Making feminist sense out of Charlie Wilson's war

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4 Scopus citations


Charlie Wilson's War (2007), Mike Nichols's film about the womanizing Congressman who engineered black funds for the CIA's proxy war in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, is historically misleading but highly instructive, because in packaging dominant American masculine identity and war politics as popular entertainment for post-9/11 audiences, it reveals the sexed and gendered politics of the visual in global affairs. This intertextual study of Charlie Wilson's war as movie, constructed history and legacy examines Wilson as a prime exhibit of a needy masculinity that, like the film's emasculated CIA, bulks itself up through surrogate military selves. It also analyses modes of the imaginary and specularity in brother-bonding with the mujahidin, tracks the proxy system's loops of masculine identity-and-war-making between Stateside and South Asia in the post-Vietnam 1980s and interrogates the dynamics of imperial un-seeing in this campaign and its long aftermath. While US proxy wars proliferate worldwide, the lack of useable political memory about the ground truths of Charlie's war continues to matter because America's second good war in Afghanistan, bound to the first by gendered causal links, has re-empowered the forces that still menace women's rights and lives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-99
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Feminist Journal of Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


  • Afghanistan
  • Amnesia
  • Bonding
  • CIA
  • Charlie Wilson
  • Cold War
  • Film
  • Image
  • Imagination
  • Imperial
  • Intertext
  • Masculinity
  • Mujahidin
  • Perform
  • Proxy
  • Russians
  • Visual
  • War
  • Warlord
  • Women


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