Post by MP
"Full Metal Jacket" ends with Joker's narration superimposed over the
Marine group's Mickey Mouse Chant.
"We have NAILED our names in the pages of history, enough for today.
We HUMP down to the perfume river to set in for the night. My thoughts
drift back to ERECT NIPPLE WET DREAMS about Mary Jane ROTTENCROTCH and
the great homecoming FUCK FANTASY. I am so happy that I am alive and
in one piece. In short, I am in a world of shit, yes. But I am alive.
And I am not afraid."
"We play fair and we work hard and we're in harmony."
"Forever let us hold our banner high"
"boys and girls from far and near you're welcome as can be"
"Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me?"
"Who is marching coast to coast and far across the sea?"
"Come along and sing our song and join our family."
"Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me?"
The interesting thing about Joker's narration is the emphasis on sex
and shit. Full Metal Jacket has repeated sex and shit motiffs, and
here in the coda, Kubrick brings these cycles to a nice close.
Joker, an intelligent and cynical young man, has sacrificed his
identity and individuality. Having killed his Shadow, the last
remnants of his infantile and femine self, he's transformed from a
reporter to a "cold hard grunt". He's shifted from an outside
observer, to an internal member of the hive mind. He is a member of
the Micky Mouse Club. A slave to ideology. A mere pawn on a chessboard
run by unseen masters.
But then why is he "happy to be alive?" and why is he "not afraid?"
How brainwashed is Joker? Is he aware that he has metaphorically
commited suicide, or is his comment ironic? Is he still joking? Is he
in fact dead and painfully afraid?
Also, what do his "fuck fantasies" mean? There's obviously an
evolution taking place. Joker has evolved from Child to Adolescent to
Impotent (gun jamming) Adult. Has he now reached Maturity? Is his
"fucking" symbollic of his transformation into rapist and
The "Micky Mouse" song has been mocked by many critics of the film.
They read it superficially, saying that "war makes boys out of men" or
that the soldiers are like "infants playing with guns".
I've always thought the chant was far more powerful. It's dark,
mysterious and devilishly ironic, with it's "micky mouse" metaphors
clearly alluding to "The Shining's" notion of conquest and bloody
history. Micky mouse is also a pretty recognisable symbol of
So to me, the song is about American Imperialism rolling across the
world. These men hold their banner up high, urging everyone to join
their family as they bring "peace" and "freedom" to all. They pretend
to play fair and live in harmony, marching from coast to coast, all
the while blissfully unaware of who exactly runs their club and why
exactly they're fighting. Like Dr Bill in Eyes Wide Shut, they're
With it's urban warfare and lack of jungles, the film seems far more
modern than any other Vietnam film. It alludes to Afghanistan and both
gulf wars, it's urban streets and rubble strewn landscape making war
seem more like a capitalist game (Joker: "it's just business") than a
natural fight for survival.
One more question. Animal mother's line, "you think we fight for
freedom? If I'm going to get my balls blown off for a word, my word is
poontang", do you think it's symbollic? That this psycho marine fights
not for ideology but for pussy. That he's been conditioned to think of
war and sex as one. To rape is to own? Has his gun displaced his
penis? If so, is this what military indoctrination is trying to
achieve with these young men?
Good points, MP.
Some responses from the AMK past:
Far from Joker seeing through the Mickey Mouse shit, he
finally suicidally embraces it. To rationalise Joker's execution of
the sniper - the standard ideological reading - as "compassionate",
one would have to argue accordingly
regarding Pyle's execution of Hartman. One has only to first appeal
the responses of Joker's now-fellow-Marine-Corps unified grunts to
realise that something profoundly different is happening: "Joker! We
better put you up for the Congressional Medal of Ugly!, barks a now
hysterical, fresh-kill-ecstatic Rafterman. And another:" hard core,
man. Hard core." Clearly, Joker has shot the sniper at point blank
range in the face, suicidally internalising the very world-of-shit
that Pyle blew away. Very compassionate indeed.
As was foreshadowed in bootcamp's final Head scene, the shit is all
the head: the military patriarchy has yet again successfully
another Mother Green Killing Machine recruit, only for Kubrick to
immediately call all of this process into question in the next, final
scene, where the hardened grunts regress into Mickey Mouse
infantilism. [This was all foreshadowed during the Head scene between
Pyle and Hartman in boot-camp when Hartman exclaims, "What is all this
Mickey Mouse shit!?"]
As Zizek argues: "The second, main part of the film ends with a scene
in which a soldier (Matthew Modine) who, throughout the film, has
displayed a kind of ironic 'human distance' towards the military
machine (on his helmet, the inscription 'Born to kill' is accompanied
by the peace sign, etc. - in short, it looks as if he has stepped
right out of MASH!), shoots a wounded Vietcong sniper girl. He is the
one in whom the interpellation by the military big Other has fully
succeeded; he is the fully constituted military subject.
The lesson is therefore clear: an ideological identification exerts a
true hold on us precisely when we maintain an awareness that we are
not fully identical to it, that there is a rich human person beneath
it: 'not all is ideology, beneath the ideological mask, I am also a
human person' is the very form of ideology, of its 'practical
Even the wording of the Mickey Mouse Club anthem ("Boys
and girls from far and near you`re as welcome as can be ... We play
fair and we work hard and we`re in harmony ... Who is marching coast
to coast and far across the sea ... Come along and sing this song and
join our family") draws our attention once more to a diverse but
ultimately interconnected range of structural and social processes
which the film has been concerned.
The "Club" is not just the Marine Corp: Getting with "the programme"
requires the participation of all members of society, both male and
female. The club has a very specific ideology to perpetuate in which
all of America is obliged to actively participate.
