Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker. John McClane and the redemption of masculinity.

19 Feb

yippy

Back when JudgyBitch was a lowly undergrad student in film theory, she irritated the shit out of her classmates and professors alike by insisting that Die Hard was the best movie ever made.  There is an unspoken assumption in film theory that Hollywood cinema is plebeian – something for the unwashed masses to enjoy in all their mind-numbing cluelessness.  Film theory majors are deeper than this, people!  We enjoy the moving complexity and artistry of the black and white post-World War II Albanian avant-garde.  The French New Wave!  The cinema of the Weimar Republic!

new wave

Die Hard? DIE HARD?!?!?!?!

Are you fucking kidding me?

No way, motherfucker.  Not kidding you at all.  Die Hard is the best movie ever made.  Sit back, relax and I will tell you why.

There are only seven stories in the world:  the entire world of literature and film can be boiled down to these seven basic plots.

Overcoming the Monster

The hero must destroy the monster and restore balance to the world

jaws

Rags to Riches

The hero is an everyman whose natural talents finally triumph

GE

The Quest

The hero must overcome terrific odds to capture a prize

lotr

Voyage and Return

The hero is thrust into a strange and alien world and must find his way back to reality

oz

Comedy

In this sense, comedy doesn’t mean “haha funny”, but rather that the hero must overcome obstacles to getting the girl

persuasion

Tragedy

The hero doesn’t get the girl

😦

hamlet

Rebirth

The hero is transformed in some profound way and becomes a better person

beast

Die Hard is the greatest film ever made because it combines all SEVEN plots into one heroic story of redemption and triumph.

Let’s start with a little context.  Die Hard premiered on July 15th, 1988 into a culture undergoing some dramatic transformations.  Globalization was beginning to look pretty threatening to the manufacturing based US economy, women were entering the workforce en masse and the divorce cult was just taking hold.  Americans in particular felt the ground quivering under their feet, for good reason.

Jobs were evaporating, families were disintegrating and men were getting sidelined by perky chicks in shoulder pads and high heels, who seemed to have the upper hand in the new world order where strength and stamina and sheer brute force was no longer required.

Enter John McClane.

john 2

He’s a cop, on his way to LA to spend Christmas with his wife and kids.  McClane’s wife Holly has gone back to using her father’s name (which she pretends is really her “own” name) in her professional life.  She works in the vaguely threatening Nakatomi Plaza and the film starts with her office Christmas party.

And quickly goes straight to glorious hell.

Let’s look at the seven stories again:

In Die Hard, the monster takes the form of German terrorists hell bent on avenging some compatriots being held hostage by the state.  The terrorists want them released!  Except not really. They’re actually just plain old thieves, but their foreignness is both unsettling and doubly threatening.

alan

The terrorists are sophisticated and well-armed and have exotic accents and names, and John is just a cop from the rough street of NYC.  He’s every man.  Just a guy trying to get along as best he can.

john6

The odds are stacked dramatically against John. The corporate crowd is laughably useless.  They sit around wondering when they’re going to be allowed to pee, while John takes on the whole group of bad guys by himself.  One coked up guy in a suit decides he might be able to outwit the terrorists and ends up with a bullet in his head for his effort.

Nope.  It’s just John.  And one by one, he takes the bad guys down.  In his bare feet.

glass

Nakatomi Plaza, like the global economy, is a work in progress.  John’s world spans lush lobbies and oak-panelled boardrooms, glassed in computer workstations and concrete rooftops littered with chains and pulleys and strange boxes and metal containers.  He moves through elevator shafts and bathrooms, under conference tables and across marble foyers, each floor representing a different stage of development, for both the story and the culture.  John needs to adapt instantly to every circumstance, and he does.

john 5

John still loves Holly, despite her misgivings about him.  When he is at his most vulnerable, digging chunks of glass out of his feet, his thoughts are with her.  He wants her to know that he loves her.  The obstacles to love are not just dangerous criminals with loaded guns and no qualms about using them, but a wider culture that whispers to Holly:  He isn’t good enough.  He’s just a cop.  You deserve more.  You need more.

http://dalrock.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/the-whispers/

holly

Then again, there’s nothing like being dragged by the hair to make a girl appreciate her well-muscled husband with a gun in his hand and a fierce instinct to protect, backed up with courage and the willingness to risk everything.

