In the early 1980s, I was working toward an MFA and one of my courses was a self-directed project monitored by a faculty adviser. The project was my memoir of fighting in the Vietnam War. A few years after completing the memoir, I took it to UCLA Extension’s Writers’ Program where the professor convinced me to convert it into fiction—a suspense thriller. The professor was a woman, who later helped find a literary agent to represent my novel.
I spent several years in the program with her as my advisor, and the final product after endless revisions and feedback from the professor and other authors in the program was “Running with the Enemy”. It was fiction but true to my experience of war and its horror.
Fast forward to publication and then June 11, 2013 when a reviewer by the name of “S” posted a 2-star review on Amazon—a review I’m actually proud of.
S concluded her review with: “I was sucked in by the nitty gritty feng shui of the book, then repelled by the over use of sexual violence and testosterone dousing. Even though the ending was predictable, I still liked that the good guys won and the bad guys lost. However, the limited roles by the female characters left me feeling that half the story still lies buried and voiceless.”
I’m proud of that 2-star review because the book I wrote was about the war I fought in—not the story S wanted me to write that would have been a lie. In the 1960s, the only American women who served in Vietnam that I knew of were nurses and they did not serve in combat units. There were no women in my battalion. Not one.
What I think S wanted was to see women kicking the shit out of men and beating the men at war. But that wasn’t my Vietnam. Tuyen, the only major woman character in the novel—the others were minor characters—was a half breed, a Eurasian, who had been sexually and physically abused by her half-brother since she had been a young girl.
If you have ever seen the film or the stage play of “Miss Saigon”, you might understand how women are still treated today in Southeast Asia and when that woman was a Eurasian like Tuyen, the treatment was worse, and the term for her was Bụi đời, the “dust of life”.
In fact, “Life was frequently difficult for such Amerasians [and Eurasians]; they existed as pariahs in Vietnamese society. Often, they would be persecuted by the communist government and sometimes even sold into prostitution as children.” [Benge, Michael (22 November 2005). “The Living Hell of Amerasians”. Front Page Magazine]
I think what “S” wanted from me as an author was to write a story that would fit a world she wanted—one that didn’t exist in my world. She wanted a kick-ass female character.
The latest example of this popular political correctness demanding that history and literature be rewritten may be found in the film “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”. Tauriel is a female elf who is a kick ass super warrior. The problem is that in the original Hobbit written by J. R. R. Tolkien, there are no major women characters and another fire-breathing modern day feminist—another S—also wanted the plot of this novel rewritten when made into film.
This revisionist was Nicole Lyn Pesce writing for the New York Daily News who said, “The women’s rights movement has made it to Middle-earth. The first ‘Hobbit’ film was criticized by some—like me—for its testosterone-heavy cast, so director Peter Jackson has brought in a kick-ass chick for the sequel.”
Does this mean we should rewrite history due to a modern, popular, political-correct movement? I don’t think so.
My novel was a man’s story just like “The Hobbit” was written by a man. In fact, you may want to read an essay about how J.R.R. Tolkien’s service in the British Army during World War I may have influenced his fiction. [JRR Tolkien and World War I by Nancy Marie Ott]
If Tolkien were alive today, would modern feminists be criticizing him for not including kick-ass women warriors in his novels, who didn’t exist in his day as they didn’t exist in mine?
I have news for “S”. If she had read my novel to the end, she would have discovered Tuyen kicking some serious male ass in the Golden Triangle near the conclusion of the novel. In that scene, Tuyen is so violent she even shocks the kick-ass recon Marine who loves her. Maybe Tuyen just didn’t kick enough male asses to satisfy S or someone like Nicole Lyn Pesce.
Here’s a bit of advice for today’s modern day feminists. Don’t wish for something you know little to nothing about. Take it from someone who has seen war up close and personal, you really don’t want to go there. If men are willing to go to war and die to protect women from that horror, let them.
Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran.
His latest novel is the award winning suspense-thriller Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.
And the woman he loves and wants to save was fighting for the other side.
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