Drill Instructors instill discipline in their recruits, and the
movies that have been analyzed thus reinforce the narrative, but this is
not the case in all military films. A prominent film in which this is not
true is Ivan Reitman’s Stripes. Sergeant Hulka (Warren Oates) does little
to instill discipline in his recruits, and as a result, they continually get in
trouble and deviate from the military mindset. This unit makes a
mockery of graduation and, even while trying to perform drill in a
unique way, is often out of sync. Sergeant Hulka is injured during
training, and as a result, the recruits have to finish their training by
themselves. While this would never happen in real life because recruits
have no way of knowing the curriculum or necessary requirements for
graduation, it does illustrate the transformative power drill instructors
possess over their recruits. While the recruits are commemorated in the
movie for showing perseverance, the lack of discipline, absence of
attention to detail, and disorder that they displayed would never be
celebrated. Michael Nieberg points out, however, that this movie does
illustrate some interesting advertising techniques that were deployed by
the army following the catastrophe that was Vietnam (321-22). The
Army used popular culture to show that it was a more personal
organization than it actually is when (in reality) the goal was simply
finding more recruits. While this makes it very hard to take the movie
seriously, it does a good job illustrating what recruits would look like
without a drill instructor. In fact, once Sergeant Hulka is out of the
picture, John Winger (Bill Murray) steps in as the leader of the platoon
and displays aspects of The Hollywood Model of teaching, one of which
is demonstrated during the graduations scene when the platoon
marches in wearing uniforms in different styles. They end up where they
begin, still a group of individuals. While this is a comedy and nothing
bad happens to the platoon for failing to come together as one, the
scene illustrates that military discipline is instilled by a drill instructor,
and this platoon does not have either one.
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