Full Metal Jacket

Visual representation of the era:

A song about the Cold War


I chose this song for the representation because here Chris de Burgh sings about the Cold War. It’s about how you cannot trust anyone and how you are afraid to open yourself up because there are spies everywhere who could use the information against you. KGB for USSR and CIA for the U.S. He makes fun of the Iron Curtain and describes the countries behind it as lifeless and cold. The Cold War is a defining aspect of the second half of the 20th century time period which is why this song is closely related to the era. The Iron Curtain made the people inside often feel isolated and perhaps lonely, a mood that is also apparent in this song. Chris de Burgh was from a democratic country and his derogatory attitude towards Russia in the song shows us what the West thought of the Soviet Union.

Critical response to the movie “Full Metal Jacket”

It is a film that takes place during the Vietnam War. Nevertheless, it does not concentrate on the war itself, but rather on the impact it has on marines. It delves into their behaviour and mental health when they are forced out of their comfort zone and put into extreme conditions. What is fascinating about this movie is that it has been made in an unordinary way. At first glance it looks like two separate films are put together. This aspect contributes to the varying opinions on the quality of the product.

“Modine is a good actor, but he is something of a cipher here. We don’t know enough about him to care deeply for him, but he’s the moral center of the film. “ (1)

I totally agree with this criticism. It is vital to know the main character well enough to be able to sympathize with him. We need to know about his background so that we would better understand what he thinks throughout the movie. His motives, thoughts and principles. In the case of “Full Metal Jacket” this becomes especially important during the scenes where Joker says largely controversial things. For example, when he, among other things, declares: “I wanted to be the first kid on my block to get a confirmed kill.” This raises question of what he means by that. Has he suddenly become so cruel and inhumane? Even when during the fist half of the movie, he was portrayed as very gentle and kind. Or was he instead being sarcastic with that statement and indicating to the duality of man? Judging by his (supposed) knowledge about human nature and tendency to make jokes, he might have wished to ridicule the mindset of the majority of soldiers in the war. The marines’ who were actually thinking that slaughtering innocents was great. The ones’ whose darker side (Yin) had prevailed. For instance, the man in the helicopter shooting farmers. It feels like it could have been Joker’s way of indicating to the numbness of war and the stupidity which encourages pointless killing of human beings. If we had deeper insight to his past, we’d have a better understanding of his intelligence and we could know for sure what was Joker meaning with that sentence. Notwithstanding, now we can never know for a fact whether he was being sarcastic or had the events in boot camp really made him a barbarian. This is an example of how more information about the main character’s personality helps us comprehend the movie better.

“Joker ends the film a killer, but the conflict still exists: his kill is as humane as it is vengeful. “ (2)

I disagree that there was a conflict of that sort. Joker’s kill was completely humane as it was the most he could do for the suffering girl in that situation. Despite the sniper killing two of Joker’s close friends, he felt sorry for the girl because he knew that there wasn’t a choice for her and that he would have behaved the same way when put in a similar position. The sniper either put up a fight as long as she could and try to survive, or surrendered with the probable risk of being killed. Thus, by analysing the situation, Joker understood girl’s behaviour and his compassion made him want to help her. The same compassion or kindness that had made him help Pyle in boot camp at the beginning of the movie. Although he would have wanted to save and remedy her, he knew his fellow marines would never agree to do that because they saw the girl as a murderer of their friends. So all he had left to do for the girl was to end her horrifying torment quickly and shoot her dead. This is why the hesitation about killing her was not concerning the aforementioned conflict, but rather just the fact that he would shoot an armless little girl. Something that was, despite everything, still definitely hard for him to do.

To conclude, “Full Metal Jacket” has been criticised and praised by critics and audience, but it is worth watching because it gives an idea of how people might act in extreme circumstances and how war changes people.

Sources used:

  1. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/full-metal-jacket
  2. https://www.slantmagazine.com/dvd/full-metal-jacket/

A caricature of the Cold War




Iron Curtain:

A ‘bulwark’ by Soviet Union to block Western culture in the borderstates with West. Emerged after WW2. Stalin did it because he didn’t trust the West. Already during Civil War, the West had chosen an opposite side to Red Army. After Truman’s doctrine, Stalin was afraid that the people under Soviet influence would accept that, thus the curtain. Term became widely known after Winston Churchill used it in his speech (in MISSOURI:o!). Curtain reached to air as well when trying to block signals from RFE, who were trying to provide listeners behind the wall, uncensored news. When Stalin’s death opened the curtains a little, the Berlin Wall in 1961, srengthened it once again. Iron Curatin ceased to exist after the fall of Soviet Union.  

Truman doctrine, policy of containment, arms race:

Truman doctrine/policy of containment: In 1947 president H.S. Truman announced it would help any nation wishing to overthrow communism in its country to prevent communism from spreading=containment. 13billion given to Europe to help it rebuild itself. Important to show the world the U.S does not return to its prior WWs isolationism. USA wanted capitalism to thrive because of it being one and thus depending on the global market and others buying your goods. In communism countries, people can buy less. Policy of containment was changed with Eisenhower because he saw it being too passive. Arms race: 2 sides fighting to enhance its weaponary further from each other. Increasing the quantity and quality of weapons.

McCarthy era:

or Second Red Scare from 1940s to 1950s. Policy that started already during Truman’s First Red Scare when people were scared with communism ruining democracy etc. Every insitution, individual or state politician who turned out to be colluding with Soviets were guilty and they were started being searched very carefully. Left-Wing organisations, labour unions, universities, overall different minorities fell under extreme surveillance. It obtained the public approval through media and films such as  “Duck and Cover”. FBI was playing a substantial part in this. They often appointed who was to rise to the position of power and who was to be overthrown.

