My favorite thing about Platoon
is that it shows the futility of the warrior poet archetype embodied in Sergeant Elias. It's primary concern is truth
. The main American cultural struggle with Vietnam is truth. In the idealized World War II, America (not the allies, America
) committed some serious atrocities, purposely targeted civilians, and so on, but it was distant and the media at the time was tightly controlled.
In Vietnam, more of the reality of war was able to filter back to the mainstream: War is above all else a capitalist industry, a perfect way to make things and then immediately destroy them so they have to be replaced. Second to that, it's controlled, organized insanity, and not a place for warrior poets but a good place to put sociopaths so they can murder freely without consequence in someone else's country. That way we don't have to keep them here.
Platoon's Sergeant Barnes and Bunny deal with the realization, brought on by the first television war, that civilization is a very thin layer that's constantly peeling and cracking. The men that would once have raided villages, raped the women, enslaved the children and put the men's heads on sticks are still here. All it takes is a little freedom for them to show themselves.
Then beneath that? A scared, panicky animal.
What's fascinating is that the two 'camps' of soldiers depicted (those allied with/subordinate to Elias and Barnes) and the officers all deal with the horror of Vietnam by building their own fiction to experience it through. Hence the journal entry narration format; by transforming his experiences into narrative, Taylor consigns them to the realm of the unreal. He no longer has to deal with what he experienced, it becomes a trip to wonderland. (Hence the use of "White Rabbit" during the shotgun blowjob/toke scene)
I guess in the end, Vietnam was a war nobody won. Yeah, the Viet Cong were evil. But if the way the Military's treatment of Both their own men and Vietnamese Civilians was portrayed is in any way accurate. Were the US soldiers really any better? Really. . . I honestly just don't know what to think of it. It was both inspiring and a real downer of a film. It was just so raw and visceral, and I felt really miserable afterwards. . .
Go watch We Were Soldiers
. It's not as patriotic as it would appear to be and offers a balanced viewpoint of the war from both sides. It's a little too sympathetic to the soldier archetype, but it's a movie and has to sympathize with somebody.
Neither side was 'evil'. Every soldier is some mother's son.