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Something about True Lies that’s always bothered me. All right, so it’s not a documentary. For a start, I’m willing to concede that even the CIA would notice that the bloke in the office trying to pass as a regular guy and calling himself “Doug” was Austrian, and a steroid-sodden Austrian bodybuilder at that.

But the bit where Arnie and Tom Arnold have captured the man who was making a play for Arnie’s wife? Where they take him out to a clifftop and make out they’re going to pop a cap in his ass (qv) right there? He starts to piss himself with fear. And the two hardened CIA agents look at each other and smirk. What a pussy, right, viewers? What a mewling, puking sack of gristle. He’d never make it as a hardened CIA agent.

Putting aside the way this little segment manipulates you into celebrating a display of straightforward jock-style bullying (“But it’s okay! He was a sleazebag! He had it coming!” Sure, whatever), the real problem is that smirk. Actual agents are, if maybe not familiar, then certainly on nodding terms with the smell of their own piss; sometimes from legitimate fear, sometimes from actual pain. Piss happens. It comes with the job of being (and putting other people) in ludicrously dangerous and painful situations.

I know Arnie then goes on to be completely unprofessional and sadistic to his own wife, but that's a plot point; it's catharsis, it's part of the process he and she have to go through to reach... ‹Vincent Price› closure ‹/Vincent Price›. But in that one moment of minor sadism up on the cliff, Arnie and Tom blow their cover as hardened security officers, revealing themselves to be just a couple of ignorant, petty actors. No shit, you’re thinking, and you’re right, but in the same way that stuff like 24 tries to persuade us that torture works as a way of gaining information (“Really? My own wife was dancing with Satan as well? Oh well, better bring her in”), so pap (yes, entertaining pap) like this serves to perpetuate the myth that if you’re scared, you’re just a slightly crap regular person, not one of the special, mysteriously unafraid people out there fighting your important battles for you. We’d all piss ourselves if we thought the person caressing the trigger was actually about to press it.

Where exactly am I going with this? you’re asking. Good question. I don’t know. Look, I’m not well, I’ve got a temperature, it’s just something that’s been bothering me for a while, and, er... and then I woke up and it was all a dream.

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
chiller
Nov. 11th, 2005 09:01 am (UTC)
We’d all piss ourselves if we thought the person caressing the trigger was actually about to press it.

Actually not true, but that's another story.

When we get stories like the Abu Ghraib men-onna-lead or Deepcut coming out (sorry, my brain's in "standby mode" at this time of the day and those are the two examples that oozed out of it), I wonder just how prevalent bullies with guns are. Official ones, I mean. Not the ones that crop up in civil war situations where some nasty little shit manages to get his hands on a gun at a time when the law's on an extended lunchbreak; but the ones where the people who gave them the gun must have a pretty good idea of what that person is capable of. And they still gave them a gun/drill/car battery and put them in a room with other human beings.

I conclude they're probably pretty much as prevalent as stupid people who don't understand that no genuinely funny joke has ever been based on the premise: "I can say/do this to you because I have much more power than you".

I'll make the definition of "genuinely FUNNY jokes" really clear when I take over the universe.
webofevil
Nov. 11th, 2005 12:23 pm (UTC)
> Actually not true, but that's another story.

Okay, granted there's another scenario, specifically British, where the gun-to-headee thinks to themselves, "Well, today hasn't gone exactly as I'd planned, but I'm here now and I might as well make the best of it", and firmly asks the gun-to-heador if he'd like a cup of something.
chiller
Nov. 11th, 2005 01:47 pm (UTC)
Good lord. You were there.
webofevil
Nov. 11th, 2005 02:05 pm (UTC)
Ah, (a) don't forget that you told me that story, every aspect of which struck me as profoundly British in the way I describe above, and (b) this is of course the engine that drives the whole of Hitch-Hiker's.
webofevil
Nov. 11th, 2005 02:06 pm (UTC)
Well, the "cup of something?" was an extemporisation, but it seemed to fit.
chiller
Nov. 11th, 2005 02:09 pm (UTC)
If I'd thought there was the remotest chance he had any decent tea in the house, I would've offered.

But let's face it, if he'd had any decent tea in the house he wouldn't have been waving a gun about, would he?
webofevil
Nov. 11th, 2005 02:16 pm (UTC)
> if he'd had any decent tea in the house he wouldn't have been waving a gun about, would he?

This is a very fair point.
chiller
Nov. 11th, 2005 02:07 pm (UTC)
Of course, so vivid was my retelling that you WERE there! Or something. *cough*

Adams's accuracy as regards the British reaction to stressful or unexpected situations is one of the reasons THHGTTG was so popular, I think.
webofevil
Nov. 11th, 2005 02:17 pm (UTC)
> stupid people who don't understand that no genuinely funny joke has ever been based on the premise: "I can say/do this to you because I have much more power than you"

Intriguing. It's almost as if... as if this has happened to you at some point. Can this be right?
chiller
Nov. 11th, 2005 02:30 pm (UTC)
What, and me with Ultimate Power?

(cleverly disguised as the reckless combination of weediness and a mouth that just won't quit.)

Nah, it's never happened. *cough*

Ok, maybe it's happened a bit.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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