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“You Can’t Handle The Truth” is a memorable quote from the 1992 military court drama film A Few Good Men, which is often used to deny someone information that has been deemed too sensitive. The phrase has since inspired quite a few parodies based on the snowclone template “You can’t handle the X!”
The line originated from a scene in the film A Few Good Men wherein court martial lawyer Daniel Kaffee (played by Tom Cruise) exposes Colonel Nathan R. Jessup’s (played by Jack Nicholson) false testimony surrounding the death of a Marine named Santiago (shown below). When pressed by Kaffee to tell the truth, Colonel Jessup abruptly yells “You can’t handle the truth!”
Kaffee: Colonel Jessup, did you order the Code Red?!
Judge: You don’t have to answer that question!
Jessup: I’ll answer the question. You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I’m entitled!
Jessup: You want answers?!
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessup: You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like “honor”, “code”, “loyalty”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “thank you”, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!
Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?
Jessup: I did the job that---
Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?!!
Jessup: YOU’RE GODDAMN RIGHT I DID!!
The scene was subsequently parodied on television numerous times, including Season 5 Episode 14 of the comedy series Seinfeld (shown below, left) aired on February 10th, 1994 and a 1998 commercial for the fast food chain Burger King (shown below, right).
The earliest known online parody of the quote was uploaded by YouTuber and comedian Brandon Hardesty on February 12th, 2007, in which Hardesty reenacts the scene by playing the parts of both Kaffee and Jessup (shown below). Within seven years, the video gained over 277,000 views and 1,700 comments.
On September 11th, 2007, YouTuber Tyson Faller uploaded a clip of the scene dubbed with an argument between ad agency employees (shown below, left). In the next six years, the video garnered upwards of 785,000 views and 400 comments. On March 25th, 2008, the Internet humor site College Humor posted a sketch in which the site’s employees reenact the scene while topless (shown below, right).
On December 31st, 2009, Episode 356 of the Star Wars webcomic Darths and Droids was published, in which the character Padme proclaims “You want my statement? You can’t handle my statement!” (shown below).
On October 18th, 2011, a TV Tropes page titled “You Can’t Handle the Parody” was created, which cataloged examples of the scene referenced in popular culture. On December 28th, a Facebook page titled “You Can’t Handle the Truth” was launched, receiving over 44,700 likes in the next two years. On August 11th, 2012, YouTuber Daft Lad uploaded a reenactment of the scene using characters from the video game Team Fortress 2 made with the Source Filmmaker video capture and editing tool (shown below).
On May 28th, 2013, YouTuber FaceMashups uploaded an edited version of the scene with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson’s faces digitally swapped (shown below). Within two weeks, the video gained upwards of 99,000 views and 20 comments.