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Analyzing the Positive and Negative Relationships of Generation Kill

Generation KillĀ is a mini series that aired on HBO in 2008 and it follows a Marine Reconnaissance Battalion during the opening days of the Invasion of Iraq in 2003. One of the most striking things about the mini series is just how disorganized the Marines and their chain of command appear to be during the early days of the war. Some of this disorganization and confusion can be explained by analyzing the positive and negative relationships between characters. When trying to apply the Structural Balance Property to groups of characters on the show, I found that many of the triangles resulted in an unstable configuration.

One example of this is the relationship between Sgt. Brad Colbert, his fellow marines, and the Iraqi locals. Brad has a positive relationship with his fellow Marines and a positive relationship with the Iraqi locals since he can see what the war is doing to them and he tries to help them. Unfortunately, His fellow Marines have a negative relationship with the Iraqi locals since they believe that many of the Iraqi locals are sympathetic with Saddam Hussein’s Regime. This results in an unstable triangle since there are two positive edges and one negative edge. An unstable triangle creates some dilemmas for Brad since whenever he tries to help the Iraqi locals, the other Marines discourage him and his superiors even order him to stop.

Another example of an unstable relationship is the relationship between the Marines, the Iraqi forces and the Shi’a militia. All three groups have a negative relationship with each other. A triangle with three negative edges is unstable and this explains the total chaos we see whenever these three factions are present at the same place. It is interesting to see how an unstable triangle can quickly fall apart and result in the chaos and confusion depicted in the show.


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September 2018