Colonisation, of which war and corporate multinational capitalism are
just two expressions, involves two stages:
Training (Boot Camp in FMJ): The colonisation of the mind/psyche. War
is seen to be the "logical" conclusion of an elaborate patriarchal
process that starts with the Mickey Mouse Club, the boy scouts, the
high school football team - and Boot Camp, namely, the construction
masculinity. The playing of this anthem at the end of Kubrick`s film
draws our attention to the marine`s infantilism, a desire on their
part to return to childhood in spite of the process of
we witness throughout the film which has attempted to suppress all
such regressive urges, as manifested by the Marines`
self-brutalisation of all "feminine" values. Kubrick, as ever,
a cheap polemical denouement, suggesting that in spite of the hardcore
conditioning of the Marines, in spite of Joker`s final
self-destructive capitulation by shooting the female grunt sniper, a
certain irrepressible pseudo-humanity still lingers, and it is this
which underpins ideology: "The lesson is therefore clear: an
ideological identification exerts a true hold on us precisely when we
maintain an awareness that we are not fully identical to it, that
there is a rich human person beneath it: 'not all is ideology, beneath
the ideological mask, I am also a human person' is the very form of
ideology, of its 'practical efficiency'. Close analysis of even the
most 'totalitarian' ideological edifice inevitably reveals that, not
everything in it is 'ideology' (in the popular sense of the
'politically instrumentalized legitimization of power relations'): in
every ideological edifice, there is a kind of 'trans-ideological'
kernel, since, if an ideology is to become operative and effectively
'seize' individuals, it has to batten on and manipulate some kind of
'trans-ideological' vision which cannot be reduced to a simple
instrument of legitimizing pretensions to power (notions and
sentiments of solidarity, justice, belonging to a community, etc.). Is
not a kind of 'authentic' vision discernible even in Nazism (the
notion of the deep solidarity which keeps the 'community of people'
together), not to mention Stalinism? The point is thus not that there
is no ideology without a trans-ideological 'authentic' kernel but
rather, that it is only the reference to such a trans-ideological
kernel which makes an ideology 'workable'. "
Combat: Colonisation of territory/geography/other cultures. War (and
Boot Camp) are intrinsically bound up with the rest of American
culture. The preservation of the "frontier myth" (hence all of the
John Wayne references in the film), the need for America to >always<
require a frontier, from the Wild West to Nicaragua, Cuba and Chile,
from Korea and Angola to Cambodia and Viet Nam, from Israel to Kuwait
and Iraq, is intrinsic to the preservation of a recognisably national
identity and the perpetuation of American patriarchy, as without an
ever-present frontier the entire apparatus of both the
military-industrial complex and the imperatives of corporate
capitalism are called into question.
In short, training and combat, the securing of the "minds" and the
"hearts" of the marines,
Pyle is to Joker in the literal "world of shit" Head what Joker is to
the sniper in the
figurative "world of shit" Hue. And the soundtrack reinforces this -
aurally, literally. Of course, we now need to address what kind of
"self" remains within Joker (ditto for snake-bitten Hesitation-Bill
As for rampant dualisms in the literal "world of shit" of the Head:
Pyle shoots the hard-heart Hartman in his soft-heart in the Head, and
Pyle then, following his hesitation with Joker, sits down on his
and shoots himself in the head in the Head. Winning/taking of hearts
(emotions) and heads (minds).
The "shit" is all in the head.
While Kubrick does indeed liken the institutions of the military to a
maniacal parent, in fact, a
patriarchal mother ("mother green", "beloved corps"), I would
whether any actual unhealthy gratification derived from handling
is the result. The world-of-shit language is one part of a
system of indoctrination used by FMJ's military machine, and
ironically deconstructed by Kubrick, for purposes of masculine
"purification"; Kubrick also demonstrates how the military
whatever else is necessary from the wider culture in order (so
the military to all of society's institutions) to achieve this
purpose, including religion: virgin mary, Chaplin Charlie, prayers to
rifles, group chants, sacrificial rituals, Pyle being "reborn"
masculine on Christmas Day so "you can give your heart to Jesus but
your ass belongs to the Corps", etc; and sexuality: the most
significant sub-theme, from the sexual fetishisation of the marines'
rifles - Pyle's Charlene, the feminine of Charlie - to the marines'
"clarified rejection" of all feminine cultural constructs in order to
become more "masculine", which becomes Joker's suicidal undoing when
he shoots the female masculinised sniper; and the media: cinematic
TV representations of war and the idealised western masculine hero.
The Mickey Mouse culture cannot exist without the darker processes of
of the feminine, that once your mind has been colonised with a
one-dimensional identity which denies and repudiates ambiguities it
easy to pulverise the X-rated culture while embracing the G-rated
The former strengthens the latter: "Masculinity must be won and
preserved, for it can be lost".
FMJ's Hartman ideally wants recruits who, like Joker, will
ultimately maintain the necessary distance [between fantasy and
rationality, between total identification and definitive, or
non-ironic, dismissal]. Hartman's irony here foreshadows Joker's in
Hue City ("I wanted to be the first kid on the block to get a
confirmed kill" etc). Joker, unlike Pyle, successfully keeps his
distance ("Does this mean that Ann Margaret's _not_ coming?"). He -
mistakenly - does not view himself as a part of the system which is
actually systematically molding him and gradually drawing him further
in. And it is precisely this detachment which allows him to be an
efficiently functioning, unknowing slave to ideology, but without
fatally destroying or ostensibly compromising himself at the same
time. In FMJ, Hartman is intentionally exploiting a fundamental
vulnerability in adolescent males, scatologically 'substituting' the
institutional Mother Green for its supposedly biological, localised
All for the (always impossible) promise of deliverance/unity through
some 'poontang'! [Oedipus 'actualised'].