Problems with Historical Accuracy

The film is more representative of the Vietnam War as a whole than it is directly accurate to the specific experience of Adrian Cronauer. The background and the setting were heavily planned including even planting and building rice paddies for the scenes of rural Vietnam.[1] The film’s Cronauer is very loosely based on the real Adrian Cronauer, rather it takes this idea and uses it to create a microcosm of the Vietnam War itself and tell a story of military censorship and the juxtaposition of the official and unofficial story of Vietnam. For example, a lot of the things that Robin William’s Cronauer did would have immediately gotten him court marshaled, such as reading unofficial news on the air. That scene however is based on Cronauer’s actual experience witnessing an attack on the My Canh floating restaurant and arguing with higher-ups about whether or not he could share the news despite it not being ‘official’ because he was an eyewitness. Generally, the inaccuracies the film makes are messing up small details at the expense of creating a more general representation of overall issues, like creating the fictional romance between Cronauer and Trinh in order to create a storyline showing the cultural and language differences between Americans and Vietnamese. Cronauer is the only non-fictional character in the film, the rest were created around military stereotypes and intentionally used to further the plot, character development, and highlight important issues such as the complexities of conflict and motivations of the Vietcong and American soldiers.

“Adrian Cronauer (Robin Williams) with love interest Trinh (Chintara Sukapatana).” Digital Image. BBC News. July 20, 2018. Accessed November 8th, 2020.

According to Cronauer himself, “The film was never intended to be a biography” and as a result, we should not focus on it as one.[2] Its merit comes not in its ability to depict the life and story of Adrian Cronauer in Vietnam, but to use him as a vessel to tell a story about the tensions in Vietnam and some of its major conflicts and issues. That being said, its important to recognize that the things that are changed about Cronauer do affect how viewers see him and his contributions in the war. His role within the film is greatly dramatized, particularly with depictions of the fan mail and the boldness to go against his superiors.

Additionally, the motivation of the filmmakers to create a comedic criticism of the Vietnam War affects their biases in depicting the war in that they already had a fairly negative view of the war. Director Barry Levinson also wanted to use the story of Adrian Cronauer to depict the effect of the war on an individual to reflect its effect on the United States, rather than a biopic on Cronauer which affects his ability to depict Cronauer’s life accurately. [3]

[1] Rick Fredericksen, “Good Morning, Vietnam,” Vietnam (Leesburg, Va.) 30, no. 4 (2017): 36–43.

[2] Rick Fredericksen, “Good Morning, Vietnam,” Vietnam (Leesburg, Va.) 30, no. 4 (2017): 36–43.

[3] Don Kunz, “Barry Levinson’s Good Morning, Vietnam,” War, Literature, and the Arts 14, no. 1/2 (2002): 230-.