, masculinity, perform, proxy, Russians, visual, mujahidin

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Male Combatants, Gender, Masculinity/ies, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Militaries, Militarism, Rights, Women's Rights, Weapons /Arms Regions: Americas, North America, Asia, South Asia Countries: Afghanistan, United States of America

Year: 2015

© 2017 CONSORTIUM ON GENDER, SECURITY & HUMAN RIGHTSLEGAL STATEMENT All photographs used on this site, and any materials posted on it, are the property of their respective owners, and are used by permission. Photographs: The images used on the site may not be downloaded, used, or reproduced in any way without the permission of the owner of the image. Materials: Visitors to the site are welcome to peruse the materials posted for their own research or for educational purposes. These materials, whether the property of the Consortium or of another, may only be reproduced with the permission of the owner of the material. This website contains copyrighted materials. The Consortium believes that any use of copyrighted material on this site is both permissive and in accordance with the Fair Use doctrine of 17 U.S.C. § 107. If, however, you believe that your intellectual property rights have been violated, please contact the Consortium at info@genderandsecurity.org.