ARNOLD AND STORMIN' NORMAN:
TWINS: THE SEQUEL
TWINGES: A PROLOGUE
More than the glut of drummers, heroes, shamans, warriors, magicians, Iron Johns, hairy men, and wounded boys who populate the new tales of masculinity from the mens movement, Norman Schwarzkopf and Arnold Schwarzenegger are the favored proto-protagonists in the mythological stories that men are constructing and using to guide their lives. They are the ultimate Wildmen, the prototypic hardmen who have overcome the softening feminization by women and have set men, real men, back on the correct path to social, physical and moral fitness. They are the terminators of wimps, geeks, and douche-bags, and they are the repairmen of mens hard-wiring for greatness and fullness. They are conquerors and occupants of Ur, that originating place so important for the construction of a complete, coherent sense of Western male self Norman through his military prowess including attacks on that very real Iraqi city, Arnold through his aggressive occupation of film and real-life roles that have made him one of the most recognized and powerful celebrities in this world and the figure most likely to lead us into other worlds.
Arnold and Norman define the Ur-form of the male-tale, the originating story of the new end-of-the-century man. The Ur-form is the prototypical or most common version of a widespread tale, its supposed primordial form. Although this concept has fallen from grace in traditional folklore studies, it is useful for describing the kind of stories that are created and distributed in the age of mass-communication. The quest for the Ur-form is not a search for the historical origins of a particular story, but rather a quest for the factors that make that tale-type a useful personal and political tool for certain male populations that are beginning to replace feminist notions of masculinity with their own rewriting of the male-tale.
Arnold and Norman are twins of the most extraordinary kind. They were separated at the birth of the New World Order during the Vietnam era (Arnold was coming into prominence as a champion body builder, Norman was a commander in Vietnam, in charge of the troops involved in a famous friendly fire case), but reunited under the paternal leadership of George Bush. They are the authentic men sought by the new mens movement in its quest for the mature masculinity of Warriors, Kings, Giants and Wildmen. They are, together, the acceptably narrowed range of choice for male type-casting that can make masculine role-selection seem natural.
But what makes them twins and not mere siblings? And what is the evidence for our claim that Arnold and Norman together, as twins, provide men with not only the the Ur- story that the new mens movement thinks it needs to recover complete, powerful masculinity, but also with the sequel to the every day life of the nearly-gone 20th century in a world Paul Solotaroff calls "this second stone age, the America of Schwarzkopf and Schwarzenegger"(The Power and the Glory, 156)? Perhaps the best place to substantiate this twin claim and to delineate some elements of their Ur-form tale is in Schwarzeneggers own film, Twins. Although many of his other films and any of the versions of Schwarzkopfs life presently circulating could achieve the same goal, Twins foregrounds and attenuates many of the themes and elements that constitute these prototypic tales and the significance of male twin relations.
In Twins, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Julius Benedict, a product of genetic experiments conducted thirty-five years earlier by the American government. The goal was the production of a physically, mentally and spiritually advanced human being. Julius had not one but six fathers, and his mother was an Aryan beauty who supposedly died giving birthevidently unequal to the task. Much to Julius surprise, he discovers that he has a twin brother, Vincent, played by Danny DeVito. DeVito's character is a short, balding rascal who steals cars and beds married women; Julius is the perfect human specimen who claims to hate violence, can speak twelve languages (with German the obviously dominant tongue), and is still a virgin.
The physical and socio-spiritual difference between the two characters provides the humor in the film. The evident ease with which Julius is able to adapt to the new, human world of his brotherand the obvious (and laughable) prospect of Vincent being able to adapt to the high-minded, anatomically marvelous, eugenically perfect world from which Julius has comeprovide the basis for a more sobering social theory. (In defense of Vincent's increasing macho-sensibility, he does get involved in a brawl at a bar as the two brothers defend their women from lesser male thugs. After Julius single-handedly (and footedly) dispatches 3 tough-guys, Vincent jabs his elbow into a fourth man's crotch. Julius is delighted, exclaiming, "I love when you hit people.")
