As someone who grew up in the milieu of the early 1990s, it is impossible to understate the presence of the action hero in my basic cable lifestyle. Schwarzenegger and Stallone were not merely popular entertainers, not merely granite-carved edifices on which America destroyed the memory of Jimmy Carter, one fifty-caliber squib at a time. They were the Colossi of Rhodes. They were Zeus.
But that’s the great thing about childhood movie heroes. They get older, but Conan The Barbarian never does, Colonel John Matrix never does, and John Rambo never does, unless you let them. The Terminator will always be back. Crime will always be the disease, and Marion Cobretti the cure. And we can stay young, right with them, eighty-seven minutes at a time.
When I posed the Schwarzenegger versus Stallone question on The Reckoner, it brought me right back to my sock-footed childhood, seven years old, taking in the neon pantomime of The Running Man. The raw carnage of Rambo: First Blood Part II. Movies that brooked no intrusion of reality, just the way I liked them. And I wanted to know, like a child with action figures, which of those American Gods reigned supreme in the heart of man? Where should I place my faith? Who had the largest flock?
Stallone got creamed. America cried Schwarzenegger.
Why did things go this way? I’ve got my theories:
The Stallone Empire was built on that curious mix of ambition and egotism that allows for titanic risks and incredible achievements, but also the sort of image-destroying calamity that no public relations campaign can mitigate. Stallone thought that he and only he could bring the true boxing underdog story to life, and famously insisted on playing Rocky when producers wanted Ryan O’Neal for his script. It worked. Stallone thought that he, and only he, could tap the surging jingoism of Reagan’s America, so he wrote and starred in both Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV, directed the latter, and had perhaps the best year commercially of any actor in American film history.
But those same instincts convinced Stallone he could sing country music, so he did Rhinestone. Those same instincts convinced Stallone he could direct dancing, so he did Staying Alive. Those same instincts convinced Stallone he could do comedy, so he did Oscar and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Stallone’s successes enabled profound failures, and the hubris involved created easy targets that make for easy punchlines, which we, always irreverent of our celluloid Gods, were always eager to provide. Eventually, these punchlines came to define the man.
Schwarzenegger himself is obviously a man of great ambition, but the failures of his career were rarely because he overreached. Sitting between the Zeitgeist-dominating parts of his career are unheralded mediocrities that could just have well starred Don ‘The Dragon’ Wilson and been released direct-to-video. Your Red Sonjas, your Raw Deals, your Red Heats. These movies are not well remembered, and at most they arouse the faint, pleasant sense of recognition when they emerge on sleepy Saturday afternoon syndication. It wasn’t until later in his career where Schwarzenegger grabbed for things he couldn’t reach, and even then, his highest profile failure – Last Action Hero – is more a lampoon of Stallone’s career than his own.
Schwarzenegger was a cannier risk taker. He bided his time. He assessed his skills and saw where he could go, and what he’d be forgiven for. Stallone tried to go to the moon without a space helmet, and was convinced he could breathe in space. And once or twice, through sheer miracle, he got there. And that’s why one man became a politician, and one stayed in acting, reaching for the planets, right until the very end.
At 9:22 AM EST this past Wednesday, The Reckoner! experienced a major milestone! That's right folks, it was its 100,000th page view! 100 K! 100 mille! 100 tausend! 100 тысяч! 100 천! 100 千!
That means that Reckonbot sends out a hundred thousand thanks to each and every one of you (or to the one guy who hit 'refresh' on his browser a hundred thousand times) for making our start such a smashing success! It's because of you, The Reckonaut, that this site is so much fun, so my beyond-hearty thanks goes to you for being as awesome as you've been on this site!
Also, we've picked up a lot of kind press over the past week from news organizations preaching the evangel of The Reckoner!
- Flying Kite Magazine
"Forget Bush. The Reckoner is the new decider!..."
- Philadelphia Thrillist
"Not just an old dude ...
Folks, with the passing of this not-quite-New-Year's-Day-but-it-has-to-count-because-New-Year's-Day-was-on-a-Sunday, the Holiday season is officially over. You are now relinquished from the responsibility of saying 'Happy Holidays' to everyone you see. You may now just go back to wishing them a nice day, or a great afternoon, or grave injury (if you're Reckonbot).
But over those holidays, for some reason, Reckonbot just couldn't stop! In fact, it couldn't stop so much that it had the two most active days in The Reckoner! history, along with our very first thousand-vote Reckoning!
And so, on that note, let's take a roll through what we've learned through the holidays:
- When it comes to Indiana Jones, you can ask a crowd of 3,700 people which one is their favorite and not settle a damned thing.