Study Guide

Platoon Politics

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Platoon is a political movie alright, but in a very, nontraditional sense.

We're not talking Washington D.C. politics—although that is mentioned—but rather military politics. It's like this: Lieutenant Wolfe is technically in charge of the platoon, from a chain of command standpoint. However, it's really Barnes's platoon. He runs the show, and the boys listen, until the middle of the movie that is, when the platoon splits right down the middle into two "parties," those who look to Elias as their leader, and those who look to Barnes. The battle and politicking between the opposing camps dominates the second half of the film, and gives us a glimpse of some pretty dirty political dealings.

Questions About Politics

  1. Does Platoon provide any references to the American political landscape of the 60's? Where? How?
  2. What makes Wolfe an ineffective leader?
  3. How successfully does Elias push his political ideals?
  4. What do you make of Taylor's political reasons for joining the war? Are they naïve? Spot on? Admirable?

Chew on This

In war, real political power isn't about ranks and medals and all that. It's about how many guys are on your side, and there are a lot more on Barnes' side than anybody else's.

Wars are always motivated by politics. Unfortunately, politicians never seem to have a good grasp of just what is happening "over there," a point best articulated by Barnes when he compares "politicians in Washington" to guys with their arms tied up.

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