Funny that, eh?

Watching the movie, we can see how honest John’s heart is, how much he really does love Holly and how confused he is by her seemingly greater attachment to her professional life, and at the end, she falls into his arms, grateful and welcomed, but we all know in our hearts that she is responding to the circumstances.

Is anyone the slightest bit shocked when the sequel comes along and Holly and John are divorced?  Nope. The writing is on the wall in the first film. John gets the girl, but only because she happens to need him at that very moment.  The minute life returns to the normalcy of laundry and breakfast dishes and late night meetings, we know that Holly will discard John.  He doesn’t fit in her world anymore.

John’s profound sadness comes from his realization of that fact, but he can’t stop himself:  he has to try.  He has to save her, come what may.

This is the foundation for John’s transformation.  He realizes that the world, his world, is out of control.  His life is careening down a path he doesn’t want to be on but is powerless to stop.  All he can do is react.  He cannot change the circumstances he has found himself in, but he can react to them, and he sure as hell can fuck up what other people are doing.

Hans:     Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?

John:     Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker.

Does he have a chance?  Does any man have a chance against a force that is both overwhelming and diabolical?

It comes down to a simple question:  can evil be defeated?

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

― Edmund Burke

John McClane is an ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances, and he travels every heroes path on his way to redemption.  He takes every masculine virtue and amplifies it: courage, intelligence, a willingness to take great risks, an instinct to protect, physical power, perseverance, defiance and a tolerance for pain, and he sets those against the feminized men and women who live in glass towers and pursue money and material gains over all others.

And he kicks their asses.

John doesn’t just exist, he exists as a man.  He insists on the value of masculinity and demonstrates his power in defiance of every force against him, right to the bitter end. Even after he has defeated the terrorists and rescued the hostages, the authority of the state in the form of the FBI still excoriates and criticizes him.  He is mocked and scorned and the gratitude he ought to have earned is nowhere to be seen.

He finds his solace in the arms of his wife, but that solace is tinged with betrayal.  She will not stay.  Her gratitude is fleeting. She will discard him when he is no longer useful.

hug

Ultimately, Die Hard is a tragedy.  John cannot win. His redemption is overshadowed by rejection.  The world does not want him, no matter how clearly he demonstrates his value.

Men have a number of choices when they confront a culture that refuses to acknowledge them:  give up, give in, drop out altogether or stand up and refuse to be cowed.  Do you really think you stand a chance against a tide of opposition and a chorus of disapproval?

Yippe-ki-yay, motherfucker.

Live free or die hard.

Lots of love,

JB

28 Responses to “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker. John McClane and the redemption of masculinity.”

  1. robertcrayle February 19, 2013 at 18:17 #

    For me, my “best movie ever” would have attracted even more outrage: Highlander
    I think the tipping point was the soundtrack fo the movie though. Best movie soundtrack ever (oh yeah, film buffs! Prove me wrong!)

    Like

  2. judgybitch February 19, 2013 at 18:19 #

    It’s Queen!!!

    Who could argue with that?

    Like

  3. robertcrayle February 19, 2013 at 18:26 #

    Who doesn’t listen to “We are the Champions” or “We Will Rock You” or “Another One Bites the Dust” without felling they could fight the whole world and win. Also it’s a bit soppy,, but the scene in that movie set to Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever” is one of the saddest things ever filmed.

