Friday, September 9, 2016

Der Arnold und The Donald: Macho and Consciousness and The Terminator

            I recently read a column in The Nation magazine on line on Donald J. Trump bringing in, very briefly, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Okay, this much about that.

            When teaching James Cameron's and Gale Anne Hurd's THE TERMINATOR and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY — nuanced but hardly subtle films — I noted that my students had trouble understanding them because they lacked background in the imagery of German extermination programs in World War II — ordered by an Austrian — and because they lacked the phrase, concept, and category, "Macho Asshole." For my students, "macho" was usually an unambiguously positive term, so some missed the point of TERMINATOR that the ultimate macho man isn't a man at all but a killer robot, and more missed the point in JUDGMENT DAY that if a woman totally Terminator-izes herself to where she has the toughness to murder a wounded man in front of his wife and child — her acquired toughness would be that of a Nazi who could kill infants, women, children, and men for a Higher Cause.

            "Der Arnold" has acted the macho asshole since his introduction to a general audience in PUMPING IRON (1977) where on camera he hides the lucky T-shirt of Lou Ferrigno: der Arnold's main competition, colleague, roommate, and, Ferrigno might imagine, friend. In his relationship with a number of women, part of what's going on is that Schwarzenegger is a macho asshole and acts it. On other occasions, he seems to have sufficient self-consciousness to be acting a role, and it is in part the audience's fault if we miss the touch of irony and if we don't recognize that "macho asshole" is a variety of figurative asshole — with apologies to the anus, an innocent orifice and evolutionary breakthrough — and a Bad Thing to Be.

            Far more than der Arnold, The Donald seems radically deficient in self-consciousness and hasn't been acting a role at all in his presidential campaign and really is a macho asshole with little sense of irony or of the significant existence of other people outside of their relationship to him (preferably awe).

            Der Arnold shouldn't be left unchaperoned with women or girls (or boys or men if his tastes change with age); California, however, is doing okay after his terms as governor. The Donald is more dangerous on any scale and should never ever be allowed the power of the presidency or anywhere near it.

            The people supporting Trump need the category Macho Asshole and need to know enough to recognize a fascistic appeal when they receive one — and be ethical enough to reject both.

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