Towards an Inquiry Into the Work of Arnold Schwarzenegger


It was always going to end this way. Time after time he would come to their rescue; he was protecting them, they were helpless without him; he was avenging their defiled honor, redeeming his own vitiated masculinity (the appeal of this for the white male demo as morning broke across America). He would endure humiliations, trials, tribulations. He unleashed a tidal violence in their name, sweeping away everyone in his path. He slaughtered his opponents with glee, with the same enthusiastic sadism we felt watching him. He was us.

He would never lay a hand on her. He was never caught in a kiss, there was never so much as an extraneous gesture of affection. He could not be tempted. He would never defile her. He was her Daddy and she was his girl. The strapping ubermensch, muscles straining to split the skin, a volcanic presence, totally neutered. Maybe it was a concession to the MPAA, always more comfortable with ultraviolence than fucking, a way of keeping ratings to a level that would keep teenage boys filling seats. But the formula worked.

There were hints. The names by which he was known. The Terminator, an abortion of the future. The Running Man, running from one fight after another, trying to escape but always upping the ante. The Predator, the anti-Alien, the Vagina that Walks Like a Man, a patriarchal nightmare that could only kill or be killed, but in the end there was no doubt who was the real predator. “Get to the chopper,” he warned, but who was he really saving her from. He was exorcising the subtext. He had to prove his independence, his total autonomy, his absolute freedom. He had to kill. ‘I’ll be back,’ he kept warning us, his dead gaze repeatedly boring through the world of appearances toward the source of the emanation, and like the risen Christ he returned, purified by his ordeal, ready to dispense justice. There was always another woman in need of salvation. They were just a pretext.

So it all comes down to this. Thirty-three years of mayhem. In the name of protecting their innocence, of preserving their purity. But daughters will stray from their fathers. Hymens can’t remain intact forever. Despite his best efforts, the SFX and the HGH, there is the inevitability of death approaching. Double down: the threat of a daughter who might live forever. The only way to protect her, to preserve her, unspoiled and innocent, is to take her life himself. This is mercy. This is love. Isn’t it?