Reflections on ‘China Beach’: 30 Years Later

The Vietnam War was still fresh in the minds of Americans when China Beach premiered on ABC on this day in 1988. Created by Vietnam veteran William Broyles and John Sacret Young, and inspired by former army nurse Lynda Van Devanter’s 1983 memoir, it gave to audiences an insight into the horrors of the non-combatant side of warfare in the late 1960s.

It is estimated that of the thousands of American women who served in the Vietnam War, 90% were nurses. Though by 1988 films such as Platoon and Apocalypse Now had addressed the war itself, China Beach was groundbreaking in that it was not only a mainstream television series shedding light on the stories of those on the frontlines, but one telling them from the perspective of the women. It was not a series softened to meet the expectations of so-called ‘women’s television’, but one unafraid to delve into the gritty realities of wartime nursing, both emotional and psychological.

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‘Network”s Diana Christensen: Indifferent to Suffering, Insensitive to Joy

In the 42 years since the release of Sidney Lumet’s Oscar-winning film Network, much has been written about Faye Dunaway’s Diana Christensen. When we first meet Diana, she is the sole woman in a room of men. As the vice president of programming for the fictitious network UBS, she is the archetypal woman in a man’s world: cold hearted, ambitious and ruthless. She’s broken glass ceilings, surpassed the expectations of men and proven herself to be their equal.

It is due to Diana’s pragmatism that, when former anchor Howard Beale goes on a frantic tirade about the depravity of the world around him, threatening to commit suicide on-air, it becomes something of an opportunity to salvage the network’s declining ratings. She steps in, demanding the handover of the evening news from the news department to her entertainment department for management, and prompting significant change in the workings of the network.

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