    Like

  4. Kai February 19, 2013 at 18:27 #

    It’s hard to compare some different types of soundtracks. I might have to create a category for best soundtrack with songs, in which I’m with you, and a separate category for best soundtrack with background music. And for that, I’m behind Hans Zimmer, though I can’t tell you for sure whether Black Hawk Down (best individual pieces) or Gladiator (taken as a whole) should come first.

    Like

  5. Shawn February 19, 2013 at 18:56 #

    John is a beta hater with his wall smashed encorpia frau. Hans was only trying to game the system.

    Like

  6. Sean February 19, 2013 at 18:58 #

    And, as the icing on the cake, it’s Alan effing Rickman as Hans. No homo but I would pay to hear him recite the Albany phone book. He steals scenes in every movie he is in.
    “Mention something in a Charlton Heston movie and all of a sudden, everyone’s a Biblical Scholar!”

    Like

  7. judgybitch February 19, 2013 at 18:59 #

    Can you translate that?

    I have no idea what you mean.

    Like

  8. judgybitch February 19, 2013 at 19:01 #

    And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer.” Benefits of a classical education.

    I’ll have to agree with you on that one!

    Like

  9. Liz February 19, 2013 at 20:34 #

    I loved Die Hard!
    But I liked Team America a little bit more. It had all the elements. Except the guy got the girl…but heh, if there was a sequel they’d probably be divorced too. Or separated into their respective puppet saw dust piles in a twist of tragedy, or something… 🙂

    Like

  10. princesspixiepointless February 19, 2013 at 21:26 #

    I think I am going to dress up as John McClane every day for rest of the year, or until at least the summer. Yippee..

    Like

  11. Alex February 20, 2013 at 01:20 #

    let’s figure out what the hell encorpia frau means first. as for the second sentence, i think he means that Hans was trying to use shortcuts and cheat codes to get ahead of the other players

    Like

  12. etype February 20, 2013 at 03:29 #

    gad/ good movie, i like ‘live free or die hard’ best. But no matter how entertaining – it is schlock.
    And some of the soviet films of the 70’s and 80’s was some of the finest film made about humans, that has ever been made, in that it was made about ‘normal’ people, not fantasy people in fantasy worlds, such as the die hard series.
    Any you JudgyBitch, to suggest otherwise tells me that whether you partook in ‘film theory’…the emphasis was on theory and not cinema.
    Methinks thou doth require a warm spanking.

    Like

  13. judgybitch February 20, 2013 at 10:50 #

    Oridnary people living ordinary lives.

    Meh.

    The Italians do it way better than the Soviets, anyways. Ladri di biciclette!?!?!

    If I want to see humans just being humans, I can go to Walmart.

    Like

  14. Tom White February 20, 2013 at 14:11 #

    I was thinking how perfect this movie was the other night. You missed what separates this movie from most action movies (especially those made in the last fifteen years) and that is the gritty realism of the hero. McClane is a man that any man could be. He is not superman; he kills this first man through lack (landing on his neck when they roll down the stairs) and he survives through sheer determination, backed by training and experience. There are no fancy fight moves that defy gravity, he doesn’t take damage and miraculous recover and he doubts himself. Hell, he only beats Carl (long blond haired terrorist) because the latter loses his cool and loses the fight rather than John winning.

    Some douche bag on some film review site said McClane was superman for running over broken glass barefoot. Any man who doesn’t value his own life that he couldn’t do that might as well off themselves now because they’ve admitted they don’t have the balls to drag themselves through when life isn’t running sweet.

    You also missed one of the most inspiring moments: When Powell fires his gun at the end and overcomes his own self doubt.

    As for the sequels; each one turned McClane into more of a super hero and destroyed the believability that of McClane being an everyman forced to adapt or die.

    Like

  15. judgybitch February 20, 2013 at 14:22 #

    I love Powell as a character, and his own journey kind of mirrors John’s.

    The fact that John is not a superman is the rags to riches story. That storyline involves a regular man whose natural talents allow him to succeed, and that is just what happens to John.

    He’s gutsy as hell, but he still has doubts, He always knows he is just a man.

