Rambo at heart…Ok, ok, I hear the snickers already. People I know, my close friends included, sounded about as enthusiastic for the release of the new Rambo film as they would about having a colonoscopy, if that colonoscopy were performed with a twelve-inch bowie knife! I, on the other hand, could not help but be excited. The idea of Rambo transported me back to my youth, a magical landscape populated by the likes of Sly Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean Claude Van Damme, Steven Segal, Chuck Norris, and even Dolph Lundgren on particularly desperate nights: Men who became like second fathers to me over the years, teaching me lessons of manhood in compact, easy-to-swallow one and a half hour capsules. I flash back to age eleven, and see myself standing in front of a mirror with a red scarf tied round my head and a cheap, jade, Buddha pendant from Chinatown hanging from my neck. I’m flexing my little muscles to David-like marmoreal hardness and glistening with a fresh coat of my mother’s bath oil slathered on my skin. The plastic, orange tipped ak-47 water gun I brandish and my snarled lip complete the ensemble. John Rambo would’ve been proud.
These tough guy movies, or ‘dude-flicks’ as I call them, are often frowned upon for their violence and general stupidity. But they’ve taught me many things about life, the power of love for example. In the climax of Commando, Schwarzenegger kills over 150 bad guys in order to get his kidnapped daughter back. I can’t offer a specific number for how many he killed because I lost track – Arnie would need an autistic sidekick on par with Rainman to keep up with the body count. It’s like trying to count the number of times “around the world” is said in that Daft Punk song titled, well, Around the World. It’s just not possible. (Side note: It’s songs like these that keep my dreams of being a lyricist alive.) But back to the point: this is a perfect example of how love can triumph against overwhelming odds – M-16s and twenty-three inch biceps are really just backup.
I also learned that if you want to be taken seriously, you shouldn’t say much, but if you do say something, it should be either profound, or a primitive grunt. The scripts from these dude-flick movies offer superb templates for getting started on this philosophy of communication. Take the tagline from the new Rambo trailer, “When war is in your blood, killing is as easy as breathing.” This could just as easily be adapted to the playground: “When dodge-ball is in your blood, tattooing people in the face with a red rubber ball is as easy as breathing.” Or corporate America: “When downsizing is in your blood, shit-canning people is as easy as breathing.” Think about the respect you’d garner dropping these knowledge-bombs on your peers. Just be sure to drink some whiskey before hand to get the desired gravely voice; kids, just swallow some Pop-rocks and take a shot of Robitussin. Otherwise, if words would just convolute things, go with the grunt. For reference, see Schwarzenegger removing the bug from his brain in Total Recall, or Stallone about every other second in an action sequence. Primitive grunting and groaning existed well before the written word and complex languages muddled things up. A true action star can convey an entire array of emotions through these guttural vocal bursts. Remember, grunting speaks louder than words. Ungh!
Finally, I learned sometimes you need to be bad to be good. You know that old adage; you attract more flies with honey? Well, there was another saying that was born in the muck of the jungles of Southeast Asia, and that was: “You kill more flies with napalm.” This is the proverb that our dude flick icons live by. Besides, why the hell would you want to attract flies? I never understood that. Anyway, the pearl of wisdom to extract from this golden oyster of thought is that to kill a schizoid, sometimes you have to become a schizoid; or in other words, fight bat-shit crazy with bat-shit crazier. Going out of your mind is quite an effective way of dealing with difficult situations. It’s like thinking outside the box, but more literally like thinking outside of your cranium. For example, like in Missing in Action when Chuck Norris goes buck wild on the Viet Cong after he decides to rescue a group of old POWs by himself. In the process he teaches us that sometimes one crazy-ass mofo is just as effective as an entire army. Who would have known this unless someone had tried? Thanks Chuck.
In sum, I just want to offer thanks to these honorable modern day demigods. They’ve taught me about being a man and about power of the human spirit. Collectively they have become my surrogate fathers and I have suckled their rock-hard, growth hormone injected teat of knowledge. They have brought me enlightenment and more chest hair than originally deemed possible by heredity. I salute them and suggest you give them a chance to impart wisdom to you and your brood. So next time you think about popping in Sleepless in Seattle for yourself or Baby Einstein for the tots, consider swapping it out for Predator, Rambo, or Bloodsport. Trust me, it’ll make being a real man “as easy as breathing.”