Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Folklore Heroes - Clint Eastwood


I'm trying something new here. In an effort to expand the pop culture side of Dead End Follies, I want to explore these special characters who have been made into common folk heroes and role models by society. They are even turned into villains sometimes. They appear on the T.V screens, movie screens, books, they might be real or fictional, but they somehow became a part of everyone of us. For the first edition, one of my favorite celebrities....

Clint Eastwood

Somewhere during the Reagan years, action heroes started fighting unknown foreign enemies, taking steroid and develop speech impediments. Buffed up killing machines were something new back then, reflecting the fears and paranoia of the era. In the sixties and seventies, action heroes were more modest. Charles Bronson was Paul Kersey, an engineer and Korean war veteran who decided to clean the mean streets of his city after a savage attack on his wife and daughter by nameless thugs. Steve McQueen was Frank Bullitt, a Hemingwayesque policeman who just wanted to do his goddamn job. Both kind of action heroes were products of their time. Bronson and McQueen fought criminality and Stallone and Schwarzenegger fought foreign invasions. Both reflected fears of their time.

The only action hero figure who kept being badass for his whole goddamn life is Clint Eastwood. Part of his charm is that he doesn't have the physique. Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson were not muscular, but they were athletic. Eastwood could have been your neighbor. You can count the number of scenes where he's shirtless in his movies, because there aren't many. He's not muscular. He built his badass reputation with two recurring roles he played from the mid-sixties to the early nineties. The Man With No Name, a stoic and trigger-happy cowboy in Sergio Leone's westerns and Inspector Harry Callahan, otherwise known as Dirty Harry. The professional wisecracks of Inspector Callahan have entertained generations of young men. Here are a few.

Callahan: MAXWELL!
(Maxwell shoots at him)
Callahan:You fuckin' fruit
(Destroys Maxwell with a rocket launcher)

Callahan:: Do you know the emergency phone number for San Francisco General? Well, why don't you call them right now and have them send down an ambulance. Tell them there's two sorry-looking assholes here with multiple contusions and various abrasions and broken bones.

Callahan:I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk

Callahan: Here's a seven-point suppository, Captain.
Capt McKay: What did you say?
Callahan: I said stick it in your ass.

The films aged a little bit, but not Harry. He is his own man and looking to dish out justice the way he judged proper. He's a universal, timeless badass because he's a good guy (a very good guy) yet he doesn't bother with laws and protocol. What's important to him is to get the danger off the street as soon as possible. In a sense, he's the law we all wish to have and that some of us wish to be. He doesn't need an armor of muscle when he has his magnum and a shitload of grit.

Don't think Clint Eastwood is sitting on his laurels or lives in the past. He got older (fuck, he's a whopping eighty-one years old), but he took on himself to make his legend live on. He directed and starred as complete badass Bill Munny in Unforgiven and as geriatric badass Walter Kowalski in Gran Torino, a movie he kept afloat with his clever writing and minimalist tough guy schtick. Not to mention all the Oscars he nabbed from the director chair. Clint Eastwood is the image of the everyman being cool, badass and achieved. His name alone invokes images of self-assured manliness.

4 comments:

  1. I recently re-watched Dirty Harry and y'know, it's a much better, deeper film than people often give it credit for. I wonder how much of a "hero" Eastwood intended Harry to be-- he's a stoic, dedicated guy who seems baffled that the rest of the world often doesn't share his convictions about right and wrong. And he's close to being burnt-out in that first movie. A telling bit of dialogue: After his partner is nearly killed, the partner's wife says to Harry "Why do you still do this?" and Harry shakes his head and says, "I really don't know."

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  2. That's the thing about heroes. They're too busy doing their goddamn job to think about themselves. It's how they stand up to adversity that makes them shine. Harry does it with such style that he shines brighter than the others.

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  3. I LOVE CLINT!!!! shirtless or not! :))
    I love all his movies whether he's directing or acting in them. He's awesome! And just for that, he's my movie hero. ;)

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  4. Fitst of im not hating friend but did u just say bronson was not muscular?? U are smoking some good stuff

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