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By David Finkelstein | October 24, 2008

In “Kill John Wayne,” Vivian Wong uses crude stop motion techniques to animate cutout magazine photo images as well as pencil drawings. The film uses the figure of John Wayne to analyze U.S. militarism in terms of sexual politics. John Wayne’s figure gives birth to, kills, and vomits on an army of little John Waynes, all with erections. In a foreign jungle, a Kali-like female figure sexually arouses the little John Waynes. She then sprouts guns all over her body, kills all the Wayne figures, and feasts on their body parts. A patriotic speech by Wayne is heard over a montage of Vietnam atrocity images.

The film speaks in a language of images about hypermasculine American militarism, seduced by an “inscrutably Oriental” Other, only to be destroyed. Notions of America as the defender of the free world are permanently shattered, as U.S. war atrocities reveal to the world the brutal reality of U.S. imperialist policies. “Kill John Wayne” is an interesting experiment in using comic animation techniques to find powerful images for hidden sexual and political dynamics which are normally difficult to articulate. Wong needs to tighten up her imagery and timing. If she could have condensed her imagery to make the same points in half of the time, the film could have been twice as effective.

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