On the latest episode of People’s Party with Talib Kweli, Matthew Modine — actor, filmmaker, activist, and only other older dude besides Keith Richards who can successfully rock a bandana — chopped it up with Talib Kweli over some of the symbolism in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. Without giving too much away (you should absolutely see Full Metal Jacket if you haven’t already) Kweli brought up a particularly striking and eerie scene in which U.S. soldiers march through a burning Vietnamese village singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song, prompting Modine to share an interesting read on the famous scene.
“I never talked to Stanley, but he never asked permission from Disney to use it, he just did it which I think was fantastic,” Modine begins before going deeper. “But it’s the words and Stanley’s deep right?… ‘Who’s the leader of the gang that’s made for you and me? Who’s the leader of the gang who’s marching coast to coast and far across the sea’… I don’t understand why we were fighting in Vietnam, was it just for westward expansionism? Was it just to get Coca-Cola and Marlboro cigarettes, to expand what I believe is American democracy, that we don’t live in a Republic anymore, a democratic society? We live in a capitalistic society. That we’re a corporatocracy?”
A lot has been said about the symbolism of this particular scene, with many common interpretations pointing to a loss of innocence amongst the soldiers, particularly Modine’s Joker, but this read feels particularly resonant right now as we re-enter an economic recession amidst a global pandemic, all while the world potentially sees its first trillionaire in Jeff Bezos. It’s also a great reminder that we should rewatch Full Metal Jacket, or you know, any Stanley Kubrick movie while we still have free time on our hands. Right after we watch this episode of People’s Party, of course.
Check out the clip above for Modine’s full comments and find out why political propaganda soured the actor on Top Gun.