Friday, November 6, 2009

My Essays Immortalised (BIO1022: Biology 2)

Question 4:
Compare the advantages and disadvantages of sexual reproduction in animals.

Almost every organism in the animal kingdom reproduces by sexual reproduction. Hence, it should have a significant advantage in terms of reproductive success and survivability of the organism over asexual reproduction, for it to be such a popular form of reproduction. If it does not, it would have been phased out over the course of evolution. However, the advantage of sexual reproduction is not immediately obvious and sexual reproduction presents its own sets of disadvantage as well. This essay will discuss the disadvantages of sexual reproduction and various theories about the advantages of sexual reproduction.

Disadvantages of sexual reproduction

The most commonly cited disadvantage of sexual reproduction is the “two-fold” cost of males. Both male and female is needed for sexual reproduction whereas in asexual reproduction any individual is capable of reproducing. To understand the two-fold cost of males, one must assume that a sexual pair and a single asexual individual can only produce the same amount of young. The population size of asexual organisms would be double of the previous generation, because each individual can produce, whereas in sexual reproduction, males do not reproduce. Thus, there is a 50% cost of having males (Bernstein, Byers & Michod 1981; Campbell et al. 2008; Crow 1994; Daly 1978). Moreover, recombination in meiosis also disallows cytological changes like triploidy and other complex chromosomal arrangements that would lead to aneuploidy in sexual organisms, not a problem for asexual organisms (Crow 1992; Crow 1994).

Another disadvantage of sexual reproduction is that it requires more energy and resources. The process of meiosis and syngamy, both not present in asexual, require energy (Crow 1992). In animals, sexual reproduction brings about some maladaptive traits. Some animals develop physical structures that serve no purpose but to advertise its fitness to potential mates (e.g. peacock tails) and some animals have courtship rituals that are elaborate and arduous. Both of these traits are maladapted as they expend resources and may attract unwanted attention from predators instead of mates (Crow 1992; Daly 1978). Animals that do not live in a pack would also need to spend energy to travel to look for mates (Crow 1992; Daly 1978). Female individuals of some animals must also expend energy to escape avoid unwanted sexual attention from males and/or recover from injuries inflicted by aggressive males (Daly 1978). Males of many sexual species would also need to compete and some cases fight with other males and get injured in the process (Crow 1992; Daly 1978).

Animals that reproduce sexually also risk the transmittance of sexually transmitted disease (Crow 1992; Daly 1978). Most sexually transmitted disease is lethal and can be inherited to offspring. This can be especially disadvantageous in times of plague (Daly 1978). Asexual species do not risk catching parasites from close proximity.

Advantages of sexual reproduction

Sexual reproduction is advantageous because it produces genetic variability through meiotic recombination, random fertilisation and mutation whereas asexual reproduction only gets variability through mutation (Campbell et al. 2008). Variability is important in changing environments as the certain phenotypes can be advantageous in a changed environment and change is unpredictable, thus having multiple alleles in preparation for change is beneficial (Crow 1994).

When a changed environment reverts back to its previous state, the direction of selection is reversed. Individuals with higher fitness in the changed environment now have a lower fitness. In such a situation, sexual reproduction is more advantageous than asexual reproduction (Crow 1992). This is so because asexual populations continue to produce offspring that has adapted to the changed environment; its variability continues to decrease. Conversely sexual populations have an increased variability because the population is selected towards the direction of equilibrium and are able to respond to the situation much readily than asexual populations (Crow 1992).

Sexual reproduction is also more efficient in incorporating multiple advantageous alleles. Through recombination, advantageous mutations from two different individuals can be brought together. Asexual reproduction can incorporate two different beneficial mutations if only the first mutation is previously developed in the same lineage (Bernstein, Byers & Michod 1981; Crow & Kimura1965; Crow 1994). This would take a long time to occur since mutations are rare. The speed of incorporation in sexual reproduction is faster because two mutations could have occurred in two different individuals at the same time and brought together by recombination (Bernstein, Byers & Michod 1981; Crow & Kimura1965). Sexual species generally has a faster rate of change in variable conditions than asexual species.