    It’s a great film. I’m going to see the new one this weekend, and while I know it won’t have the power of the first film, I’m still gonna enjoy the shit out of it!

    Like

  16. nickstblack February 20, 2013 at 17:12 #

    JB-

    I have been a lurker of your blog for a while but this is my first comment.

    I think you are on to something here. It is impossible to tell how much of an effect the lack of solid, manly role models in pop culture has on the current generation. Seriously, if you are a young man who do you turn to for a role model of masculinity?

    Personally, I would put the idols into two categories for the most part: Your Tucker Max’s and your Kevin James’s. Basically, womanizer or a sapp. There is comedy/entertainment in the two prototypes so they proliferate.

    There are some mainstream badass complex masculine characters in the media, but they don’t jump out at me right now. Jack Bauer (although 24 is over now) is pretty good. Complex and strong male character, but shows vulnerability.

    Keep up the awesome posting!

    Like

  17. etype February 20, 2013 at 19:02 #

    Listen you jbitch, it has nothing to do with soviets/Italians… and the Italians have not done it better – eastern block cinema in the decades before the fall of the soviet IS (or was) the finest cinema ever made… I’m not saying out of any love of communism, or brand affiliation, or need for atavistic stimulation, which is what you’re speaking of, but because it was.

    You want your little bells rung…which is why you say “well I’ll go to Walmart”. That IS where you have gone, which is why you present ‘die hard’ as cinema, and not the infantile plastic toy collection which it is.
    You’ve lost the capacity to see humanity itself, the mere fact of living as an art. This is what eastern block cinema had, (due to it’s limitations), they turned aside from all forms of commercial or political influence, and developed a cinema that was as close to a social artform as was ever made.
    I amazed me at the time, but they realistically showed how the day to day life of normal people, (your life, and mine,,,and yours too…) to be as heroic, as noble, as all encompassing, as capable of the highest thoughts and victories/defeats as any jacked up, amphetamine version of reality – such as western cinema shows you – (the idea if you don’t have a big gun/guitar/tits/bank account, then you’re nobody).

    And that is a great loss. Movies like ‘die hard’ may be entertaining…but they are corrupt, soul destroying, symptom of decay. Only a society on it’s last legs would see them as anything other than trash.

    Your problem Jbitch, is what you want is for somebody to kill a bunch of terrorists, smash a lot of glass, make bang-bang+bang-bang, and then come in covered in blood and put you over their knee and give you a good spank.
    You don’t care if a few multi-national office towers get wrecked as long as you get a sizzling plank.

    Stop being such a f’ing princess.

    (if you need any more life advice, email me and i’ll smash some glass and shoot guns/kick some ass and see if I can’t sort your hash)

    Like

  18. judgybitch February 20, 2013 at 19:13 #

    Well then.

    Did you have some thoughts on the subject you wanted to share?

    😛

    Like

  19. princesspixiepointless February 20, 2013 at 19:15 #

    ha ha ha, fucking hilarious!!! xPPP

    that has soo very much cheered me up. still laughing!

    Nice One!..

    Like

  20. princesspixiepointless February 20, 2013 at 19:20 #

    Nick you are so right,
    The boys of comedy and the beta-smart get the girl has taken over.
    I mean I loved Jack B, until a certain point.
    But the same goes for Women in Cinema?
    I mean how many women, as cinematic role models can you name in the last
    15-20 years? Besides Ripley from Aliens and Lisbeth Salander, there are
    probably tonnes more.
    Hollywood Cinema is just what it is…Nigerian and Indian Cinema are catching
    up box office wise….hollywood doesn’t really represent males or females in a
    way that role models
    Welcome to Jb buddy…PPP

    Like

  21. Luke February 21, 2013 at 18:14 #

    This is one of your best columns yet. For anyone wanting more reading on what being a man really means, I suggest 1) Kipling’s poems “If” and “To the ‘Eathen”, 2) Robert Service’s poem “The Law of the Yukon”, 3) Robert Heinlein’s books written earlier than “Stranger in a Strange Land (his wife’s influence increasingly neutered his subsequent books). If you only watch movies, “300”, “Zulu” (one with Michael Caine”, “Sommersby”, “Saving Private Ryan”, and of course “Idiocracy” all have much to say…

    Like

  22. judgybitch February 21, 2013 at 18:21 #

    Zulu is one of Mr. JB’s favorites! He also loves Hang ‘Em High, The Guns of Navarone and A Fist Full of Dollars.

