The Cliché

Updated: February 16, 2014


By RU Twisted

I just watched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movie The Last Stand over the weekend on Netflix (don’t kid yourself, I wouldn’t have paid money for it). It was exactly the same movie you would expect it to be—because it was the exact same movie you have already watched a hundred times with different titles.

You know the type: a hero with a lot of experience who just wants to retire peacefully to a small town has trouble come to him that he just can’t walk away from. A quirky sidekick (or two) with ridiculous lines who in any real-world situation would die immediately, yet come through very nearly unscathed (or hurt just enough to make jokes about).

Super-fast cars, bad guys with accents, double agents, an over-bearing and under-prepared FBI—every cliché was present and thrown in the face of the viewer. Even the rookie who was looking for action finds it in the worst possible way.

This got me thinking about clichés in general and why they work at all. Yes, sometimes they fall completely flat. The aforementioned case would be a prime example of the latter, of which there are many (Steven Seagal’s entire straight-to-dvd catalogue would most likely fit here—I don’t know because I haven’t seen them).

But they work a lot of the time, as well. Think about some of your favorite action movies. In Saving Private Ryan, we know that Corporal Upham’s desire to let the German soldier go (or his inability to shoot him later) will come back to haunt the good guys, and it does. It is completely predictable, yet we are drawn in to this cliché while laughing at others.

In Die Hard, you guess long before it happens that the bad guy is going to come back to life and try to kill Bruce Willis and that someone will shoot him in glorious fashion at the last moment, yet on screen…it works and we buy it.

When Princess Leia gives Luke the tongue, we all know that she’s his sister, yet we cheer for it…

Wait, okay maybe not that last one ‘cause that’s pretty weird and creepy. But seriously, why do cliché’s work in some venues and not others? Short answer, because we are suckers for storytelling done this way. It has worked for thousands of years and, well, change sucks.

The longer answer is that these clichés are often more real than we would like to admit. Consider the typical platoon in a war movie: a loud-mouthed Italian from New York; a country-bumpkin who talks about his truck/hot-rod; a college guy who has read a lot and knows philosophy super good; the fat guy who is terrible at everything; the jock; the joker; the bleeding heart; and, of course everyone’s favorite, the salty, made-of-leather platoon sergeant.

Sound familiar? Of course it does, because that is in every war movie ever made. Oh, and it also sounds familiar because IT REALLY HAPPENS IN THE MILITARY.

You know it and I know it. Stereotypes exist for a reason. I can’t count how many of these guys I served with that fit into those exact roles. I remember the “country bumpkin” character explaining to me what “noodling” was—I thought for sure there were cameras on me because it seemed scripted. Similarly, the time when the fat guy in Basic Training got caught stealing cake seemed much too close to a movie to be real.

I watched one day, with horror, as “the farm kid” explained to our platoon sergeant that he didn’t like being talked down to about hard work—he had grown up on a farm, see, and so hard work was in his blood.

The loud-mouthed New Yorker talked constantly about how the food there was better. The Samoan kid could sing and play island songs better than anyone I’ve ever known (and did so frequently after a hard day of training or patrolling). The pretty boy muscle builder found every form of “growth hormone” he could get his hands on and was openly mocked for his less-than-stellar intellect.

Yes, these stereotypes and clichés exist for a reason. Once, while stationed at 6th RTB, I happened to be in the right place at the right time to see the crusty CSM coming out of the famed Gator Lounge….just before 0900 hours. He saw me looking at him and said, “the worst thing this battalion could have ever done was to give me the keys to this place” before fist-bumping me and moving on with his day.

So, knowing that these exist in real life just as they do in the movies, I would like to encourage each of you who are still serving to remember a few things in your training.

If you are sure you know where the bad guy is and you jump around a corner to surprise him with all the tactical prowess of Charlie’s Angels, rest assured that he’s behind you.

While supporting bad guys—no names who fire randomly at you—will die instantly if shot anywhere on their body, the head bad guy (as well as possibly even his top henchmen) will not. So don’t think that they’re dead just because you shot them or blew them up. Do it again. And again.

If you are the lead character in your platoon, don’t waste time with any martial arts training. You already know it. Go hook up with some ladies instead.

When using a vehicle other than your primary military vehicle, take out the windshield and remove the hood before you get in. Those things will just get in your way at some point in the operation.

Lastly, make sure your group has a Native American. When shit starts getting really serious, he will know it ahead of time. When he starts stripping off all his gear and throwing everything away except for his knife….run.

Are there some that I missed? I just want to do the best I can to help the troops by providing some training tips from the sidelines and get this ball rolling. I think we can develop a whole training model from these lessons.

Hasta la vista, baby!





  1. leftoftheboom

    February 16, 2014 at 11:09 am

    The Packrat.
    That one guy who has everything you will ever need stuffed in a pouch, pocket, or ruck and with just a short amount of rummaging around, while being accompanied by the story of why he was carrying that particular piece of gear, will pull it out so you can complete the mission.

    With a Swiss Army Knife, okay exchange for Leatherman or other multi-tool, he can fix anything. He takes a few serious looks at his surroundings and the just starts working and usually saves your bacon.

    • Mr. Twisted

      February 16, 2014 at 11:31 am


      I could have also included “The Acquirer.” Could go by a different name I suppose, but everyone knows the guy who you ask “hey, can you get me_________” and no matter what is in that blank, he can find it. Even (or especially) if it is illegal. Haha.

      • leftoftheboom

        February 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm

        I call him the smoozer. I did not ask too many questions but anytime we needed something, strictly mission necessary, that we could not get through normal channels either at all or in time, I gave him a shopping list and walked away.

        I never asked, and we always had what we needed.

        • Alex G

          February 23, 2014 at 11:28 pm

          The snoozer is actually “The scrounger”. The guy who knows everyone (My second cousin married a local. I think her uncle lives in the next village and can get us some gas) is TheFixer.

  2. JoeC

    February 18, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    The Grave Digger. No matter what the training is, he will say something stupid and be mocked for it. In defense of himself, he will say something even more stupid. This cycle repeats again and again as he digs a deeper and deeper hole for himself. Eventually he realizes the only way to make it stop is to shut up. Confuscious say “If ever you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”.

    The Pack Mule. Similar to The Packrat except the Pack Mule has 250lbs of gear and it is all worthless crap that has no usefullness at all in the field.

  3. The Armorer

    February 27, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    Then we have the Joe. He’s the one who is always getting his balls busted for one retarded thing or another. He just can’t seem to get right. Always the source of that vein protruding from his squad leaders forehead. But when you get in a tough situation you are glad to have him. He’ll stick his neck out for you time and time again and save your life on multiple occasions. And no matter how many times he gets drug in by the MPs, you love him regardless for the sorry SOB that he is. Joe is a good man to have.

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