Semper Ridiculous

The climactic courtroom scene in the 1992 motion pictureA Few Good Men” is an iconic one, perhaps sadly, in the oeuvre of Jack Nicholson. As most people know, Nicholson’s character is Col. Jessup, a sadistic and fastidious commander who is tricked by a beer-and-softball-loving Navy lawyer, played by Tom Cruise, into implicating himself in the death of a young Marine. Jessup’s disappointment in falling for the ruse, and for his actions being questioned in the first place, manifests itself in a violent outburst, during which he famously growls, “You [messed] with the wrong Marine!”

Cover of "A Few Good Men (Special Edition...

Cover of A Few Good Men (Special Edition)

This became a catchphrase in pop culture, and the scene and the film retain considerable currency even after two decades. Nicholson’s character is clearly not a Marine you should [mess] with. To the point, he precedes his profane admonishment with a more vulgar threat — “I’m gonna rip the eyes out of your head and [urinate] into your dead skull!” — that reveals unusual tenacity and sense of purpose.

It all raises an obvious question that I do not think anyone has ever answered: Is there a Marine you should [mess] with?

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