‘Full Metal Jacket’: How Kubrick Staged Fundamental Fantasy, Jouissance and Gaze
This article analyzes Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987) in the light of Lacan’s concepts of the (fundamental) fantasy, jouissance and the gaze. We criticize McGowan’s (2007) thesis that Kubrick’s staging of the gaze and fantasy confronts spectators with a blind spot for the obscene underside of authority. Firstly, we refer to McGowan’s statement that Kubrick’s cinema reflects fantasy’s quality of structure. Where McGowan does not indicate what kind of fantasy structure these films stage, we argue that Full Metal Jacket is underpinned by the concrete scenario of the fundamental fantasy: “C observes: A overpowers B”. Secondly, we criticize McGowan’s tendency to univocally link Kubrick’s depiction of derailed father figures with the real-life functioning of authority. By referring to Freud’s early theory on the etiology of hysteria and Lacan’s interpretation of Freud’s (1919e) article “A Child is Being Beaten”, we argue that the film’s staging of its main authority figure – the drill instructor – also illustrates how the fantasy of the abusive father can function as a mediator for the fantasizing subject’s own jouissance. Finally, we question McGowan’s remark that, despite Kubrick’s staging of the gaze, the director’s cinema ultimately leaves spectators “unscathed”. Building upon other academic analyses and press reviews of the film, we argue that Full Metal Jacket does not leave spectators unharmed. On the contrary, we hypothesize that the gaze appears when the viewer loses his distance from the film’s depictions of violence, by momentarily coinciding with a vanishing point of jouissance himself.