Korean War:

1950-1953. In 1950, 75k soldiers from North Korean People’s Army attacked the South-Korea. First military action during the Cold War. North Korea was communist country and supported by Soviets, south by Americans. 5mil casualties in total. Korea’s area formerly belonged to Japan, after WW2, it was divded between USSR and USA. Northern and Southern part of Korea had already been having skirmishes before the war. USA had to join the war to keep communism from spreading. Fighting took place during a particularly hot summer, water the Allies’ soldiers dran was polluted. Thus, their protectionism strategy was failing them and they decided to become agressive. This drove Koreans back to North boundaries which alarmed China who denied the Americans to advance further. Truman’s general wanted to proceed nevertheless, Truman did not let it happen and instead started negotiations for peace. Negotiations lasted for 2 years and concluded so that South gained a little more territory and prisoners were freed and were let to stay wherever they wished to. Demilitarized zone was created next to the border of the 2 countries.

Role of J.F Kennedy:

A president of the USA 1961-1963. Kennedy conducted changes to American politics by setting a norm of long drawn-out election campaigns, raised the influence of television in campaigns.  He is mostly an admired president. Modern day criticism towards him argues that he put the whole world into danger just to show his worth. At first, people were incredulous that he wouldn’t be fit for the job. His inexperience made people worry. At the beginning of his term, he also tried to overthrow Fidel Castro but failed miserably. However, he managed to solve the Cuban Crisis without evoking a global nuclear war, promoted African colonies gaining independence and was for the idea of equal rights for all races. The Cuban Crisis was so close to realeasing disaster, but thanks to Kennedy’s diplomatic skills, it was avoided. Kennedy wanted to also end the Vietnam war, but died before being able to fulfill that wish. He was assassinated.

Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Crisis:

Cuba was a communist country with Fidel Castro leading it. Cuba was so close to USA geographically that they wanted to eliminate communism from their doorstep. A secret attempt to invade Cuba failed to 2 days after landing in Bay of Pigs in Cuba. Kennedy took responsibility for the failure. After that, Soviets did not want the communnistic Cuba to disappear so they sent their missiles to be secretely set up in Cuba. This activity was discovered during the U.S’s surveillance flight. Kennedy alarmed the whole nation of the threat and gathered advisers to agree on what to do. When some favoured invading Cuba and destroying the regime there, Kennedy chose to negotiate. He managed to settle with Khrushchev by affirming not to invade Cuba and removing its missiles from Turkey.

The Space race:

Space race was USA’s and USSR’s chance to prove its economical, technological, political superiority in Cold War. Soviets managed to send the first satellite to space called Sputnik. Such a surprise for USA made it particularly urgent to keep up with the race because sending items to space gives the possibility to also launch a nuclear warhead there. In 1958 Eisenhower created NASA which grew rampantly over the next years. Meanwhile, in 1961 Soviets beat NASA once again by sending the first person, Yuri Gagarin, to space. Kennedy, however, announced then that they would be on Moon before the next decade. USA succeded as in 1961, Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin Collins landed on the surface of Moon. Whole process was broadcast in television. In 1975, Apollo-Soyuz were the spaceships orbiring Earth where astronauts from Soviet Union and America greeted eachother with handshake in space. This represented the improving relations between the two.

Vietnam War (causes, outcome, consequences):

1955-1975. Similarly to Korean War, South was again supported by the U.S and the North by Soviet Union.( Vietnam used to be a French colony, after WW2 communism supporters formed DRV, while French tried to regain control by supporting buffs of the West. The first indochina war concluded with territory divded between south and north. The Vietnam War takes place because of north refused to have the referendum. )

2million Vietnamese dead. 12mil as refugees. Military actions had demolished country’s infrastructure, economy. 7.5mil tons of USA’s bombs made much of the farmland impossible to cultivate to this day (unexploded bombs). In 1976, Vietnam unified as Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Relations and trading with USA vanished and returned in 1990s. As the side which Americans supporte lost, it blew away the myth of USA’s invincibility. Soldiers returning from the war were greeted with reviledness by both sides of the divided nation; one side critisized the fact that they had killed innocent civilians and the other the fact that they didn’t win the war. Vietnam calls itself communist to this day despite having accepted many capitalistic ideas.

Richard Nixon and the Watergate Affair:

Nixon was the first president to resign. He did it to avoid the charges of impeachment. Everything started with info leaking to New York Times about States’ real intentions in Vietnam War. After that 5 men broke into the psychiatrist of the man who had leaked Pentagon papers info. Another incident occured a little later when 5 men broke into Watergate house, they were arrested and later found to have connection with president Nixon. The president denied it but as the indictments were too apparent he stepped down.

The role of Henry Kissinger:

He was a secretary of state and influenced America’s foreign policy. He has been granted a Nobel Peace prize for his efforts in negotiating the end of Vietnam War. His actions also managed to make relations between Soviet Union and America better. Henry Kissinger also organized first meetings between the U.S and communistic China.

Counterculture, Summer of Love and Woodstock:

The contempt towards government’s decisions resulted in counterculture aka hippies in the 1960s. Their lifestyle was more loose and were fundamentally against materialistic society. The 1967 summer was declared to be the summer of love. Movement was successful, people gathered to poetry readings, concerts. One of the most famous musical concerts was Woodstock in 1969. Instead of the estimated 50k, arrived 500k of people. This led to deprivation of resources and difficult conditions for everyone involved. Nevertheless, people were able to enjoy artists like Janice JOPLIN and promote love, peace.

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