The genetic scientist whose project had been to produce the perfect man, Julius, explains to the two brothers (after Julius breaks down his door and threatens him) that when their embryo split in two, it did not split equally. All the purity and strength went to Julius and all the crap that was left over went into Vincent. (The significance of this dawns on Vincent as he responds, "Are you saying I'm a side-effect?") The brothers eventually claim to see each other as the missing part of each life and their story is one of finding the twin-within who makes a man complete.
This magical gift of restoration promised by a twin or mirror entity is a common theme in the new mens literature. Robert Bly talks about a man glimpsing his psychic twin, his other half, his shadow, or hidden man (51); Sam Keen suggests that psychological and spiritual integration for twice-born men can be achieved by reowning our shadows rather than denying them (1991:237); Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette encourage the recognition of the universally archetypal Shadow Warrior who, when properly controlled, instinctively knows when to kick butt and when to hold back.
As mismatchedand separatedtwins, Julius and Vincent could not experience some of the mythical powers and horrors of being identical. They could not pretend to be each other, deceiving others easily with their identity switches. On the other hand, they were not two bodies living one life and would not have identity crises caused by a lack of physical uniqueness. But like all mythologized twins separated at birth (including those in a recent University of Minnesota study), they exhibited a mystifying set of seemingly genotypically inspired similarities gestures, expressions, speech patterns, etc. Where at first they seemed so different that a twinship was laughable, it soon became possible to believe, despite what your eyes were telling you, that Julius and Vincent indeed were twins.
Twins are eerie entities. They are a physical manifestation of what our psychologists, pop and professional, tell us is our constitution: a bipartite system of opposing forces, a conscious and unconscious, a good and evil side, a super-ego and an id, a self and other. The tabloids, our repository of popular mythology, regularly feature stories about twins who magically communicate, give birth or die simultaneously, marry other sets of twins, and give birth to twins who will carry on this strange legacy. Twins gather every year in Twinsburg, Ohio for a festival that appears to be both horrifying and fascinating.
What twins in general, and Julius and Vincent in particular, provided each other was supplementarity. A supplement is both surplus and substitute (Harari 34). A supplement is (in Vincent's vernacular) the stuff left over; it sits next to something that is supposed to be complete except insofar as that completeness is subverted by the very existence of the supplement. Vincent constantly reminds Julius of this as he makes him over into his own image of a man, to the point of getting the sister of his girlfriend to separate him from his virginity and to engaging Julius in criminal acts. Vincent eventually substitutes himself for Julius as the perfected man. (Schwarzenegger expressed in a recent interview his great admiration for DeVito, pointing out that DeVito is able to produce, direct and star in his own picturesthat is, he controls every aspect of his public persona.)
The advantage of identifying your supplement/twin is not a renewed or extended camaraderie but a more complete control of the side effects, the rumors, the fallout of any actions and stories. Just as Julius virtue covers Vincents criminal and immoral actions, Arnold and Norman cover each others flaws and faults and augment one another's public powers because of the supplementarity of their stories. It is only together that their stories are not horrifying but uplifting, not ridiculous but inspiring, not merely entertaining but compelling.
As twin/supplements to each other, Arnold and Norman provide a complete, overlapping and interwoven model of maleness. Besides being from the same mother(land), sharing name fragments, they have knowledge of and interaction of the world through machines, and both suggest Rambo is an improper model for the next masculinity. Arnold does this in Twins by laughing at a Stallone poster, and he does it in "real" life by cutting himself out of an upcoming film in which he and Sly were to dress in drag. "Arnie is simply too smart to risk his soaring popularity in film with Sly, whose fortunes have taken a dramatic nosedive. . ."(National Examiner, 10/15/91, p. 12); Norman did it by denying a Rambo-esque quality to the war efforteven as he evidently gave tacit approval to the Rambo-über-All stratagems of flying Stealth bombers into civilian zones and by burying Iraqui troops alive in their trenches. Schwarzkopf's troops were also the happy recipients of tens of thousands of pounds of free-weights (from the free world) and equipment with which they were to train themselves to be more fit for the combat they would be fighting from electronically-divorced vantage points.
