Full Metal Jacket – Pvt Joker’s Born to Kill/Peace Sign and the Jungian Duality of Man

This Jungian duality is something that I feel is experienced with many soldiers who were ever called upon to commit acts which conflicted with their own beliefs and conscious. This would be true, whether it was a soldier during the Civil War and relevant up to the present day.

Born to Kill Peace Sign
From Stanley Kubrick’s movie – Full Metal Jacket

In this scene, a Marine Colonel happens to notice Private Joker, who is a Reporter. He is looking at this mass grave of bodies in order to make a report for it in the Stars and Stripes Newspaper.

Joker BTK

The full exchange between Private Joker and the Colonel goes like this –

Colonel – Marine! What is that button on your body armor?
Marine – A Peace Symbol Sir!
Colonel – Where’d you get it?
Marine – I don’t remember Sir!
Colonel – What is that you’ve got written on your helmet?
Marine – Born To Kill, Sir!
Colonel – You write “Born to Kill” on your helmet and you wear a Peace Button? What’s that supposed to be? Some kind of sick joke?
Marine – No Sir!
Colonel – What is it supposed to mean?
Marine – I don’t know Sir!
Colonel – You don’t know very much, do ya?
Marine – No Sir!
Colonel – You better get your head and your ass together or I will take a giant shit on ya!
Marine – Yes Sir
Colonel – Now answer my question or you’ll be standing tall before the “Man”!
Marine – I think I was suggesting about the duality of “Man”, Sir!
Colonel – Do what?
Marine – The duality of man. The Jungian thing Sir!
— Long Pause —
Colonel – Who’s side are you on son?
Marine – Our side, Sir!
Colonel – Don’t you love your country?
Marine – Yes Sir!
Colonel – Then how about getting with the program? Why don’t you jump on the team and come out here for the big win?
Marine – Yes Sir!
Colonel – Son, all I’ve ever asked of my Marines is for them to obey my orders as if they are the word of God. We are here to help the Vee-It-Naaam-ese because inside every ‘Gook’, there is an American trying to get out. It’s a hardball– world son. We have to try to keep our heads until this “Peace” craze blows over.
— They both salute each other —

It’s interesting how the Colonel, while not understanding what was described to him by Private Joker as “The Jungian thing”; he immediately attempts to portray the Private as being somehow “UnAmerican”. This sort of mentality describes a lot of people within our society today.

The Colonel then tells Pvt Joker that Marines are expected to obey orders as “The Word of God”. How else can you get a young man to run head on straight into a machine gun nest? This distilling the Marine’s mind down to and simplifying his psyche to an instinctive and unquestioned reaction to follow “orders” as “The Word of God” is how you get them to do something like that. Of course, this would most likely be the purview of the young. If you were to give that same order to an older person, they would know better than to simply stand up in the face of machinegun fire and run straight into it with the inevitable result of getting wounded or killed; while the young generally don’t think like that because it’s in their nature to think themselves as “immortal”.

The Jungian thing is the distinction between the Personal Unconscious and the Collective Unconscious. The Personal Unconscious is composed of an individual’s repressed thoughts or feelings. The Collective Unconscious is composed of primordial images found in all of the humanity as Jung labeled them –  Archetypes. A cornerstone of his therapeutic approach to psychology was the recognition of the way an individual’s Personal Unconscious integrates or conflicts with the Collective Unconscious.

In this light, how does Joker’s sick joke pan out? If he writes “Born to Kill” on his helmet, it would seem to be a manifestation of the Collective Unconscious, for as Kubrick points out again and again in his films, we have a primordial urge to kill each other. Joker’s Peace Button on his body armor is a symbol of his Personal Unconscious. “Where’d you get it?” “I don’t remember sir.”

Has Joker repressed the origin of the peace symbol?

To push the Jungian duality a little farther, it should very much be remembered that when Joker actually speaks this little gem –

1) He’s talking to a shit-for-brains Pogue Colonel who knows fuck-all about combat and real life in-country.
2) Joker himself is a wise-ass reporter who – when we really get down to it – also knows fuck-all about combat and real life in-country.
3) Joker’s WHOLE EXISTENCE, from the beginning of the film to the point where he kills the sniper, is all about denying, abstracting, ironizing, distancing the duality within himself.

Pogue is derogatory pejorative military slang for non-combat, staff, and other rear-echelon personnel. Front line soldiers would often refer to them as REMF, which stood for Rear Echelon Mother Fucker. When I was in the Army, we often referred to the Headquarters staff that way, especially the Company Clerks and Supply Clerks. – RB

Here is the exchange from the movie Full Metal Jacket –

The scene when Private Joker kills the Sniper – It’s especially poignant and thought provoking, as this is the first time that Private Joker had to face that “thing” inside himself in order to commit an act which would conflict with his conscious. After having committed such an act; this will resurface time and again in his mind in the form of PTSD and nightmares and intense replay.

I thought Kubrick did a great job capturing this moment. Something that every Soldier  / Marine or anybody put into this position, has to live with.

The Making of Full Metal Jacket


Carl Jung Archetype

Do you want to know your Jungian Archetype? Click here or the picture to take the test.

Jungian Archetype



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