curriculum establishes a firm relationship between the recruits and their
drill instructors and ensures the hierarchy is maintained.
The lack of a personal relationship between recruits and the drill
instructor in fact, the distance between them forces the recruits to
grow together as one, cohesive unit and, simultaneously, requires them
to be stripped of their individual identity. It is important to note that
this does not mean that the recruits are stripped of their personalities.
They are taught to obey orders but then often put into situations where
the core tenets of their personalities help them succeed. Zivah Perel
looks at this distinction when comparing the narratives of Privates Pyle
and J.P. “Joker” Davis (Matthew Modine) in Full Metal Jacket. She argues
that Pyle has a weak personality, one that is unfit for the Marine Corps;
as a result, he is driven insane and ultimately kills himself and Gunnery
Sergeant Hartman (Perel 224-6). Private Pyle is treated especially poorly
during boot camp, and Perel recognizes this but still argues that even
before his mistreatment, he is a terrible recruit. As such, he would never
have made a successful Marine. The Joker, however, displays strength
and perseverance in situations designed by Hartman that are aimed at
testing his grit and leadership abilities (Perel 227). He gains Gunnery
Sergeant Hartman’s respect by staying firm in his beliefs and not
collapsing under pressure.
Perel’s continues her analysis of Full Metal Jacket by arguing that
every aspect of the boot camp experience is aimed at stripping the
recruit’s individuality (230). Gunnery Sergeant Hartman makes sure that
his recruits know that they are “all equally worthless,” which is his way
of slowly chipping away at their sense of individuality. Perel goes
beyond that and says that the fact that no single member of the platoon
is ever shown on screen alone demonstrates the removal of individual
identities and the creation of a single collective identity (Perel 224). This
scenario is featured in every movie that has a drill instructor character,
but Ronald Lee Ermey acts the part better than anyone. While he is best
known for Full Metal Jacket, he also plays a very similar drill instructor
in The Boys in Company C. (1978); his real-life experience as a Marine
Corps drill instructor gives his depictions of boot camp are more
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