Full Metal Jacket — The Duality of Man


Since its release in 1987, Full Metal Jacket
has remained a topic of discussion among film lovers. The film is notably divided into two parts,
the first being at boot camp and the second in Vietnam. But what’s most interesting about this Kubrick
masterpiece is that it’s not a Vietnam war film. Actually, it isn’t a war film at all. The dead only know one thing: It is better to be alive I love working for Uncle Sam! The
war could be substituted with pretty much anything else and the ideas would continue
to be relevant. 1, 2, 3, 4 The movie is essentially an exposition of
the loss of individuality and dehumanisation that catapults the troops into becoming killing
machines. I love the Marine Corps! So, it makes sense that Kubrick used the US
Marine Corps involvement in Vietnam to teach us that in such situations, the individual
doesn’t matter. The individual becomes a cog in a machine,
only a part of a system. The melody of Hello Vietnam playing during
the opening scene subtly introduces us to the death of individuality that will define
the soldiers journey throughout the rest of the film. This is the best introduction we are given. Actually, we get nothing from these people. No name, no age…nothing. Do you maggots understand that? The only sense of individuality they’re
given are the nicknames Drill Instructor Hartman gives them. R. Lee Ermey’s monologues have the intention
to dehumanize the young recruits in every way possible so they won’t hesitate to kill
when the time comes. Drop your cocks and grab your socks! By far, the brutal Drill Instructor is the
most entertaining character in the film and his absence in the second half is one of the
main reasons why people like the first half more. It usually takes multiple viewings of Full
Metal Jacket to properly grasp the significance of the second half. As a first time viewer, it may seem that during
the second half of the movie, it simply “falls apart”. While comedic at first, the Drill Instructor’s
abuse and humiliation eventually get to a point of questioning one’s self dignity
and self worth. The first half of the film is relatively easy
to identify with, since pretty much anyone can sympathize with the intense abuse and
targeting that Pyle suffers. Hartman wants to make his recruits like him:
hard and cold. “If you survive recruit training…you will
be a weapon, you will be a minister of death praying for war. But until that day… you are the lowest form
of life on this Earth! You are not even human fucking beings!” Leonard (A.K.A. Gomer Pyle) is the worst recruit of the bunch. He struggles to make it through the system. After weeks of abuse from Hartman and his
fellow Privates, he does become the D.I.’s perfect killing machine, completely dehumanized. Four inches from your chest, Pyle! Unexpectedly, it’s Leonard that becomes
better programmed to kill the enemy, even more so than Joker, Cowboy or anyone else. Ironically, the D.I. becomes a victim of his
greatest success. The audience’s attention is focused on the
relationship between Hartman and Pyle. However, to fully understand Pyle’s actions
by the end of the Parris Island act, we have to pay attention to Joker. It becomes clear that he’s the only character
who keeps a small measure of individuality. There’s a sarcastastic, intelligent cynicism
about him that distances him from becoming the ultimate Marine as Hartman wants him to
become. “Is that you John Wayne? Is this me?” Here, he’s poking fun at the archetype of
the American soldier and the cliched conduct of the dominant male. Joker is attacked by Hartman during a scene
in which he says he doesn’t believe in the Virgin Mary. “Sir, the private believes that any answer
he gives will be wrong and the senior drill instructor will beat him harder if he reverses
himself, sir.” As a reaction to this, Hartman makes Joker
squad leader, which is perhaps a crucial flaw made by the drill instructor. Instead of getting rid of Joker’s individuality,
he allows him to maintain it and this begins to influence Pyle. Nobody hates you Leonard, you just keep making mistakes. Hartman’s ultimate mission is to destroy
Pyle’s individuality so he can become just another cog in the system. But something goes wrong in his transformation. Pyle is well on track to becoming the ultimate
marine: Animal Mother. Better you than me Both characters are even alike in some ways:
They both have similar black hair, the false grin and their eyes are constantly half open. Animal Mother’s helmet even has the quote
“I am become death” written on it. He’s the ideal marine Hartman tried to make
out of Pyle. Pyle definitely got close though, becoming
precise and meticulous. He could quickly dismantle and reassemble
his M-14 and becomes a skillful shooter, even receiving praise from Hartman himself. Outstanding Private Pyle, I think that you’ve finally found something that you do well. However, Pyle was shaped by not one, but two
characters: Hartman and Joker. Joker mentors Pyle through all his daily activities,
but unlike Hartman, he uses his intellect and charismatic personality to help him. By the end of the first act, Pyle’s new
mentality has been mixed with Joker’s humanity and Hartman’s ideals. He’s stuck with a duality that can only
be explained through a close look at Joker in the second act of the film. Joker suffers from “the Jungian thing, sir.”. He maintains his individuality, but also has
the killer instincts Hartman instilled in him. In Vietnam he wears a peace symbol, but at
the same time has “Born to Kill” written on his helmet. This duality impacts Pyle at the end of the
first act in the sense that, like Joker, acts as an individual with the small amount of
humanity left in him. Unfortunately, the only act of humanity known
to him is the only one not frowned upon by Hartman: killing. The Vietnam Act exposes Joker’s duality,
which is what makes it interesting and worth watching. When he attempts to kill the sniper, he fails
as Hartman warned him during Basic Training. “If your killer instincts are not clean
and strong you will hesitate at the moment of truth. You will not kill.” One of the soldiers saves him from a sure
death and as the Marines circle around the sniper, what’s just gone down hits Joker. He must now shoot a woman and a child, something
that repulsed him earlier in the film. How can you shoot women and children? Like Pyle, Joker destroys a part of his humanity
by shooting the sniper. As Joker looks up and the other soldiers congratulate
him, he realizes that he just lost an innocence, a part of himself that he will never retrieve. From the opening scene to now, we experience
Joker’s transformation from a sarcastic comedian, “Does this mean Ann Margaret’s not coming?”, to the killer Hartman wanted him
to become. Re-born to kill. Perhaps the biggest irony in the entire film
comes in the end with the soldiers, programmed to kill, singing a song about a children’s
cartoon. All innocence is now lost.

