FULL METAL JACKET’s “Joker” and Me

identifying with the ‘grunts’ at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam War film

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

“Joker,” played by Mathew Modine, is the main character and narrator in that movie. At the very end of it he is among a large group of American soldiers (“grunts,” as they called themselves) moving as a widely spaced group shortly after dark towards the position to which they have been ordered for the night. In the background almost all of the city they have been fighting to recapture, in order to save it from the Communists, is on fire.

They begin singing the theme song from “The Mickey Mouse Club,” which they all remembered from T.V.:

Who’s the leader of our club that’s made for you and me?

M-i-c /k-e-y /M-o-u-s-e

Mickey Mouse

Mickey Mouse

Forever let us hold our banner high! high! high! high!

So come along and sing our song and join our family

M-i-c /k-e-y /M-o-u-s-e

When I recently watched that movie (not for the first time) I realized that I identify in the most visceral way with the soldiers at the end of it.

Like them, I stave off killing myself and maintain a measure of sanity only by keeping my mind focused on our obligations to one another as fellow human beings in the midst the grotesque absurdity of pain and suffering that is wholly unnecessary for the sake of nothing that is truly good.

Though their circumstances were way far worse than mine, they did at least know that it was only for a year (if they could survive that year intact).