Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Yuletide TV Day 12: Band of Brothers/The Pacific

Series: Band of Brothers/The Pacific

Episodes: S1E6"Bastogne"/S1E1"Guadalcanal/Leckie"

Original airdates: October 7, 2001/March 14, 2010

Santa? No

Other holidays mentioned: Band of Brothers - None; The Pacific - Fourth of July

Availability: DVD 

Unique Christmas Story:
Hey, two episodes for the price of one, what more could you want?

I thought it was important to look at two episodes from two mini-series that focus on WWII, but in different theaters. It may be surprising to find that both of these miniseries decided to include Christmas in their story lines, but when you're trying to cover the events of an entire war it's kind of hard not to.

WWII has taken on a bit of a mythical aura, in part due to mini-series and films like these. Part of it also has to do with living through 9/11. My childhood was spent in the protective and innocent 90's, while I spent my teen years living in a post-9/11 world. It's a world where our enemies could be anywhere, and the internet exposed some of our greatest heroes as frauds.

Because of this, WWII becomes a story more than a history lesson. It has clearly defined lines of good and evil, there are identifiable heroes and villains, and it was the last war of its kind to be fought. The atomic bomb meant wars would never be fought in the same way again, and so far that has held true.

If you've taken a history class, you most likely remember the story of the Christmas truce during WWI. What these two episodes, taking place in different theaters and at different times of the war, show is WWII didn't mess around, and these episodes are able to make you feel the terror, the cold and the emotional heartache going on in each of the soldiers.

In "Bastogne" the 101st airborne finds themself encircled by German troops in the winter of 1944. The medic, Eugene, is running from foxhole to foxhole, scrounging for medical supplies, like a parent trying to find this year's must-have toy for their child. Being cut off from supplies, Eugene knows it's not a matter of if his comrades get hurt, but when.

The cold and fighting slowly drive Eugene and men around him mad. They don't know if they're going to get reinforcements and they don't know what the Germans have planned for them. But Eugene is able to get a lift into town with the wounded he looks after and meets a Belgian nurse named, Renee. He finds solace in her company and the two form a bond during his trips her makeshift medical center. Think of the 101st as Eugene's family at Christmas. Television would have us believe that nothing is more stressful than getting a bunch of family members under one roof to celebrate a holiday. So, what will a character due to get away from the stress? They go to the bar, and that's really all Eugene is doing here. He's looking for a little escape from the war.

But on his final trip back, Eugene finds the medical center bombed out. He knows Renee has not survived and he returns to the fighting. Eugene can't escape the war, and we can't escape our families.

In The Pacific, the mini-series starts at Christmastime with Marines who get to spend the holiday at home before going off to war. It's an interesting choice, as we don't get the training setup like in Band of Brothers, nor are we thrown right into the action. Instead, The Pacific gives a glimpse of the characters before they are thrown into the war, and all of this takes up a very small portion of the episode as a whole.

However, it does set up a very Christmas-y theme. Christmas is last time many of us see our families before entering into the new year. It's a snapshot of what we have become in the past 365 days, before we morph into something new. In a similar fashion, the Marines in The Pacific say a final farewell to their loved ones. They don't know if they'll be able to make it back alive, and if they do make it back, they might not be the same as when they left.

Unique Christmas Message:
Christmas may feel like a battle, but it's one worth fighting.

I move from one war to the next by looking at Christmastime in Korea.

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