100 thoughts on “Full Metal Jacket — The Duality of Man

  1. Song List:
    The Marines Hymn [0:00 ]
    Free to Use Beat: https://youtu.be/5BnKfLiEDp0 [0:44]
    Full Metal Jacket Soundtrack – Leonard
    : https://youtu.be/qVv1XsGMv-I [2:50]
    Burnt to a Crisp or Bloody as Hell: https://youtu.be/7RJQTOGcK14 [6:00]
    Far The Days Come – Letter Box
    : https://youtu.be/9q4FFIBnkmI [6:34]
    YES, we know it's "Disgusting Fat-body" and NOT "Disgusting fuckbody", you know…late night editing. Shit happens.

  2. Fuck the Army. Don´t become a solider please. Don´t waste your life for some creedy stupid people that don´t give a shit about you.

  3. Nice analysis. But all of that . . . the dehumanization effort of military (infantry) training is as old as civilization itself. War is one of the things humans do best. Sad to say. But thanks just the same for your insightful review. It needs to be repeated so we don't forget what we (humans) really are . . . naked ape-monsters with a thin veneer of "good behavior" because of fear of punishment. Oh yes, BTW Joker's gun jammed. But i can see the logic of an alternate interpretation.

  4. This editing style is obnoxious as shit. Good video though. Not always a fan of video essays(used to search them out when theu were rare and now youtube is saturated as shit with them) but this is a good one.

  5. Damn glad I cant join the army like I wanted to, would of ended up a funny soldier who liked his grenades too much to throw them

  6. Joker didn’t hesitate. His gun jammed. You can clearly hear the click of the gun, and you can see he looks at the gun as if it hadn’t fired when he wanted it too.

  7. I remember watching this movie with my father when i was ten years old and i was overcome with this deep sadness and fear watching pile suffer and lose his humanity and what drove this home was that at the time my dad had just finished police training and was still recovering and i had to deal with a teacher who woyld emotuonally and physically abuse is and in a country where corporal punishment is common his actuons were unacceptable and that's saying something overall great movie and one of my most cherished moments with my dad

  8. I don't think I could ever be an enlisted. I question authority way to much in my head. Granted I've never been shot at either. I'm guessing things become a lot simpler in the head under fire.

