Monday, March 2, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Lawrence Character in Full Metal Jacket by Stanley Kubrick?

Most of us would like to think "Gomer Pyle"–Lawrence–in Full Metal Jacket went from a naturally nice guy to a cold-hearted killer. In other words, the Marines turned him from a warm healthy individual to a cold killing machine. But, could it be argued that what drove Gomer crazy was the realization of his true self?

Gomer was probably raised in a protective environment where he indulge being a big baby. He was provided with food, comfort, and simple joys. He was a child in a toy wonderland. But, in the Marines he’s forced to connect with his predatory nature. (Remember that Peanuts cartoon where Snoopy has a nightmare about being in the North Pole with Huskie dogs? Gradually, he turns mean and fights to be head of the pack.)
Of course, human nature is multi-faceted. There are both the warm and tender side AND the brutal and aggressive side. It would be wrong to say human nature is ONLY this as opposed to that. But, Gomer was probably brought up in a family where the aggressive and survivalist side was never nurtured or developed. He grew big and tall but emotionally remained a cuddly baby. It didn’t help that he’s rather dim.

In a way, Gomer changes due to external pressure, especially that of the badass sergeant. But, this process involves something WITHIN Gomer being awakened. It is the brute nature that had remained dormant but had always been there. It is the side of man that is aggressive, ruthless, competitive, and bloodcurdling. It is a genuine part of human nature.
With most guys in the camp, we see a balance between control and aggression. The problem of Gomer is he starts with little control and little aggression. He has little control over his baby-ish appetites. He’s a fatbody, looks like an overgrown child, and can’t control his hunger or even his facial expressions. He also has little aggression because he’s probably been pampered and doted all his life. Eventually, he is brutalized and gains self-control. And, the aggressive and ruthless side of him is cracked open, and Gomer finally turns into a bona-fide killing machine. But, the process was so traumatic that he ultimately cannot absorb the shocks. He goes crazy. He cannot maintain the balance between aggression and control.

Others do much better, but not much better if we think about it. The Gomer-infantile-killer-syndrome theme is picked up later. Recall how the soldiers sing Mickey Mouse at the end of the movie. And, Joker’s friend turns totally infantile freako after the Viet Cong assassin girl is killed. It’s as though the Marine Corp turn boys into men but also men into boys. The military makes boys put away toy guns... and places in their hands... real guns... which are toys too, if you think about it. So, in a way, War is like Disney Land where people get hurt for real... or a movie where people die for real.

There is, indeed, something infantile about our love of war movies. Sure, we say it’s all about honoring servicemen, sacrifice, patriotism, and etc. But, isn’t a big part of the appeal just to see things get blown up real good? Don’t we enjoy war movies in the way that kids enjoy playing war games? Movies, no matter how ‘serious’, are all make-believe anyway. Make-believe or not, we sure love to play.

We generally distinguish play-acting from the real thing, but could it be said play-acting is the real thing as practice, and the real thing is play-acting for real?
Just look at cats. Cats are always playing, and we think it’s cute. But, cat play is always based on fighting and hunting. It’s like what David Mamet, another Jew like Kubrick, understands so well. Take a film like "House of Games" where the games are for real. The Play is the Thing.


  1. "The play is the thing." Indeed. Many combat veterans will tell you that battle is the ultimate game, and is as addictive as any X-Box could ever be. This is why men who have just one taste of combat will endure the long years of boredom and soulless over-regimentation in a peacetime military: they are forever hoping for just one more hour on the fields of fire, actually being attacked by a kill-hungry foe.

    The Marine Corps in particular has honed initiation and training to a keen edge, most of it psychological. The Corps understands that it's not easy to make people believe that they will enjoy killing, at least until the recruits get a chance to fire shots in anger. Then the warlike part of the soul takes over. The Corps merely provides a structured, ritualized nudge.

    But it's the deliberate, shrewd psychological aspect of postmodern warfighting that I find so repugnant. When God's people conducted wars of conquest in Caanan- brutal campaigns of scorched earth policies, to be sure - they did so without all the "lean, mean fighting machine" drivel so common today. The Hebrews simply fought, and fought hard. The Ever-Living specifically said that those who had no taste for fighting (or those who had a legitimate reason to shun combat)could stay away from military duty. And the White kindred peoples used to have these sorts of armies. One could examine the Confederate military to find a group of Americans who didn't revel in "Blood makes the grass grow!" juvenile-speak.

    Fighting in a just war (ah, there's the rub!) is like any number of other unpleasant duties in life, such as butchering a steer, or washing/dressing the body of a deceased loved one, or shoveling manure in summertime. When it must be done, it must be done well and efficiently. It's a part of human existence. But there is no call for exulting in it or making it into some glorified, rarefied rite of passage.

    Just as White women open their legs to dark-skinned strangers and White men bend the knee to Jew bankers, so the average person watches war movies and reads war novels: deep down inside, the average person wants to play Cain. The average person wants to do that which is forbidden. Such a person wants to know what it feels like to take a life.

  2. Military drill is all about erasing the regressive, infantile part inside a man. Any man has to do this to some degree in order to grow up. This is why (healthy) men fear "feminisation" and "faggotry" etc so much: it is a vital and very real threat to their ability to fight and to survive as men. This reflects in the insults flung by the drill sergeant at the recrutees: all are about being gay, being female, being childish, being slimy mud... etc.