Besides that, sexual populations are also better at eliminating harmful mutations. Assuming all mutations are slightly deleterious in nature and the build up of deleterious mutations decreases the organism’s fitness, recombination will act by rearranging the genotype, creating more lethal mutations (Bernstein, Byers & Michod 1981; Crow 1992; Crow 1994). In essence, recombination will decrease the number of mutations and at the same time making it more deleterious, thus allowing those individuals to be selected against and die out and benefiting the population (Crow 1992; Crow 1994).


In conclusion, while there are numerous disadvantages of sexual reproduction, the advantages may cancel out or even outweigh the disadvantage. As a caveat, most of the advantages are theories created by leading biologists that are highly probable and explainable with calculations but near impossible to experiment. There is still plenty of research on the evolution of sexual reproduction.

(794 words)


Bernstein, H, Byers, G.S, & Michod, R.E 1981, ‘Evolution of sexual reproduction: importance of DNA repair, complementation, and variation’, The American Naturalist, vol. 117, no. 4, pp. 537- 549.

Campbell, N.A, Reece, J.B, Urry, L.A, Cain, M.L, Wasserman, S.A, Minorsky, P.V & Jackson, R.B 2008, Biology, 8th edn, Pearson Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco.

Crow, J.F & Kimura, M 1965, ‘Evolution in sexual and asexual populations’, The American Naturalist, vol. 99, no. 909, pp. 839-450.

Crow, J.F 1992, ‘An advantage of sexual reproduction in a rapidly changing environment’, Journal of Heredity, vol. 83, no. 3, pp. 169-173.

Crow, J.F 1994, ‘Advantages of sexual reproduction’, Developmental genetics, vol. 15, pp. 205-213.

Daly, M 1978, ‘The cost of mating’, The American Naturalist, vol. 122, no. 986, pp. 771-774.

Mark: 8 /10

Remarks: -

My Essays Immortalised (ENV1800: Environmental Science)

Question 2: The Decline of Frogs


Since the last decade a global decline in frog populations has been detected. The rate in which some frog populations disappear or even go extinct is increasingly worrying. This loss has been described by some as the greatest lost of vertebrae species in recorded history. It is important to halt this great decline, as frogs represent a unique evolutionary branch of organisms that not only have vital ecological niches, but also act as an important environmental stress indicator. To stop these declines from continuing, the causal factor of this problem must be determined. This essay discusses the main factors that decrease frog populations, namely, disease, invasive species, habitat destruction, climate change and pollution. With these problems recognized, a wise and well thought plan must be made and acted upon quickly to save as many frogs species as possible from extinction.

Factors of Decline


One of the most greatly discussed factors that attribute to amphibian decline is disease, particularly chytridiomycosis; a fungal infection caused by a fungus relatively new to science, Batchochytrium dendrobatidis (Skerratt et al., 2007). Chytrid fungus infection has become a pandemic, infecting frog populations in almost every continent where frogs exist (Holland, 2009). B. dendrobatidis is believed to have originated from Africa, as a preserved African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis) kept in an African museum dating back from 1938 was tested chytrid positive (Skerratt et al., 2007; Holland, 2009). The spread may have been caused by the export of this animal for lab research and as pets. Chytrid fungus infections are lethal to most adult frogs. It attacks keratin, a protein found on the skin of adult frogs only. Hence, tadpoles can be carriers of the fungus, dying after it transforms into an adult frog (Holland, 2009). Chytrid fungus kills by overwhelming a frog’s skin with zoospores. Hyperplasia and hyperkeratosis, or the thickening of epidermal tissue then ensues (Schloegal et al., 2006; Muths et al., 2003). Infected frogs exhibit weird behaviours; they are lethargic, they have a slower reaction to threats, their sitting posture is abnormal and their skin becomes reddish. This increases the probability to being predated upon, another way in which frogs can die if not killed by the disease itself (Schloegal et al., 2006). The vectors of chytrid fungus include introduced frogs, fish, birds and even human boots and vehicles (Laurance et al., 1996; Holland, 2009). Chytridiomycosis often work synergistically with other factors, making it a lethal mix to frogs everywhere (Blaustein & Kiesecker, 2002; Holland, 2009).

