Schwarzenegger movie essays

A large part of our Arnold Schwarzenegger project necessarily involves a consideration of his films. Below are listed some brief descriptions of the essays we intend to write about these films. Two of the essays are available here.

See a more complete list of Schwarzenegger movies with his comments.

Hercules Goes Bananas
Schwarzenegger’s first film as “Arnold Strong” teams him with perennial nerd Arnold Stang in a bizarre Hercules tale. The film in retrospect is a blueprint for Schwarzenegger’s mythological journey to success and heroic stature. Hercules and bodybuilding in 50s and 60s masculinity are examined.

Last Action Hero: What Next?
What does it mean to be the last action hero? Schwarzenegger’s film marks the end of one filmmaking era and the beginning of another: film and real life are seen as interchangeable and Schwarzenegger marks this juncture. The technologies of virtual reality and film special-effects; film as a reference for reality; crossing the film-life membrane; near-news and video surveillance. What will be the last action of this hero figure? If he is the last hero, what will he become next?

The Villain: Lasting Impressions
In one of the worst films ever made, Schwarzenegger teams with Kirk Douglas and Ann Margaret to play, as he does in many films, a virginal, innocent hero. It is the prequel to Last Action Hero; when villains become heroes; vigilante justice; the dangers of women to heroic icons.

Pumping Iron or The Jayne Mansfield Story without Jayne
Schwarzenegger takes center stage in a documentary and a film biography that are not supposed to be about him. Are Schwarzenegger and Jayne Mansfield both examples of self-production replacing reproduction? Morphing of the body and the movies as perpetual morphing.

Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer, Conan the Republican
Film as mythology; what place do myths have in technical societies; animated films and new mythological possibilities; politics as cartoons. Icons as tools for establishing communities of like-minded people.

Kindergarten Cop and the Chaos of Children
Schwarzenegger’s work as chair of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports under George Bush has meant a renewed attention to children’s fitness. What controversies rage about how this fitness is to be achieved; what kinds of spiritual and intellectual fitness are being promoted along with the physical; marketing movies to children; Arnold and Clint’s boot camp for minority kids; fitness as control; the desire to control gender crossings; how all these themes are promoted in KCop.

Men’s stories of self, origin, and significance are being rewritten in this post-war (Vietnam and Iraq) period. Contributing stories for other men’s renewal are Arnold Schwarzenegger and H. Norman Schwarzkopf. How does Schwarzkopf operationalizes the principles that Schwarzenegger has come to embody both physically and in his films? Using the model of Schwarzenegger’s film, Twins, we trace the emergence of two men, separated at the premature birth of the new world order (Vietnam), who have come together in the Bush administration to rewrite the story of masculinity and patriotism in the late 20th century.

Stay Hungry: Arnoldian Food
Visiting Schwarzenegger’s restaurants.

Running Man: Fit to Fit In
Schwarzenegger as a model for the consumption of physical, mental, social and political fitness.

Red Sonja: Border Wars with Sylvester Stallone
How can the rivalry between Stallone and Schwarzenegger be seen as a struggle for the kinds of icons we should have? Stallone’s grounding in reality, class, and a mythic past, Schwarzenegger’s in the imagination, universality, and the future.

Waste Management: Commando, Raw Deal, and Red Heat
A discussion of violence and film; how we use films to interpret everyday life; does film violence lead to real violence (and does film kindness lead to real kindness).

Totalitarian Drift: The Total Recall of Control
Are we willing more and more to give up control over our lives in order to get what the films have previously promised-- closure and certainty? What role do memories and dreams play in our everyday lives and how do we use films to filter these?

Predator: Reach Out and Touch Someone
What kinds of touch will be possible/likely/desired in the future when we are all tied to communication technologies? Are people going to want to touch each other or will technology replace physical contact? How will nature come back into play? Predator suggests that technology is a neutral ground and humans are the problematic element.

Terminator: Human Thresholds
How have we pushed the boundaries between humans and animals and now humans and machines? What does this mean for the kinds of stories people can construct about their own lives? In the blockbuster Terminator and the mythology that developed around this film character we see the culmination of Schwarzenegger’s activities: a new world order centered on his iconic image.

Linda Hamilton's arms became the talk of the summer of 1991, at least among women viewers of Terminator 2. Linda Hamilton's arms are a signal of the shift towards the infusion of human will into biological changes. Like genetic engineering, synthesized organs, or the design for acrylic wombs, her arms are located at the crisis between biology and technology. Other examples of this crisis: women in the military, the “Sperminator” fertility doctor, the mythology and technology of male birthing, women and guns.

Terminator 2, Part 2: The Death of Bodybuilding and the Incredible Shrinking Society
To enable himself to grow into the unprecedented enormity he would achieve through this hugely expensive film, Arnold had to get smaller. As he explained at a bodybuilding competition to a screaming crown, he was too big for the film-frame and needed to reduce his size in order to fit better on the screen. The reason he had to do this is because there is a coming together of film and reality which requires the smaller body. The earlier, "fantastic" films (Conan, Hercules, Red Sonja) demanded mythically proportioned bodies. His more recent films demand that he be more in keeping with his actual public persona. He had to transform himself from being a stellar-sized body to being a stealth-body, one that could easily move in and out of his multiple iconic roles.

Erasure as an act of power; memory and erasure; dreams as a form of erasure, weakening connections rather than strengthening them.

Batman & Robin

Harvard Historian David Noble has suggested that the entire history of Western science is tainted with the desire to find a way to eliminate women from reproduction. If Arnold accomplishes this in Junior, is this a sign of the end of history?

True Lies

Jingle All the Way

End of Days

The 6th Day

Collateral Damage

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines