Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences
China Beach

Still photo of  Robert Picardo and Dana Delany in "China Beach" (1988), a drama series set at an American base during the Vietnam War. Rather than focusing on the battle scenes that made up most other portrayals of the war, this show looked at the everyday lives of the people sent to serve their country. The doctors, nurses, soldiers and even USO entertainers stationed at the base must try to come to terms with the horrors and stresses of the war around them. Not all of them succeed.                              - Written by Jean-Marc Rocher. Image from        

War in Popular Culture

Military-Themed Programming on U.S. Television

May 3, 2016

By Lacey L. Gray
Director of Marketing and Communications
Thomas Harriot College of Arts & Sciences

Anna Froula

An abundance of military-themed programming on U.S. television exists in today’s popular culture, but one East Carolina University professor in the Department of English noticed that very little research exists on the topic.

“My father is a Vietnam veteran, and I became interested in representations of war and veterans when taking a doctoral seminar on narratives of Vietnam in 2002—when politicians were making the case to invade Iraq,” said Dr. Anna Froula, associate professor of film studies. “I’ve been researching and publishing on war and veterans in popular culture ever since.”

Froula examines this phenomenon of war and military representation in U.S. television series in her new book “American Militarism on the Small Screen,” co-edited with Stacy Takacs from Oklahoma State University.

“The military has produced and distributed programs via private broadcasters since the early days of radio, and war and militarism have been popular subjects for commercial television programming from its inception,” said Froula. “This volume seeks to identify what television, as a cultural medium, has added to the depictions of war and militarism in the U.S.”

“American Militarism on the Small Screen” explores a variety of television series including “Combat!”, “Generation Kill” and Froula’s favorite, “China Beach.” Throughout the book, Froula engages the reader with the following questions: What are the conventions of the war series? How do fictional depictions of war on U.S. TV operate in dialogue with existing war films? How do they relate to broadcast news coverage of war? Is there anything unique about the way television series, as opposed to films, documentaries, or news stories, depict issues of nationalism and militarism? How do issues of race, class, gender and sexuality play out differently in the television combat series? How have the conventions of television production, distribution and reception affected the form, content and influence of the war story?

As a take-away from her research, Froula said, “We need to stay on our elected representatives to be better stewards of our military personnel in terms of how and when we go to war, how we support them during deployment and how we welcome and care for them when they return. As citizens we also need to support our veterans better.”

Froula, whose research interests also include gender studies and zombie culture, has taught courses at ECU since arriving in 2007.

“My war scholarship is often depressing and soul-crushing, but teaching our undergraduates brings me joy,” said Froula. “I also recently became the faculty advisor for the Pirate Veterans Organization at ECU, and I love working with our student veterans.”

Along with her current publication, Froula is co-editor of “Reframing 9/11: Film, Popular Culture and the ‘War on Terror’” and “The Cinema of Terry Gilliam: It’s a Mad World,” and she is associate editor for Cinema Journal, the journal of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies. She received her Ph.D. and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Kentucky in 2007 and 2001, respectively, and her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Birmingham-Southern College in 1997.