Introduced Species

The decline of frog species is also attributed to the introduction of invasive species. An example of this happening is the introduction of trout to the once fishless ponds of Sierra Nevada. Trout was introduced by the US Department Fish and Game in parks for sport fishing (Holland, 2009). Trout fry compete with tadpoles of mountain yellow-legged frogs (Rana mucosa) for food and shelter; both prefer shallower waters as breeding sites and deeper waters as overwinter sites. Adult trout predate upon tadpoles and young frogs (Holland, 2009; Knapp & Matthews, 2000). This directly influences the frog population, nearly pushing R. Mucosa to extinction. Another devastating invasive species is Rana catesbeiana, the bullfrog. Bullfrog tadpoles compete with and even predate upon tadpoles of other frog species, like the native, northen red-legged frog (Rana aurora) (Blaustein & Kiesecker, 2002). Adult bullfrogs are voracious predators that feed on anything that can fit in its gape, including other frogs (Corn & Fogleman, 1984). By competing and predating upon other frogs, the introduction of bullfrogs lowers the populations of native frog species and has even driven some frog species to extinction, hence lowering the diversity of frog species.

Habitat Destruction

An obvious and ongoing cause of frog population decline is habitat destruction and alteration. Forests are continually being cleared, wetlands drained, lakes filled and ponds converted for agricultural use (Blaustein & Kiesecker, 2002; Corn & Fogleman, 1984). Road construction also decimates frog habitats, as rocks, branches and dirt clog streams (Holland, 2009; Corn & Fogleman, 1984). Land clearing also indirectly affect frog populations that are in protected areas, as these areas are fragmented, prohibiting frogs from different populations from mating (Corn & Fogleman, 1984).

Global Climate Change and UV-B Exposure

Global warming is dying up wetlands and ponds; the nesting sites of tadpoles. This directly affects the global frog populace. Reduced precipitation in the cloud forests of Costa Rica has also caused a corresponding reduction in frog numbers there (Blaustein & Kiesecker, 2002). CFCs released by anthropogenic sources have caused a long-term ozone depletion which leads to increased UV-B (280-315nm) transmittance (Blaustein & Kiesecker, 2002). Global warming also lowers the depth of lakes, increasing the transmittance of UV-B radiation (Blaustein & Kiesecker, 2002). It has been experimentally proven that frog eggs exposed to UV-B radiation has a lower hatching success rate (Blaustein & Kiesecker, 2002). If effects are not immediately lethal, sublethal dosages of UV-B exposure to embryos will cause mutations, cell death and lower growth rates of hatched tadpoles (Blaustein & Kiesecker, 2002). This lowers the fitness of tadpoles, increasing the probability of being predated.

Pollution and Toxic Contaminants

Pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers are constantly being applied in agricultural lands. DDT and PCBs are immediately lethal to frogs at high dosages, but unknown to many, even at low dosages, it can cause frogs to be more susceptible to diseases, lower growth rate and affect mobility and predator avoidance (Blaustein & Kiesecker, 2002; Withgot, 2002; Carey & Bryant, 1995). In experiments, a mixture of nitrogenous fertilizers and low pH has been proven to cause tadpoles to swim less vigorously and develop malformations which lower the tadpole’s predator avoidance (Blaustein & Kiesecker, 2002). In a recent study, frog disappearances in protected areas of USA parks have been found to be caused by atrazine, a pesticide applied to crops (Withgot, 2002; Carey & Bryant, 1995). Trace amounts of atrazine, about 1 -10 ppb, levels way lower that EPA’s safe drinking level is discovered to be an endocrine disruptor to frogs (Withgot, 2002). Extreme low levels of atrazine can mimic hormones; causing frogs reduce or increase the production of sex hormones. This causes some frogs to develop extra gonads or even develop both sex gonads (Withgot, 2002). However, these gonads are mostly non-functional and are followed with absence of sexual behaviour, affecting the ability of many frog populations to multiply.


