Vietnam War in Film: Oliver Stone’s Platoon Essay

1772 Words Mar 7th, 2010 8 Pages

The Vietnam War has often been characterized as the greatest American foreign policy debacle ever. American public support eroded in front of the television set nightly. The longest war in our history, divided Americans more drastically than any other event since the Civil War. After the exhausting toll on the American psyche, there was no doubt that by the wars end the nation was ready to put the Vietnam saga behind them. Still the story had to be told, and that would be up to Hollywood. Arguably one of the most compelling Vietnam movies is Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986), which depicts his experience during the war. Unlike many previous Vietnam War films, Platoon is not simplistic involving a single one dimensional character,
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According to Richard Slotkin, author of Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth- Century America, he contends that; More that any other single event, the revelation [ of the massacre at Mai Lai] transformed the terms of ideological and political debate on the war, lending authority to the idea that American society was in the grip of a ‘madness’ whose sources might be endemic to ‘national character’.

Mai Lai came in the wake one of the most violent times in American history. Assassinations of both Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, violent clashes at the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago, the Manson Murders, and of course mounting casualties in Vietnam. Consequently, news of the massacre reinforced the belief held by some that Americans were trapped in an irrationally rising tide of violence which shed doubt on the goodness of American character. As the war was increasingly governed by bureaucrats back home, what transposed on the battlefield could be a complete different story. While many battalions fought efficiently, others were afflicted with infighting. As a result the violence was not just limited to the VC army and Vietnamese civilians. Warring factions between officers and soldiers was not uncommon. Battles were also being fought between the “enemy within” as many soldiers would contend. Platoon does a remarkable job at showcasing the “enemy within”. These themes are

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