And by “it,” I mean the day when white men and white male interests are finally represented in American cinema again, for today is the day that The Expendables is released. Given my interests and the past few months of my life, you might think I’d be more excited about the film based on a graphic novel in which dialogue like this appears:
You would be wrong. The good folks at Big Hollywood have spent the past week convincing me that if I fail to appreciate the manly awesomeness of The Expendables my penis will fall off. The assault on my manhood began on Monday, when Ezra Dulis reminded me of the true purpose of film itself:
All you’re doing is marveling at the most sensible use of a medium that consists of moving images: incredible feats performed by tough, charismatic men.
The dearth of action films designed for and marketed to men since the 1980s actually had made me forget how intimately the medium of the film and the genre of the 1980s action film were related. As Leo Grin wrote in the second installment of “Bring on ‘The Expendables’”:
Rumor has it that Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables marks a return to the glory days of 1980s action mayhem and pro-American machismo. Its appearance on the cultural horizon has certainly stirred up memories of my mid-Eighties, Midwestern suburban adolescence.
Fly-over country is back! After years of being denied films that represent the “action mayhem and pro-American machismo” native to 45-year-old white men from the Midwest who once “papered over [their walls] with posters and photos of oversize he-men,” beauty school drop-out and former porn star Sylvester Stallone has directed a film that revels in the fact that the “inherently brutal nature of males isn’t a design flaw but a feature.”** But the best part about The Expendables, according to the author of the third installment in the series, is that despite being a movie geared toward men who “love seeing stuff blown up,” there is “relatively little profanity” in the film. Because God-fucking-Forbid someone embodies the inherent brutality of maleness while cursing.
Just ask the author of the most recent entry in the series, Kurt Schlicter, who claims that the 1980s represent the high watermark in American cinema because of, for example, films like the “great 48 Hours (1982), [which] blew minds with violence and profanity.” But for Schlicter, the “archetypal specimen” for manly male films in the 1980s was Lethal Weapon (1987), because it was the first movie to prove that Hollywood could do something correctly; namely, produce “slick popcorn adventure/comedies with memorable action set-pieces paired with laugh-out-loud hilarity and featuring big stars and top shelf production values.” That he writes this about 1987’s Lethal Weapon despite Beverly Hills Cop having been released three years earlier is beside the point—as is the fact that he spends the majority of the review gushing about Mel Gibson—which is that all of those movies would have improved if, as Darin Miller writes of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, “[e]very F-word [was] bleeped out by a computer game sound effect with a black bar over the offender’s mouth” and all “references to sex [were] humorous and relatively innocuous.”***
Granted, pointing out examples of ideological impurity on group blogs is about as difficult as dismantling a Jonah Goldberg article, but in this case, where they agree is more significant than where they don’t. That’s because the to-this-point-exclusively-white-male-contributors of Big Hollywood have spent the past week convincing themselves, to quote from Steven Crowder’s paean to morally unambiguous children’s fare, that because of The Expendables “it seems that every self-respecting male has caught 80’s fever.” His category of “male” reflects the limitations of his imagination to a damning degree:
I watched the cartoons he praises and the films the others loved, but my friends and I have not “resorted to re-visiting old B-movie beauties such as Cobra, Road House and Tango and Cash” because those are terrible movies. All of these white men are nostalgic for an era in which the category of “mainstream black film star” only included Eddie Murphy because they’re unable to muster up much sympathetic identification with black men more complex than happy-go-lucky darkies in a minstrel show. (Which, obviously, isn’t sympathetic identification.) In other words, although these men may not be racist, they certainly pine for a time in which white actors were more ostentatiously manly and fewer black men graced the silver screen.****
**I’m not sure “machismo” can be “pro-American” either, but then again, I’ve never been a Reagan-loving patriot who plastered his wall with pictures of half-naked men.
***Not that that film is perfect, because as a comment on that thread indicates, Pilgrim has a “gay roommate,” which is an outrage, furthering the illusion fostered by the “amount of homosexuals in movies and tv” that “half the population is gay.” I’m almost inclined to agree: there may not be that many of them, but the gays in film and on television are truly gigantic.
****And those who did, like Danny Glover, played second fiddle to the likes of Mel Gibson.