In conclusion, multiple factors have been found to affect frog populations around the world. Some of these causes have been determined long ago (habitat destruction and invasive species) and is an ongoing event that ought to be stopped completely, but some have just recently surfaced (discovery of chytridiomycosis). These factors, working synergistically, have proven to be extremely potent and have caused the rapid decline of frogs. Quick and well thought action must be taken to prevent frogs from going extinct before it’s too late.

(995 words)


Blaustein, AR & Kiesecker, JM 2002, ‘Complexity in conservation: lessons from the global decline of amphibian populations’, Blackwell Science, vol. 5, pp. 597-608.

Carey, C & Bryant, CJ 1995, ‘Possible interrelations among environmental toxicants, amphibian development, and decline of amphibian populations’, Environmental Science Perspectives, vol. 103, no. 4, pp. 13-17.

Corn, PS & Fogleman, JC 1984, ‘Extinction of montane populations of the northern leopard frog (Rana pipiens) in Colorado’, Journal of Herpetology, vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 147-152.

Holland, JS 2009, ‘Vanishing Amphibians’, National Geographic, vol. 215, no. 4, pp. 138-153

Knapp, RA & Matthews, KR 2000, ‘Non-native fish introductions and the decline of the mountain yellow-legged frog from within protected areas’, Conservation Biology, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 428-438.

Laurance, WF, McDonald, KR & Speare, R 1996, ‘Epidemic disease and the catastrophic decline of Australian rain forest frogs’, Conservation Biology, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 406-413.

Muths, E, Corn, PS, Pessier, AP, & Green, DE 2003, ‘Evidence for disease-related amphibian decline in Colorado’, Biological Conservation, vol. 110, pp. 357-365.

Schloegel, LM, Hero JM, Berger, L, Speare, R, McDonald, K & Daszak, P 2006, ‘The decline of the sharp-snouted day frog (Taudactylus acutirostris): the first documented case of extinction by infection in a free-ranging wildlife species?’, EcoHealth Journal, vol. 3, pp. 35-40.

Skerratt LK, Berger, L, Speare, R, Cashins, S, McDonald, KR, Phillott, AD, Hines, HB & Kenyon, N 2007, ‘Spread of chytridiomycosis has caused the rapid global decline and extinction of frogs’, EcoHealth Journal, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 125-134.

Withgot, J 2002, ‘Ubiquitous herbicide emasculates frogs’, Science, vol. 296, pp. 447-448.

Mark: 34 / 40

Remarks: V.G. (very good?)

My Essays Immortalised (FTV1010: Contemporary Television Studies)

Question 2:

Analyse the narrative structure and style of one of the screened episodes of one of the series studied in weeks 2-7 (or any other) and discuss how this particular structure and style positions the viewer and how this positioning helps to construct the meanings of this episode and the series as a whole.

Lately, the original HBO mini-series Generation Kill has been screen on Malaysian television. The miniseries is comprised of seven episodes, each one hour long. This war drama was based on a book of the same title, written by Evan Wright, a Rolling Stones magazine reporter embedded with a Marine Corps reconnaissance unit during the Iraq War’s first phase. The series documents the experiences that the marines had since they left the training camps in Kuwait, till the occupation of Baghdad. This essay discusses the narrative structure and style that this series has and how it positions the viewer to helps viewers develop an understanding about the series.

