At the time, it seemed like the “Rambo” series epitomized everything that was wrong about the ’80s. Star Sylvester Stallone, with his oiled-up, inhumanly pumped-up physique, was the poster-boy for the first generation to embrace steroid abuse. The revenge fantasies he was peddling — re-fighting the Vietnam War, confronting the Russians in Afghanistan — neatly intersected with the feel-good military “victories” engineered by the Reagan administration: invading the small island-nation of Grenada, and bombing the children of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Just as the Reagan White House erased the sting of the Vietnam defeat from the public memory by using baby-step operations against lightweight opponents, so did “Rambo” erase the shame from movie screens. After years of self-flagellating films on Vietnam like “The Deer Hunter,” “Apocalypse Now,” and “The Boys In Company C,” “Rambo” promised — with near-fascist simplicity — victory through strength.

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