One other point is worth discussing here. These good teacher
characters care about the wellbeing of their students not just while they
are teaching them but also after they leave the school system. While not
all teacher movies include scenes depicting students in this transitional
period, there is almost always discussion of the long-term success of the
students. Furthermore, this concern guides the actions of good
teachers. This concern for the future and wellbeing of students is central
to the differences between the good teacher and the good drill
instructor in the movies.
The Military and the Military Film Genre
Drill instructors are every service member’s introduction to
military life. Their goal is to create chaos and uncertainty in an effort to
push all recruits to their absolute limits. The rationale behind this is that
any recruit can perform well in a no-stress situation, but to be prepared
for war, recruits must be able to perform under the most intense and
stressful conditions. The Marines assign three to four drill instructors
to each platoon of recruits; like everything else in the military, these
instructors adhere to a hierarchal structure. The head drill instructor
holds the title “Senior Drill Instructor” and usually functions in a
mentoring role with the recruits. While he is not weak by any means,
the Senior Drill Instructor relies on his staff to administer the intense
discipline. The second in command carries the unofficial title of the
“Heavy Hat” because he provides the majority of instruction and
discipline and is responsible for creating never-ending chaos for
recruits.v Finally, the Heavy Hat’s assistants are referred to as “Kill
Hats,” and their name is an apt description of their demeanor. In
Hollywood, these different personalities are usually embodied by one
drill instructor. This composite character breaks from the hierarchy of
a real boot camp experience, but the simplification of the chain of
command makes the film easier for viewers to follow and allows more
screen time for better development of the primary characters.
Before beginning a more detailed analysis of the way drill
instructors function as teachers, it is important to have an
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