Symbolism has always been a strong point of Stanley Kubrick
in all of his movies. Among the most effective uses of symbolism is deployed in his 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket
, a film that follows the story of a group of boys from Boot Camp to Vietnam.
The symbolism is highly effective in this film to portray the role of these soldiers as young boys. In the actual Vietnam conflict, the average age of the US serviceman serving overseas was 19-20. These kids were barely out of highschool before they were drafted into the service and shipped overseas. Kubrick effectively displays this nature of the soldiers by continual references to cartoons, more specifically, Mickey Mouse.
In several Boot Camp scenes, the Drill Instructor yells many lines such as,
"What kind of Mickey Mouse Bullshit is this?"
When the film shifts over to Vietnam, there is a particular scene where Joker is in a conference room with other Military journalists discussing the upcoming issue. This room is decorated with several Disney posters as well as several stuffed animals of Mickey Mouse and other toys. There is also a banner featuring Snoopy that states:
"First to go, last to know. We will defend to the death our right to be misinformed."
Finally, the epitome of the death of childishness is seen in the final scene of the movie. The platoon is marching through a burning countryside, with Joker's voiceover saying that he really is in a 'world of shit'. The entire platoon is singing the Mickey Mouse Club Anthem:
"Who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me. M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E"
I don't think any other Vietnam film has had such an effect at Full Metal Jacket in portraying the full horrors of war.