Screening the ‘Emancipated Spectator’: The FTA’s Soldier-Spectator on Display
In 1972, American International Pictures released FTA!, a documentary film following the 1971 tour of an anti-war variety show to soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Hawaii, and the Philippines. Led by Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, the FTA show (for “Free” or “Fuck the Army”) offered an alternative to the patriotism (as well as sexism and racism) of Bob Hope’s iconic USO performances. The documentary shows in no uncertain terms the enthusiasm of the FTA’s enlisted audiences. Through interviews with and images of the soldier-spectators, it provides vivid evidence of what was by then a well-organized and militant GI movement within the Armed Forces. My talk focuses on the film’s representation of its soldier-spectators and examines the FTA’s dependence upon maintaining and even emphasizing an actor-spectator divide that most radical theatre groups of the period were committed to challenging as inherently politically problematic. In conversation with Jacques Ranciere’s “The Emancipated Spectator,” I examine the strange acting practice of the spectated soldier-spectator.