America’s loudest, meanest drill instructor just passed away. But he lives on through memes.
R. Lee Ermey died yesterday at age 74. Ermey appeared in dozens of feature films, from Mississippi Burnings to Toy Story 2but his defining role was Gunnery Sgt. Hartman in the 1987 Stanley Kubrick classic Full Metal Jacket.
Even though his character died before the end of the first act, Ermey delivered some of the most iconic lines in movie history. Who can forget classics like “Five-foot nine, I didn’t know they stacked shit that high!” or “This is my rifle, this is my gun?”
The internet can’t forget. Because it turns out a loud, angry Marine drill sergeant is the perfect subject for a meme.
The white Impact font memes of the late-aughts embraced R. Lee Ermey with a passion. On imgflip, there’s an R. Lee Ermey meme generator in which he’s dressed as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman. Another features an image from his History Channel show Mail Call. Both, predictably, portray him pointing and shouting.
Ermey memes are almost exclusively political. In 2010, he ripped the Obama administration during a speech, saying it was “driving us into bankruptcy so they can impose socialism on us.” Search Ermey memes on Facebook or Google now, and you’ll find mostly right wing gags.
Take that last one, for example. “You are all equally worthless” is a direct line from Full Metal Jacket. But the second half turns it into a direct shot at the Black Lives Matter movement (and somehow a lamer version of the “equal opportunity bigot” meme).
But it makes sense. Ermey himself (or as Gunnery Sgt. Hartman) represents the tough, no-nonsense pro-military values conservatives love. His image and voice illicit a time when Americans were proud of their military and didn’t care about political correctness and did things with their hands and yadda yadda yadda.
At least memes are (mostly) harmless. Either way, it’s fitting for Ermey to live on shouting insults into the vast void of the internet.
But remember, Full Metal Jacket doesn’t endorse his attitude or actions. Gunnery Sgt. Hartman’s tough talk and bluster wound up getting him killed in cold blood, far from the battlefield.