10 December 2006

Fire Down Below

One of my guilty pleasures lies in one of the most diabolical human beings alive. There is only one 6’4” Italian who can beat thousands of thugs with his numerous martial arts skills, the one the only, Steven Seagal. He is a man of many faces, forms, and professions. Going everywhere from being an astute paleontologist who has to risk his life to recover ancient artifacts to a renegade cop whose daughter has been stolen from his own home. Steven Seagal’s movies, everything that is wrongly brilliant and lame about them, are my guilty pleasures.
I saw my first Steven Seagal movie when I worked at a books and music store called Chapter 11 a few years ago. My friends and coworkers Michael, Thom, and Eric shared the love of Steven Seagal, and I did not quite understand. At this point in my life, I was getting through the whole “too cool for school” syndrome, and just couldn’t see how it was cool to enjoy a movie that didn’t have an amazing artistic direction. I took myself way too seriously. One day they asked me over to enjoy a film, which to this day is still my favorite of his, 1991’s Out For Justice. They tried to explain to me how the movie wasn’t good, but that it was awesome. I still didn’t understand so I just started to watch. In the beginning of a film, our man Steven and his partner are waiting in a car for a drug deal to go down that they are about to bust. Across the street Steven sees a pimp beating up one of his “hoes”. Because of his noble heart he abandons the bust and runs over to beat the crap out of the pimp, only to end up throwing him into a car windshield. When this happened and the opening credits rolled I found myself slipping into a comfortable and happy place. It all slowly started to make sense, Steven Seagal’s movies are horrible, but so ridiculous that they are amazing. By the end of the movie, I understood completely.
Steven Seagal is a delicacy that only so many people can respect and enjoy. It’s like acquiring a taste for a fine wine or dark chocolate, except the other way around. It’s a ridiculously bad delicacy. A current example, is everyone’s semi-recent interests in the exploitation of Chuck Norris. Chuck Norris jokes, that are kind of funny, a few bad movies, and Walker Texas Rangers episodes are all it takes for these kids. Are these kids really Chuck Norris fans though? Can they truly appreciate how bad he is, know it, and own it. I call them all out because I don’t think they do. The thing about Steven Seagal is that he is the “underdog” of the bad action stars, if you will. He does all of the things Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and Sylvester Stalone do, but more over the top and with more love. This man takes his career and cheesiness to new highs and lows with every film. His martial arts are more interesting and farfetched. His ladylove scenes are steamier ten fold. The plots to his movies get more and more ridiculous, and are even graced with such renowned stars as Tommy Lee Jones, DMX, Gary Busey, Kurt Russell, and none other than, Michael Caine. Steven Seagal is just simply “where it’s at”. He's like listening to Master of Puppets when you are driving really fast, listening to "Every Rose has it's thorns" at a strip club, or listening to AC/DC period. Not only are Steven Seagal’s films cheesy and bad, but also they have the worst playfully racial moments at times, making them somewhat wrong, but whatever. These are the epitome of my bad tast.
Steven Seagal’s films are directed at one particular group of people, because surely no one else would buy into them. They are directed at the group of men that are in between their late 20s and early 40s that like to live vicariously through all of his amazing antics. These are normal dudes that used to watch these movies with their frat brothers, and dream they could be as badass as Seagal. It makes sense, Steven Seagal is this average, overly tall, awkward, and slightly overweight guy that goes around and beats up thugs that he towers over. This is every common middle-aged man’s dream. Tell me what middle-aged bored man, doesn’t dream that when he walks into a convenient store to get milk only to see a gang of Asians holding the place up. Then not only be outnumbered, but to beat the crap out of every armed Asian man in sight. This in itself is amazing. I personally cannot identify with this public. They are in no way people I could hang out with, or spend any more than 10 minutes with really. I will say that I do share the fantasies of being Seagal in those necessary situations. For me, Steven Seagal is not someone I envy, or think is a God. I merely enjoy the over the top ridiculousness of his movies. Mine is an enjoyment at a distance, rather than right at the TV.
In the end, Seagal is completely harmless. I love him as a paleontologist and as a cop gone bad. Everyone needs a good dose of Steven Seagal in their life, whether they think they need it or not. As for all of you trendy kids, see Hard to Kill, Out For Justice, and Under Siege, and it will round house kick the Chuck Norris out of your ass.

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