Hollywood’s Image of the Military: Comparing Hamburger Hill to Platoon

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More than ten years after the end of the Vietnam War, two movies were released that showed differing opinions about how the war was fought. Hamburger Hill and Platoon were released during the glory days of the American military under the Reagan administration. The subject of the Vietnam War was no longer taboo, and national pride had recovered from the previous era. Because of this, filmmakers felt comfortable with finally depicting both the heroism of those who fought in Vietnam and the horrors associated with that war. These two movies had similarities and differences ranging from how they portrayed the military image as a whole to the unique sociological aspects of military life.
Hamburger Hill told the story of an army unit from the 101st Airborne that faced a bloody ten-day battle for a hill in the Ashau Valley in Vietnam. The movie seemed to deal mainly with the members of the platoon and how they dealt with the difficulties of war. From the first scenes of the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial in Washington D.C., the movie attempted to depict the patriotism of those who fought and died. It avoided any overall statements regarding the purpose or correctness of the war and instead focused on the courage and heroism of all who served in Vietnam. Platoon also told a story of a single infantry unit that faced the difficulties of war in Vietnam. This movie, however, pointed out the moral and political issues of the war. It did not focus on the courage and heroism of soldiers, but rather on the moral battles between good and evil within the unit. The movie as a whole seemed to serve as a statement about the incorrectness of the war.
Both movies made a point to show that the military was made up of people from all walks of life. The platoons had the stereotypical southern “rednecks,” the blacks from the inner cities, the naive country boys from Middle America, the street-smart city boys, and the average “Joes.” There were expe