I’m not what someone would call a “war buff.” My thoughts on war run along the lines of what someone might call a “bleeding heart hippie liberal.” In general, I don’t think there is a way to portray war (fictionally) that doesn’t in some way glamorize it, even when the media in question is focused on how horrible it is. So, generally, I tend to steer clear of war-themed entertainment.
The Pacific is a rare exception. The mini-series aired on HBO in 2010 and is based on the books With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene Sledge and Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie, both veterans of World War Two. It’s apparently a companion piece to Band of Brothers (another HBO WW2 miniseries from 2001), but I never watched that one. I’m considering it, but I’m not sure because I’ve heard it has a different feel than The Pacific.
The Pacific centers around Marine involvement in (obviously) the Asiatic-Pacific Theater in WW2 and the lives of three main characters: Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazzello), Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale), and John Basilone (Jon Seda). These are all real men who really served in the Marines during WW2. From what I’ve heard and read, the series stays fairly true to the source material. Also, Google John Basilone; man was a badass.
I think what sets The Pacific apart from other war stories for me is that it is, at least in some part, based in fact. I’m sure some events are hyperbolized and some characters are more like caricatures and composites, but overall this is the actual story of these men. They were real, they lived through these horrors–and at the end of the series, we find out what happened to most of them.
I will admit, The Pacific is not an easy series to watch. You need a strong stomach for both the physical and emotional brutality, as well as the casual racism towards Japanese people that was heavily present during the war. They kept this script accurate.
On that note, the casual racism become interesting when they get to Okinawa. They make a distinction between the soldiers and the civilians in regards to the disrespectful and racist language, as evident in one particular exchange. While marching alongside some Okinawa civilians, someone asks if they’re “J*p prisoners.” It’s then said that no, “These are Okinawans.” There is a difference to them between “J*ps” (an extremely derogatory term for Japanese people and sorry if the censorship bothers you, but I’m not comfortable writing it even in context) and Okinawans, who are still Japanese.
I found that to be an interesting juxtaposition which makes the viewer wonder how much of that racism is a result of the war itself. How much of it was drilled into these Marine’s heads by superiors during training (we get a glimpse of that multiple times during the series)?
There’s something raw and crushing about watching these men slowly lose their humanity over the course of ten episodes. It’s a heartbreaking watch. I got attached to some of these characters and it’s rough when I lose one. Even when I know what’s going to happen, I still bawl like the first viewing. There are some episodes I can’t bear to watch, but force my way through them, because to skip them seems like a disrespect to the men who fought these battles.
One thing that The Pacific does which I really liked was touch on what it was like when they returned home. Rather than the image of the happy parades and confetti and the Marine who’s just so happy to be home so he can put the whole ugly mess behind him, Leckie’s and Seldge’s homecomings are… really sad, actually. More realistic. These men, Sledge in particular, are not okay.
I’ve watched this series at least four times since I was turned onto it in late 2016. The fact that I have thus far devoted seven-and-a-half hours of my life (ten episodes at roughly 45 minutes per episode) is something for me. I never buy the DVD/BluRay versions of shows, because I never rewatch things. But, I bought the DVD set of this (I recommend spending the extra couple bucks for the BluRay, though; switching out DVDs every two episodes is a pain).
And then there’s the cast, which is amazing. Admittedly, I didn’t know who a lot of these actors were going in, but I knew Rami Malek was in it, and I was basically obsessing over him at the time, so I figured I’d watch it. And, now I have, like, ten new precious angel babies who I love with all my heart and soul. Seriously, though, this is an incredibly acted series. The emotions these men portray and evoke are so raw and intense I forget sometimes they aren’t actually at war.
The Pacific is hands-down my favorite war-themed media that isn’t a direct documentary (and even then, it may still be on top). I would even go so far as to say it’s one of my favorite television series, regardless of genre, it’s just that good. It makes me hurt, but in a good way.
Enjoy your weekend with some quality viewing, witches.
I love you all.
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