Quite some time ago I was struck to learn that craggy-faced character actor Lance Henriksen
, at that time starring in the television series 'Millennium
', was also a potter
. He made pots. He still does, and this is his website:
The contrast between the menacing, sinister Henriksen and the gentle craft of pottering creates a disconnect in my mind which tickles my sense of humour.
I have been struck recently even more by the discovery - new to me, probably not new to you, but this is my writeup and not yours, so pick up your shovel and DIG - struck by my discovery, mine, that there is an R. Lee Ermey doll, or rather a 'motivational figure', for Ermey is something of a modern hero:
Ermey was the high point of Stanley Kubrick's 1987 'Full Metal Jacket', indeed he was the film's only successful element. I have no idea whether Kubrick intended his film to be anti-war or merely extremely cynical, but the sight and sound of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman drilling his soldiers was both comic and awe-inspiring, the inventive torrent of abuse which spewed from Hartman's mouth, machine-gun style, rivalling that of any stand-up comedian or public school teacher. Whatever Kubrick's intentions, the only thing that normal people, as opposed to the Kubrick fanatics who can see no wrong in any creation of their idol, the only thing that normal people like you or I took from 'Full Metal Jacket' was R. Lee Ermey's performance. This is not my opinion, it is fact. Agree with me.
There is a tradition of inventive abuse in the UK; football terrace chants, tabloid front pages, elements of military lore, school bullying, all of these are integral parts of the British psyche. In everyday speech the Briton does not communicate with kisses or with love or words of tenderness. Instead, the Briton uses his tongue as a weapon, weakness and aberration are magnified and hurled against the other party, all communication is based on a mutual desire to cause pain. From personal experience I find that my dealings with people of other nationalities and cultures and genders, indeed other people period, these dealings can often seem overbearing and rude, indeed abusive, and that these people often avoid me because they are weak, the slimy walrus-looking pieces of shit that they are. I would like to gouge out their eyeballs and fuck their skulls, although I have so far not yet developed an urge to act upon this vague desire. I believe that it is the tragedy of all men, not that they forget, but that they do not act on their desires. The world would be a nightmare hell of rape and war if men acted on their desires, but there would be no neuroses, and we would be free. For many people today the world already is a nightmare hell of rape and war, in which case what have we got to lose?
R. Lee Ermey has subsequently become something of a hero to many people, but not myself because I do not believe in heroes and I do not worship anything or anybody. Ermey's bon mots - 'you grab-asstic pieces of shit' and 'you slimy communist twinkle-toed motherfuckers' and so forth - are regularly used to train businessmen. I find myself watching the first forty minutes of 'Full Metal Jacket' more often than I do the latter section of the film. As with my peers I can quote large sections of the dialogue, with which I amuse my workmates, or 'cow-orkers' as people said during the dot.com boom. These same people are humble now.
Anthony Swoffard, writing in 'Jarhead', his overwrought memoirs of being an over-emotional soldier during the run-up to first, less interesting, Gulf War, made the telling point that most people rent and view anti-war films because they enjoy the action and the violence, in which respect 'Full Metal Jacket' was a disappointment, certainly compared with 'Apocalypse Now', for the action was brief and mundane, the outdoors environments looked remarkably fake, exactly as if the film had been shot under an English sun in London, as indeed it was. Swoffard does not record his thoughts on viewing 'Full Metal Jacket'; the film's highlight is Ermey's performance as a marine drill sergeant, which would have been wasted on someone who had experienced the real thing first-hand, as a marine in training.
Nonetheless the irony of Kubrick's film being remembered nowadays for Ermey, rather than any other element, and that this performance is revered, idolised, quoted, and that Ermey himself has a doll (a 'Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey' doll, rather than a 'Gunnery Sergeant Hartman' doll, for Ermey was actually a Gunnery Sergeant and would rather not pay Warner Brothers compensation), and that 'Full Metal Jacket' is probably more likely to make people want to join the marines rather than not join, and so forth... and so forth. You know the rest.