Like the twins in Twins, Arnold and Norman are a product of an experiment to recapture masculinity before it is swallowed up by femaleness. But the quantum leaps taken in the transformations by Arnold and Norman cannot be duplicated by other men. Not even through emulation and devotion can one be an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Norman Schwarzkopf. Lee Haney, the current Mr. Olympia (holder of the title more times than Arnold) has achieved a bigger body than Arnold, something Arnold said could never be done. But when Haney, a black man, achieved a remarkable and measurably larger-than-Arnold body, the significance of the achievement had already been rendered irrelevant. Lee Haney could not supplant Arnold and Norman, the reincarnation of Patton, McArthur, as well as Willard Scott and Jonathan Winters. Arnold has at this point essentially twinned himself, creating right before our very eyes a smaller, more expertly packaged, fit persona ("With each blockbuster he makes, Schwarzenegger becomes smaller. . .and bigger than ever before."[Entertainment Weekly, 11/1/91, p.28]). And the more Stormin' Norman becomes a larger-than-life celebrity, the more aggressively he integrates himself into an increasingly military-minded federal government and general public.
The crossing and parallel paths of Arnold Schwarzenegger and H. Norman Schwarzkopf are neither coincidental nor solely the effect of individual sentiments, circumstances, and manipulations. Each man, a larger-than-life and amazingly ubiquitous Big Man, marks the same turning point in the narrative of masculinity at the end of the twentieth century. It is the point of male self-generation, or we might even call it male self-duplication. It is the love song of the new mens movement in which the singer is also the listener and he is wooing himself for the sake of rebirthing and healing the wounded child within.
In the film, Dead Ringers, Jeremy Irons plays the roles of twin gynecologists, one of whom becomes pathologically obsessed by violent impulses of which the other becomes increasingly horrified to learn. These twins become the embodiment of a struggle to remain almost telepathically joined while at the same time they must break free of one another to avoid mutual destruction. Ultimately, this break is violent and permanent, and it leaves a wake of destroyed lives. Arnold and Norman are not these type of twins, certainly. They have no need to break from one another, and their shared mental communications has yet to be established. Indeed, we would not want to argue that Arnold and Norman as twins are engaged in any sort of Jekyll and Hyde contest.
However, we do want to suggest that both Arnold and Norman are in an ongoingand clearly triumphant'struggle' to break from the twins they are to themselves . That is, each man has had such clearly and hermetically designed personae, subsequent shifts and breaks from those personae constitute ruptures in the very continuity between who they are now and who they were only media-"moments" ago. And, to go back to Dead Ringers, Arnold and Norman have left a trail of carnagehough it is much less obvious in Schwarzenegger's case than in the Gentle General's. Whereas Schwarzkopf's pre-media-packaged-teddy bear image produced piles of dead soldiers and civilians, Arnold's wake requires closer readings. But the bodies are there to be counted: young men and women giving themselves over to the quest for the perfect body, at the expense of those bodies and the health that would falter beneath steroid-fed muscles.
No sooner did Arnold's legacy of perfectly pumped-up form induct a generation of body-abusers, Arnold himself evidently abandoned sheer mass to take on perfection of a different kindperfect power. In his wake he leaves his soldiers of bodily misfortune. And as the testimony of Steve Michalik to a nation of would-be/wannabe steroid-revved muscle men and women teaches, the violence to, and destruction of, one's near-totally supplemented body tells the story of a war that is both local and cultural. Arnold and Norman are the twin-sequels to the Male Ur-story precisely because they have been able to step out of and beyond the consequences of the world's over which they have, in part, designed, and over which they exert control.
EPILOGUE: TWIN-kle, TWIN-kle, Little Stars
People throughout the world begin to punctuate their public discourses with references to Arnold and Norman:
Michael's Expository Writing studentsunaware of his research on Arnold and Norman, take turns at the blackboard writing sample analogies (for the purpose of demonstrating how we make meaning):
1) "Clarence Thomas has courage to face national television like Conan the Barbarian."
2) "If Anita Hill is a Law Professor, she must be like Arnold Srazeenger (sic) in Kindagarden (sic) Cops."
Michael's Expository Writing studentssame class, different day, during a follow-up discussion on Clarence Thomas hearings. Michael had still not told his students that he was researching Schwarzenegger and Schwarzkopf. As the debate became increasingly volatile, one student spoke out to restore order:
Student 1) "Hey, c'mon. We gotta get the Terminator in here to keep the peace?"
Student 2) "Who are you supposed to be? General Schwarzkopf?"
© 1996–2009, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media. (Copyright Notice)