  9. We learned this in military intern

    The part in bootcamp our officer told us that "no matter waht happens if you feel bullied talk about it with a trust person"

  10. I disagree with much of what you say, but the broad strokes are really well thought-out and well-presented. I thoroughly disagree with people who criticize the editing. I really like the style and the creativity in this fresh, uh, something. Somewhat counterintuitively perhaps, the "errant" criticism helped me to appreciate the edits, as I was braced to evaluate them thoughtfully, rather than dismiss it as mere jumpiness and click away. Hmmmmmm. I wound up really liking the style in which you put forward your thoughtful but sometimes mistaken interpretation 🙂

  11. No swearing Jesus Christ is recommended John 3:16-21 Jesus Christ is Lord God Loves You The Kingdom of God is at Hand Leviticus 20:13 Ephesians 4:29
    1 Corinthians 6:9

  12. If any one else noticed , when joker finally kills the sniper his flak jacket collar covers and hides his peace symbol pin . Before he fired it can be seen

  13. Fact: In the original book, When the instructor gets shot, His lasts words were ''I am proud of you'' Before dying

    Extra: When the vietcong sniper is shot, Animal Mother was supposed to grab a machete and decapitate the sniper and throw the head out of a window, This was cut however the head prop still exists

    Extra 2: There was gonna be a sex scene between Joker and the Vietnamese woman at the begin of the first vietnam scene

  14. If you pay attention the peace symbol is on the left and the left side in the human body, you find the heart symbol of passion , his helmet with the born to kill, is on his head symbol of reason. But heart got his reason that the reason can't understand. Indeed he is sent in Vietnam to kill but he does not want to, because he knows that he is considered as a war machine, and doesn't want to be one so the peace symbol highlights his humanity, and his true identity, even if at the end he '' reborn to kill'' it's the system that make him like this but deep inside him… heart got his reason that the reason can't understand.

  15. Full Metal Jacket is a nerds' view on something he doesnt know the first shit about. Not that war cant break you, but you'd see more people get destroyed and depressed by procrastination than by a drill sergeant screaming in their faces. Just google "lost my innocence" or "I've become a cog in the system" "dehumanized" or every other profound bullshit on the video you got hot about, and marvel at the thousands of different things people all over the globe blame for their current state of mind, life etc.
    As for mindless killing machines or mindless murders or heinous crimes of any kind, just visit some news sites. Everyday people, without any army experience of any kind all of them. Soldiers kill in battle. And the most ruthless dictators or regimes that massacred dozens/thousands/millions of unarmed people, were "crusaders" of peaceful utopias. The Stalins and the Pol Pots and the Robespierres.

  16. Holy hell I'm gonna subscribe, this is the first of your videos I have seen (I am about 2 minutes into the video) btw, got here from shoeonhead

  17. Marine here. We’re marines not soldiers, but great video. I’m a huge Kubrick buff and this is one of my top two for him, and by far my favorite Vietnam movie.

  18. I have always despised this interpretation, simply because it's not about 'individuality'. The prior personality of Joker and the rest before the military training is another systematic teaching: Judeo-Christian morality, which emphasizes innocence and care for everyone. It's not individualistic at all. It's just a different set of culturally infused directives. They conflict with the military training, but it's ideology versus ideology, not individualism versus conformity, and if you want to see the moralistic side at full conformist tilt, just look at the middle class fakesmilers who thrive on self-righteousness and grandiose acts of personal charity that they think makes them superior to the self-interested lower-class dirt that hasn't been raised 'right'.

    The military generally teaches respect for chain of command and teamwork. The killing part goes to being on a side, your team, trusting the value of the orders and the mission, and the matter of whether the war is legitimate, which makes Vietnam critical as the backdrop to FMJ. This kind of conditioning would have been considered an unpleasant necessity in WW2; Vietnam does not have the same legitimacy.

  19. I read "The Short Timers" by Gustave Haasford, and took my wife to see Full Metal jacket when it came out. The boot camp scenes were as I remembered Parris Island. I can't comment on the Viet Nam scenes. However, I thought both story lines sucked. James Webb's Fields of Fire or Body Count by William Huggins were both much better and more true to life, in my opinion. Because FMJ was basically an anti war film is exactly why Hollywood funded it. So, like Apocalypse now, it made the troops look bad. (and the story line sucked) As for Pyle, fat bodies like him were washed out, rolled back or discharged if they couldn't keep up with the Platoon.

  20. FunFact: Disney is not as innocent as you might believe.
    Maybe Kubrick was aware of this.
    He also created "Eyes Wide Shut" (and maybe that's why he died), so…

  21. Being in the military can destroy a mans mind, body, and spirit. The whole time i served it felt wrong an like they were just brainwashing me and trying to destroy my mind from thinking whats right an wrong for myself. I guess its to be expected though since they expect you to take a life or give yours so some multi trillion dollar company can make a few more billion.

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