Iraq War Images Seep into Popular Culture

May 21, 2005 — -- After seeing the reality of war in Iraq as a Marine, Jonathan Barton now finds himself in Hollywood as a military consultant. These days, business is booming.

"There are more military shows being made in the next five years than were made in the past 20," Barton said.

After two years of fighting in Iraq, American pop culture is beginning to reflect the war in a way that it hasn't since World War II.

War Part of Fabric of American Life

Robert Thompson, a professor at Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television, believes we will see more of the war in Iraq used in the nation's storytelling.

"Simply because as this war goes on, it becomes more and more a part of the fabric of who we are," Thompson said.

Many popular television shows have incorporated Iraq into their storylines.

This year, two episodes of "ER" took place partly in Iraq; in the drama "Las Vegas," one of the main characters was called up to duty. And shows as diverse as "Extreme Makeover" to the irreverent comedy "Arrested Development" to the soap opera "Days of Our Lives" have plotlines based on the war.

"If you're telling stories about contemporary America, you can't make the war go away," Thompson said.

The FX network is taking it a step further, and is currently producing a new hourlong series called "Over There" that will follow a group of soldiers during their tour in Iraq.

"I think people are just ready to watch … something that is contemporary and important and dramatic and exciting," said Chris Gerolmo, a co-creator of the show.

War on TV and in Real Life

It will be the first TV show ever to be set in an ongoing war, and it's a risky premise.

"They may stay away in droves, they may find it the most exciting show in television," Gerolmo said.

During the Vietnam War, television all but ignored the war. One of the most popular shows of the time, "Gomer Pyle," was about a private in the U.S. Marine Corps and it never once mentioned Vietnam.

"M*A*S*H" was an anti-war comedy intended to comment on the Vietnam War, but it was set during the Korean War.

Film projects based on the Iraq war are already in the works. Harrison Ford is set to star in a film about the battle for Fallujah, and "Life Is Beautiful Star" Roberto Benigni just finished a wartime comedy.

Hollywood is testing the waters slowly. No one knows if audiences want to pay to see the grim reality of war, especially when it's still playing out in real life.

ABC News' John Berman originally reported this story for "Good Morning America" Weekend.