    There used to be so many great movies that celebrated manliness. Now we have what? The Notebook and Meet the Parents.

    Ugh.

    Like

  23. Joe February 21, 2013 at 20:08 #

    Plus, even to this day, Germans resent Rickman’s character as a “hollywood bad guy” being a German. To my memory, I can’t think of any other German bad guy ginned up in a any popular hollywood movie – yet the very fact that ONE exists still disturbs them after 20 years.

    On the other hand, German TV, as well as European TV at large CONSTANTLY uses phony American archetypes as a shorthand for the negative. In fact it’s part of their self-regard – that even though their own societies are collapsing under postmodernism and selfishness and lazyness… well… at least they aren’t like those AMERICANS (of the sort they’ve have been taght about through their ‘entertainment’)

    Like

  24. etype February 22, 2013 at 01:27 #

    Darling Jbitch:
    I haven’t had the last word, so I’m back, to share my thoughts, dear minx.

    First: A man does not need television or commercial media to become a man. Men who derive re-inforcement from various caricatures derived from media, are not men, but economic cattle.

    Second: What men need are other men, as one steel sharpens another….we do not need wonder boys, or perpetual adolescents who build a sham masculinity based on hollywood tropes, and are ultimately lost in the real world, where they find McGyvers full of shit, John McCain has a toupee, a glass jaw and is punked by a dweeb like Ashton Kucher, and in real life Rambo DaJango gets a bullet through the brain and is burned to death in a cabin in the first 4 minutes of the film which is real life.

    Third:
    You are a women, albeit a feisty, squirming handful of judgy wickedness. Your place in this world, and all like you, is over my knee… as you are in need of warm and vigourous attitude adjustment on a regular basis, or you wax ludicrous.

    Saying these caricatures reinforce masculinity is the same as condemning it. What these ‘movies’ do is reinforce the emasculated to ‘act’ masculine, while never coming to the root of their problem.

    Fourth:
    Taking advice from a women, even a self-admitting, therefore deceptively honest, judgemental bitch like you, is something no man would ever do.

    Now I find your patter hot, accordingly I have various ideas on ways to make you shut-up and grow a pair (brain-cells) but I don’t think should add to the infantilism which plagues the ‘manosphere’ with stupid advice which apply far more to women….such as laments one is not getting one’s entitled quality tv.
    Men use tv to watch sports and drown out a women’s nattering, not for reinforcement, or build their characters.

    Like

  25. cole February 25, 2013 at 06:06 #

    you are amazing i want a woman like you

    Like

  26. zorroprimo October 9, 2014 at 19:28 #

    Of all the (relatively few) women defending men and masculinity today (Girl Writes What, Typhon Blue, etc.), your posts give me chubbies that send me to the E/R.!

    As a writer and lover of cinema (fan of Robert McKee, Chris Vogler and Dara Marks), I have to say you are life-threatening hawtness!

    Now I need to sit down for a few hours and think about baseball…….

    Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Mi problema con Drive (2011) | Transmillenium - February 20, 2013

    […] silencio, no me convence por el simple hecho de que él es un Pretty Boy, no un Though Guy à la Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood en sus días o un Jason Statham. No es el tipo de actor para una película que […]

    Like

  2. Lightning Round – 2013/02/27 | Free Northerner - February 27, 2013

    […] Why Die Hard is the best movie ever. […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: