Full metal edit

I recently invested about $9 a month in Netflix Wii. By putting a DVD into the videogame system and connecting online, I can watch hundreds of Nexflix movies on demand. Many of the movies are older releases, but that’s OK.

One movie I watched again recently was “Full Metal Jacket.” I had remembered the Stanley Kubrick movie mostly for its first half, which depicts Marines going through boot camp at Parris Island, S.C., during the Vietnam War.

What I had forgotten was that Joker, a Marine portrayed by Matthew Modine, is assigned to work for Stars and Stripes. Using profanity, the drill sergeant makes fun of this Marine, but he replies: “Sir, I wrote for my high school newspaper, sir!”

Particularly interesting is a scene a few minutes later. Now in Vietnam, Joker attends a news meeting with an editor named Lockhart who asks his reporters and photographers what they are working on.

Lockhart also reads some copy aloud and critiques his reporters’ writing. He offers the following style tips:

  • “Diplomats in Dungarees — Marine engineers lend a helping hand rebuilding Dong Phuc villages.” Chili, if we move Vietnamese, they are evacuees. If they come to us to be evacuated, they are refugees.
  • “N.V.A. Soldier Deserts After Reading Pamphlets — A young North Vietnamese Army regular, who realized his side could not win the war, deserted from his unit after reading Open Arms program pamphlets.” That’s good, Dave. But why say North Vietnamese Army regular? Is there an irregular? How about North Vietnamese Army soldier?
  • “Not While We’re Eating — N.V.A. learn Marines on a search and destroy mission don’t like to be interrupted while eating chow.” Search and destroy. Uh, we have a new directive from MAF on this. In the future, in place of “search and destroy,” substitute the phrase “sweep and clear.” Got it?

It’s an interesting and amusing glimpse into the generation of jargon. Terminology that masks meaning is not limited to the military, of course. It’s abundant in politics as well.

The scene is also an interesting glimpse into the film making of Kubrick. His movies showed that he cared about the words as much as the visuals. Kubrick was also famous for his meticulous nature.

Yes, Stanley Kubrick would have been a good copy editor, although he had trouble on occasion making deadline. But he did OK as a film maker too.