Wright was embedded with the United States Marine Corps 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, an elite unit that was regarded as the ‘tip of the spear’ for the invasive force in Iraq (HBO a, b). Wright was placed under the care of Brad “Iceman” Colbert, a Sergeant that highly respected by his fellow marines and even some superiors (HBO b; Wright a). Most of the series revolves around the crew that was in Sergeant Colbert’s Humvee, the first in Bravo 2 platoon’s convoy. Essentially, this series is like a road trip movie, filled with absurdity, filthy jokes, sarcasm and darkly funny elements (HBO a, Poniewozik). Through a grunt’s point of view, we experience the imprecision of war, civilian casualties, incompetent leaders, insufficient supplies and see how the journey affects the Recon Marines as human beings (HBO a, b).

The narrative structure of Generation Kill is notably different from traditional war films. It is not heavy on fast paced action, firefights end fast and killing is not glorified (Stanley). The series tells a story about a young generation of American warriors that grew up with violence saturated media and how they discover the facts of life in war (ABC Australia; Poniezowik). Thus, Generation Kill is not an action or thriller film but a war drama. However, unlike traditional war dramas, it is non-emotional. There are neither sentimental scores nor emotional scenes that drag tears (Leonard; Stanley). It’s a war drama that is flat, matter-of-fact, accurate, yet interesting.

Generation Kill, like many other HBO series [The Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under, etc.] can be classed in the super-genre of quality television. Generation Kill bears all the hallmarks of a quality television series. It breaks away from traditional war genre films, being non-judgemental and non-emotive (Stanley). The production has pedigree – Ed Burns and David Simon produced the critically acclaimed series “The Wire” (Ryan; Hughes; Stanley). The series has multiple viewpoints and storylines accompanying each character. The series is also writer based; it’s wholly based on Evan Wright’s account of the war, originally written for Rolling Stone magazine, now it’s a bestselling book with the same title (Poniewozik; Stanley). Allusions were made to both high and low culture - Sgt. Colbert was reciting lines from Julius Caesar (“Stay Frosty”), while in a different episode, his driver, Corporal Joshua Ray Person was quoting Ice Cube the rapper (“Screwby”). Pop-culture icons like South Park, Grand Theft Auto and Avril Lavigne are also cited (Leonard; Poniewozik). Like most quality television series, Generation Kill also approaches controversial subject matters. No subject matter can be as controversial as war and the justification of killing. Most of all, the series aspires realism. The producers put a lot of emphasis on realism, even to the point of having a marine act as himself in the series (HBO a). The series received good reviews from many television critics and has obtained critical acclaim in a time where television is thick with original, high quality television shows (Woods; Hughes).

The emphasis of realism and faithful story telling makes this series a somewhat journalistic documentary of what occurred in Iraq (HBO a, b). The narrative structure of the series is obviously drama-like, but the happenings really did occur. Told from Wright’s honest reportorial and can be backed by the marines that were there with him. Wright’s account is regarded by some, as the best military journalism the Iraq War (HBO b). Moreover, realism in the series is made with the intent of not only immersing viewers into the realm of combat in Iraq (Shales; Ryan), but also to impress and pay tribute to the Marines – even the 1st Recon Marines – that has been there and done that (HBO a; Woods). Thus, you may call it a docudrama rather than a regular war drama (Shales).

Realism in the series begins with Wright’s truthful writing about the war. The relationship that he, Sgt. Colbert and Lieutenant Nathan Fick has allows that Wright to be accepted into their world and write about them with great detail (HBO a; Wright a). Lt. Fick even has a line in the series that says, “Write these as you see it, we are not here to stop you” (“Get Some”). Riding with Sgt. Colbert gives Wright the privilege of being in one of the first vehicles in the assault on Iraq (HBO a). Wright was also able to bond with Sgt. Colbert’s crew and the rest of the enlisted men in Bravo 2 Platoon and get a grunt’s view of things (HBO b). Individuals and opinions that he wouldn’t have met and listen to if he was riding with an officer. David Simon and Ed Burns, the producers of the series, loyally follow the book, and successfully emulated the realism of the book into the television screen (Poniewozik).

To retain realism in the miniseries, the producers brought in Evan Wright to be their co-writer, and several marines from First Recon that was with Wright to be their military advisors (HBO a, Shales). Staff Sergeant Eric Kocher and Staff Sergeant Rudy Reyes were in charge to give military training to the actors (HBO a). They also teach military jargon, gear maintenance and weapons handling techniques. SSgt. Reyes plays himself in the movie (HBO a ;Ryan) and SSgt. Kocher goes on to play Gunnery Sergeant Rich Barrett, from Alpha Company, instead of himself (HBO a ;Woods). There are always actual marines on set to ensure that the details are as true to life as possible (Woods). Other marines from First Recon also came into set to talk to and share experiences with the actors that are going portray them (HBO a). Photographs and personal account from these marines are used to capture other marines as realistically as possible (HBO a).

The issues and themes discussed are also realistic and believable. The marines are always ill-equipped to go to war. There is always a shortage of maps, food or even batteries to run their night vision gear and thermal optics vital to their combat effectiveness (“Get Some”). Their Humvees also break down constantly and spare parts are hard to come by. Sgt. Colbert and Cpl. Person had to spend their own money ordering parts to upgrade their vehicle (HBO a; “Get Some”). Logistics in the Marine Corps is less than perfect, Cpl. Person is quoted in the series, saying “See, the Marine Corps is like America’s little pit bull. They beat us, starve us, and once in a while they let us out to attack somebody” (“Get Some”; Stanley).

The imprecision of war is an ominous theme in the story. We see a generation of young marines who discover that war is nothing like the violent video games and movies they grow up with and nothing goes according to plan (ABC Australia). We see the humanity in marines, normally perceived as highly efficient cold-blooded warriors. In one incident, the imprecision of war is shown in the episode titled “Combat Jack”. The Recon Marines had set up a roadblock at night, the rules of engagement are simple; Shoot down any vehicles that ignore warning shots. A car soon appears on the road. Warning shots were fired, but the car accelerated towards the road block, horns blaring. The Recon Marines open fire and the car screeched to a halt. Two men came out with hands in the air. The Recon Marines check the men and the car for weapons, only to discover a young Iraqi girl in the backseat with her brains pouring out. The marine who saw it could not speak for a minute, blatantly shocked. When asked why they didn’t stop at the warning shots, the Iraqi men apologised and the father asked if he could take his daughter’s body. It becomes apparent that some Iraqi civilians don’t understand warning shots. They think that they are being attacked and panic. Nothing ever goes to plan in war especially in a country with different cultures and mindsets.

From a grunts point of view, we see the incompetence of superior personnel, another common theme that Generation Kill has (Ryan; Leonard). Several officers in the series like Captain Dave ‘Captain America’ McGraw, Captain Craig 'Encino Man' Schwetje and the commander of First Recon, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen 'Godfather' Ferrando makes decisions that are deemed unwise by the enlisted men. A good example of this is where in the episode “Screwby” Encino Man endanger the lives of his men by trying to order a danger close (within 200 meters) artillery strike on a RPG team that does not exist. Then men immediately recognise this as a ploy to acquire a promotion. Luckily the sheer incompetence of Captain Schwetje saves the men, as he designated their coordinates wrongly (Stanley). Another unpopular leader in the series is Captain America. He is constantly in hysteria, jamming up the radios with nervous blabbers and has a habit of collecting souvenirs [Republican Guard beanies, AK-47 rifles] from fallen enemy troops (Stanley). In two instances in the series, he tries to bayonet captured war prisoners. He was reported for mistreating war prisoners once and was placed off duty for only 30 minutes, whereas the team leader under his command, Sergeant Eric Kocher, faces a full formal investigation (“Stay Frosty”; Wright b, c).

