Kubrick’s Use of Mickey Mouse Song in ‘Full Metal Jacket’ is Genius!
[SPOILER ALERT: If you ever plan on watching “Full Metal Jacket,” don’t read this. You probably shouldn’t watch the embedded video, either.]
Just watched Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” for the first time as an adult.
“What?” you say. “Aren’t you the biggest Kubrick fan this side of the Mississippi?”
Apparently not. I mean, I own all the Kubrick films and know them all by heart–except “Full Metal Jacket.”
When I was a kid, I remember coming into the living room while my parents were watching it. It felt so heavy–not in intelectual material, but in mood. This time around, however, I saw the beautiful cinematography and dark, fun house mirror wit that I love in all his movies. I shouldn’t be that surprised; I hated “A Clockwork Orange” when I first saw it at 16. Today, it’s probably my favorite movie of all time.
Kubrick’s genius really shines in the final scene:
By choosing to have the troops sing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song as they march silhouetted by flaming destruction, Kubrick ties three themes together:
- The journey from boy to man
- Typical of most war movies, we see the main character grow from fresh faced recruit to hardened soldier. This song, however, is effing intense. These guys probably sang this song along with the TV as kids. Now they are singing it together as a shared nostalgia that not only binds them, but also serves to show the contrast between childhood and adulthood; innocent naivety and killed-a-man experienced.
- Or maybe, it shows that these guys are still boys having to live as men. Hmmmm….
- Camaraderie and the solidification of a group
- They’re singing about being members of a club, holding banners high, working in harmony and the shared nostalgia/experience mentioned above. The inviting lyrics could also be mistaken for recruiting.
- Notion of the American ideal of bringing freedom, even if through force, to the rest of the world
- Mickey Mouse is a symbol for America.
- The lyrics are upbeat, inviting people around the world to join a club. The soldiers singing this as they march across a conquered land in order to eradicate communism and forcibly bring freedom make those lyrics ironic.
When I was little, my grandfather would play an old Mickey Mouse Club record. I remember marching around, gleefully raising my mom’s old baton up and down while singing the theme song with joy. There isn’t that same vigor in the voices of these soldiers. They have to make themselves joyful. By singing this particular song, they are able to grasp on to any last scrap of humanity or any distant memory of innocence. Brilliant.
Anyway, just same late night wanderings. What do you think?
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