Action Heroes Made a Generation of Men
This entry might borderline on Loman territory and far away from the humor of the LOLJK cannon but I need to talk about this. I need to reason something out and I can’t imagine a better place to do it than here. With you. You poor, unfortunate souls.
Allow me to begin with a little about myself. I work in the “industry.” In some awful, terribly uncreative capacity I am paid to help make television that people sometimes watch and even more rarely enjoy. For the last month I have been fortunate enough to be taking up residence in the offices of Silver Pictures while I’m working on a pilot. As an action movie junkie, this is a HUGE deal. Why? First of all, I work in a place where they have a life size Predator as a decoration.
Second, Joel Silver, the man who runs the joint, has produced some the biggest action films of the past three decades. Don’t believe me? Check it out.
If you don’t have the time, let me list the highlights: Commando, Lethal Weapon 1-4, Predator 1&2, Demolition Man, Die Hard 1-3, The Last Boy Scout, The Matrix Trilogy. The guy made his career on making over the top, bad ass action flicks that helped a generation of boys grow into the well-adjusted, machismo fueled young men that we are today. Working there is like working at 13 year old Kyle’s version of Mecca. It’s just something I would never have imagined.
But let’s get to the heart of the matter. When I’m there, I can’t help but think about the characters in his movies. They are larger than life and some of the most iconic to ever grace the big screen.
The Police commissioner be damned! HEY! Fuck off big government! Eat a dick alien with a vagina mouth! Go cry in a corner ineffective future cops!!
They killed the bad guys.
They fucked the ladies.
THEY GOT. SHIT. DONE.
THEY. WERE. MEN.
As a young boy, that meant everything in the world to me. Sure, Arnold could barely form a coherent sentence. Murtaugh was too old for this shit. And yes, John McClane’s marriage was falling apart. But there was a clear line between right and wrong in those films. And when it came down to it, they put all the personal shit behind them to do the job. That’s who I wanted to be. I wanted to be a tough as nails, beefy, bad ass mother-fucker that did anything to protect what was rightfully his and those around him. Consequences be damned!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m nothing like any of the characters from any of those movies now. I’m not in what someone would call “peak” physical condition. I haven’t been in a high speed car chase. And my kill count is only just now reaching into the teens. But that doesn’t mean having this unattainable idea of what it is to be a man, didn’t help shape me into a better person. I whole heartedly believe that. What I’m saying is:
WE’VE LOST SIGHT OF THE ACTION STAR AS A ROLE MODEL
When I think about the “action stars” of today, I weep for the generation of boys growing up right now. They have a cavalcade of wiener kids and easily forgettable characters paraded out in front of them every summer. Shia LaBeouf is the star of arguably one of the biggest action movie franchises of the last decade, Transformers. Not robots. This guy.
And the character he plays, Sam Witwicky (awful name) is the definition of a little bitch. Your “hero” in the Transformers films spends all of his time running away from shit. Why? Because he can’t do anything about these giant robots that want to murder him. He’s just like me or you, but friends with 3 story tall robots. If you put a gun in his hand, he’d fall over from the weight of it. THAT SUCKS. If you can leave your main character out of the film entirely and no one would care, he’s not worth having in it in the first place. It’s made all the worse because Michael Bay has given me some of the most quotable, memorable action heroes of my childhood. He made me want to be Sean Connery from “The Rock” as opposed to Sean Connery as James Bond. That’s impressive.
Andrew Garfield is Spiderman (Actually, I’m not that upset about this. He’s still a wiener kid though). Seth Rogan was the Green Hornet. Robert Pattinson and Justin Timberlake are being considered for the live action Akira. And even in movies like “G.I. Joe”, which was an enjoyable popcorn action flick, there was no stand out. Channing Tatum as Duke should have been the fucking man. But to be honest, I forgot he was even in the film until now. Our only hope was Vin Diesel and The Rock. But they did “The Pacifier” and “The Tooth Fairy.” I applaud their efforts to redeem themselves with “Fast Five”, but it’s too little, too late. Sure, Arnold did “Kindergarten Cop” and few other family friendly movies, but that was after he’d racked up a body count that was in the hundreds. Also, that’s a genuinely good movie that was worth him doing. I can’t say the same for the other two.
So, who is our next Schwartzenegger? Who is our next Bruce Willis? Who is our next Sly? Who is our next Harrison Ford? If you know, please inform me. Because all I can see is the age of the big action star coming to grinding halt. “The Expendables” was a solid attempt to glimpse the hey day of action films but ultimately it’s just a novelty. Where is this generation of young men going to get their fill of mindless violence? Of rampant machismo? Who are they going to look up to and say “Yes. This is what it is to be a man.” Well. There is one place. Video games.
The most memorable action heroes of the last decade have all been in video games. Master Chief. Nathan Drake. Solid Snake. These are guy’s guys. They’re a man’s man. And they’re animated. There’s something in me that finds that…disturbing. And I LOVE video games. So hard. The leaps and bounds the gaming industry has made to become more cinematic and tell great stories with iconic characters is amazing. But it’s different, because you technically ARE those characters when you play. You have nothing to aspire to, because you control them. You become them. They’re not real. It just doesn’t have the same raw, visceral effect as when you see Jesse the Body as Blaine mow down an entire forest with a mini gun. Or Dolph Lundgren as Ivan Drago kill someone with his bare hands. OR Will Smith as mother fucking Mike Lowery destroy an entire Cuban village with an H2 Hummer. These guys are characters, yes. But the guys playing them aren’t. They look like that. Sly could have punched your head off. Someone trained Arnold in sword fighting for Conan. The Governator could meet you in a sword fight and probably best you. That’s fucking awesome.
Maybe it was the excess of the 80’s and 90’s that made this genre viable. Maybe the kids growing up today don’t want to see characters like this any more. But I pine for a time when characters in action movies were quotable (“Yippe Ki-yay mother fucker”). When the actors playing them could actually kick some ass (or at least looked like it). And when you boiled them down to their essence, they taught you what being a man was all about. They weren’t super heroes. They were bros doing what they had to do and in doing that they became heroes. Both in the film and the hearts and minds of the young men watching them.
Posted on April 13, 2011, in LOLJK, Movies, Pop Culture and tagged Action movies, Arnold, Bad Boys, Conan, Die Hard, Kyle Mcvey, loljk, Predator, sean connery, Shia LaBeouf, Sylvester Stallone, the Rock, transformers. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.