Another style often employed by the producers in this miniseries is the existential condition. The characters often question the moral rightness their actions and that of their superiors. Like the roadblocks and warning shots mentioned earlier. The rules of engagement are constantly changing, making the decision to open fire difficult. In one instance, a change in the rules of engagement harmed innocent Iraqi civilians. During an attack on an air field shown in the episode titled ”Screwby”, Lt. Col. Ferrando makes the rash decision to lower the bar of the rules of engagement; Any Iraqi was declared hostile. This effectively removes the rules of engagement. While racing towards the airfield, Lance Corporal Harold James Trombley reports to Sgt. Colbert that sees running Iraqis, unsure of whether they are armed. Sgt. Colbert, following orders from the commander, allows LCpl. Trombley to open fire. Later in the day, Iraqi shepherds brought two Iraqi boys that were shot to the marine camp for help. It is revealed that they were shot with 5.56mm rounds, bullets used in American rifles and machine guns. The company corpsman, Robert Timothy 'Doc' Bryan deduces that LCpl. Trombley was the one that shot them and was angry because the children were unarmed shepherds. Sgt. Colbert takes the blame saying that he gave out the order (Poniewozik; Wright b). This incident makes LCpl. Trombley unpopular among the Recon Marines, but nobody seems to remember that Lt. Col. Ferrando was the one who declared every Iraqi hostile. Later in the series, ‘Doc’ Bryan kills two terrorist by shooting them in the head and is troubled because he does not feel remorse doing so. How the marines justify a kill involves their morality and beliefs.

The narrative structure and style used by the producers of Generation Kill are used to position the viewer into a certain mind-set; constructing meaning from the series into one that is in line with what the writer, Evan Wright, wishes to tell. The storyline in the series is often confusing at times (Shales; Stanley; Tucker). It’s hard to pick up what’s going with all the military jargon and abbreviation going about (Ryan). In fact, even some of the characters look the same (Shales; Leonard; Tucker). In is hard to tell apart Captain Bryan Patterson from Alpha Company and Captain Schwetje from Bravo Company (Ryan). Perhaps the producers wish to emulate the confusion and the uncertainties that a fresh marine has going into combat (Tucker).

Wright’s character, played by Lee Tergersen, is often referred to as “Scribe”, “Rolling Stones” or “Reporter”, and never by his own name, Evan Wright (Ryan). Tergersen’s character has very little lines and only speaks to ask questions. Perhaps the producers, or Wright himself, wants the centre of the story to be the Recon Marines, not the writer (Ryan; Stanley). The “Reporter” offer a means for the viewers to clear some doubts with the story, like why LCpl. Trombley is called Whopper Junior. Tergersen’s character finds out that LCpl. Trombley is referred to as that because it’s sold in Burger King. In military phonetic alphabet that is BK, which also stands for Baby Killer. Trombley has been called that ever since he shot those shepherds (“Stay Frosty”; Wright).

The miniseries is above all things, realistic and highly believable. This immerses the viewer into the world of the Recon Marines and lives their memories for 68 minutes per episode. The comradery that each of the characters have makes the viewers feel as though they are a part of their ‘pack’, brothers that will take a bullet for any other Marine and trust the other to do the same for him. It is also aimed to make American viewers appreciate and support their troops (Shales).

The series is non-judgemental and non-emotional (Stanley). It shows the issues faced by the Recon Marines but it does not give a one sided opinion of the issue, there seems to be two sides to each issue. It allows viewers to make their own judgements and have their opinion (Hughes; Tucker). Furthermore, the agenda of the story is not clear (Shales; Stanley). The purpose of the mission is always changing, there is no clear storyline. This is so because the real world is not a story, the battlefield is fluid and ever changing. Generation Kill documents this well. Instead of telling a story the writer shows to us what is really happening. This is their jobs, this is how it’s like in Iraq and this is how they act under such a situation (Hughes).

