e premte, 29 qershor 2007

This Made My... (You Know the Rest)

Thanks to all who have contacted me or expressed their views about my article, "Yippee-Ki-Yay," a modest consideration of the action movie's greatest one liner. The piece was published on Slate earlier this week.

The most fascinating response was this counter-proposal, posted by Timothy Noah, who writes Slate's fine column, "Chatterbox."

Call me old fashioned, but I think Lichtenfeld should show more respect for Clint Eastwood's "Make my day." Even though I never saw Sudden Impact, the Dirty Harry movie it was uttered in--I only saw the trailer--I rank "Make my day" as the greatest action flick one-liner of all time. Admittedly, in the quarter-century since its introduction "Make my day" has lost much of its freshness, and the phrase was sullied by Ronald Reagan when he used it to threaten veto of a tax increase in 1985. But there's a reason Reagan and various others co-opted "Make my day." It was and remains a small masterpiece of economy.

Imagine a tough cop saying to some violent punk, "You're doing me a favor by forcing me to act in self-defense because I will actually enjoy killing you, something I wouldn't have the opportunity to do otherwise, given the rules imposed by the law and by my profession, not to mention the ethical consensus imposed less formally by civilized society--rules that I am compelled, grudgingly, to obey." Kind of a mouthful, right? "Make my day" communicates all this in a three-word Haiku. As a bonus, those three words perfectly express the uniquely warped psyche of the Dirty Harry character. Yes, "Make my day" is an expression of individual derangement and egomania rather than a summing-up of the collective American mythology. So what? This is an action movie we're talking about, not some damned folk song.

I saw the first two "Die Hard" movies when they came out, and, to be honest, I don't even remember "Yippee Ki-Yi-Yay motherfucker." I think probably that's because the line was so clearly improved on later when Arnold Schwarzenegger said "Hasta la vista, baby" in Terminator 2. At any rate, compared to "Make my day," "Yippee Ki-Yi-Yay motherfucker" is downright loquacious, and action movie heroes are supposed to say as few words as is humanly possible. It's also less exhuberantly fascistic, and let's face it, we don't exactly want our action movie heroes to be card-carrying members of the ACLU. "Yippee Ki-Yi-Yay motherfucker" is "Make my day" with the pathology washed out of it, and where's the fun in that?

I loved this. And as I later told Mr. Noah, both "Yippee-ki-yay" and "Go ahead, make my day" resonate with me--which must make me a renaissance man.

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