Hanoi Jane

War, Sex, and Fantasies of Betrayal

Meet author
Jerry Lembcke
Book Talk & Signing
Wednesday, June 22, 2011 – 6:30 p.m

   From Aristophanes’ Lysistrata  to  Mata Hari and  Tokyo Rose, stories of female betrayal during wartime have recurred throughout history. The myth of “Hanoi Jane” Fonda,  Dr. Jerry Lembcke argues in Hanoi Jane, War, Sex & Fantasies of Betrayal,  is  the latest  variation  on this  enduring theme  –  com-bining traces of fact with heavy doses  of  fiction to create a potent  symbol of feminine perfidy  –  part  erotic warrior-woman  Barbarella  (the  title role of  a 1968 Fonda film),  part savvy antiwar activist and part powerful entrepreneur.

   Dr. Lembcke deconstructs the  myth, identifying  its origins in a need for some Americans  to explain defeat in Vietnam through fantasies of home-front betrayal  and the  emasculation of the national will-to-war.  Dr. Lembcke notes that the  expression  “Hanoi Jane”  didn’t even appear  until several years  after the war’s end.  Blaming the  antiwar movement  for undermining the military’s resolve, many found in the imaginary “Hanoi Jane” the personification of their stab-in-the back theories.

   The origin of the myth goes back to Ms. Fonda’s 1972 visit  to Hanoi as a  peace  activist.  Rumors  surrounding her  visits with  U.S. POWs and  radio broadcasts to  troops combined to  conjure allegations of treason  that had cost American lives.  That such tales were more imagined than real did not prevent them from insinuating themselves into public memory, where they continue to infect American politics and culture.

    Dr. Lembcke  is an  Associate  Professor  of Sociology at the College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, MA), where his  research interest centers on media (re)constructions  and  myth-making.   He has  taught  Development  of  Social Theory,  Sociology of Power, and Reading the Times.  He is also the author of The Spitting Image:  Myth,  Memory,  and the Legacy of Vietnam  (NYU Press, 1998) and is the New England representative of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

   Silas Bronson Library,267 Grand St., Waterbury, CT