The most obvious and definite statement that Generation Kill makes to the public is the incompetence and sheer stupidity that superior officers (Leonard; Ryan; Stanley; Shales). Maybe this theme is intended to transverse up the hierarchical structure all the way to President George W. Bush’s administration, noting how futile and stupid the war on Iraq is (Shales).

In conclusion, Generation Kill is a quality war drama that aspire realism above anything else. It documents the complicated, frustrating, and numbingly revolting jobs that this new generation of American Marines carry out in the Iraq War. Several prominent narrative structures and styles have been utilized by the producers to make this miniseries realistic, different yet interesting. The series positions viewers to discover the hardship that American armed forces face in Iraq and have viewers make their own conclusions about issues faced by the Recon Marines.

(2460 Words)


ABC Australia. “Generation Kill – Iraq.” 16 August 2007. Online video clip. YouTube. Accessed on 18 Sept. 2009.

“Get Some.” Generation Kill. Prod. David Simon & Ed Burns. HBO. New York. 13 July 2008.

“Screwby.” Generation Kill. Prod. David Simon & Ed Burns. HBO. New York. 3 August 2008.

“Combat Jack.” Generation Kill. Prod. David Simon & Ed Burns. HBO. New York. 10 August 2008.

“Stay Fosty.” Generation Kill. Prod. David Simon & Ed Burns. HBO. New York. 17 August 2008.

HBO (a). “Generation Kill: Making of Generation Kill.” 10 July 2008. Online video clip. YouTube. Accessed on 18 Sept. 2009.

HBO (b). “Generation Kill: About the Story.” 11 July 2008. Online video clip. YouTube. Accessed on 18 Sept. 2009.

Hughes, Sarah. Generation Kill: An Iraq drama with a difference from the makers of The Wire 23 July 2008. 19 Sept. 2009

Lane, P.J. “The existential condition of television crime drama Journal of Popular Culture, 34.4 (2001): 137-153.

Leonard, John. HBO’s Terrific Summer Buzz Kill 6 July 2008. New York Magazine. 19 Sept. 2009 <>

Poniewozik, James. Theatre of the Absurd 10 July 2008. Time Magazine. 19 Sept. 2009

Ryan, Maureen. The unflinching and affecting ‘Generation Kill’: Not your father’s war movie. Chicago Tribune. 19 Sept. 2009

Shales, Tom. On HBO, The Fierce Tug of War 13 July 2008. The Washington Post. 19 Sept. 2009

Stanley, Alessandra. Comrades in Chaos, Invading Iraq 11 July 2008. The New York Times. 19 Sept. 2009

Thompson, Robert J. "From 'The Golden Age of Television' to 'Quality TV' [Preface]." Television’s second golden age : From Hill Street Blues to ER : Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, Cagney & Lacey, Moonlighting, L.A. Law, Thirtysomething, China Beach, Twin Peaks, Northern Exposure, Picket Fences, with brief reflections on Homicide, NYPD Blue, Chicago Hope, and other quality dramas, New York: Continuum, 1996. 11-17.

Tucker, Ken. TV Review Generation Kill 4 July 2008. Entertainment Weekly. 20 Sept. 2009. <>

Woods, Sean. Best Miniseries Generation Kill. Rolling Stone. 17 Sept. 2009

Wright (a), Evan. The Killer Elite 26 June 2003, Rolling Stone. 17 Sept. 2009

Wright (b), Evan. The Killer Elite, Part Two: From Hell to Baghdad 10 July 2003, Rolling Stone. 17 Sept. 2009

Wright (c), Evan. The Killer Elite, Part Three: The Battle for Baghdad, 26 June 2003, Rolling Stone. 17 Sept. 2009

Mark: 39 / 50

Remarks: "You have clearly done your research although perhaps you could've cued more widely in[-]text. Your observations are sound and are interesting, but i feel your conclusion is simply a summary rather than a closure to some sort of thesis statement. But overall, well done!"