September 2010

Caroline Hagood


Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics by Vern

A Letter to Vern in which I Review Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer! and Tell Him What it Means to be a Man

Dear Vern,

Inspired by your spirited missive to Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), that most nubile of X-2 (2003) mutants, I’ve decided to address your contribution to film theory in letter form. I must say I find your thoughtful take on cinematic badassery to be quite refreshing. In your introduction, you write, “I’m more in line with the long-winded New Yorker types and academicians who want to explore a movie in context with film history and American culture,” while also noting, “I am more likely to fixate on, say, slasher sequels of the ‘80s or action movies starring former professional athletes.” Okay, so after that passage, I may or may not have doodled small hearts in the book’s margin. What a snazzy intellectual concoction.

As promised in your intro, there really are places where you dig deep, fishing out creative vision even in those badly dubbed martial arts movies. I enjoy your serious treatment of genres that don’t often receive such courtesy (just about anything with Jean-Claude Van Damme in it, for example) where you even whip out a bit of auteur and Marxist theory here and feminist theory there. Film snobs might not get it, but what you do when you compare the Die Hard book to its film adaptation, drawing on Bruce Willis’s 1987 R&B album, The Return of Bruno, for added insight, is what this stuff is really all about. 

I do have one bone to pick with your frequent use of the word “retarded.” Granted, you write in a footnote, “I try not to use that word anymore, because it’s not fair to kids who actually have to deal with that disability. I could just rewrite it, but I don’t want to be Steven Spielberg taking the guns out of E.T.” You’re a better wordsmith than that. If you want to metaphorically leave the guns in, do it with style. Don’t use some cookie-cutter diss that is actually quite offensive, just not to the people you mean to offend. Make something great or just call them an “assclown,” if you must. I’m partial to that one.

Now that we’ve cleared the air, let me tell you more about what I did like. Given that your persona is rough and tough (I gleaned this from your frequent mentions of having been “in the can”), it’s not so shocking that you’re an action movie fan; but it is surprising that you frequently go to bat for women, picking up on gender issues that many reviewers might miss, especially ones trying to gain a female audience while still impressing adolescent fanboys. As an example of that whole wise where women are concerned thing, your description of Grendel’s Mother (Angelina Jolie) in Beowulf (2007) as being on the receiving end of “the ol’ male fear of female sexuality. And the fear of the consequences of sex, and the responsibility of fatherhood” is rather inspired.

Ultimately, my favorite thing about Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer! is what you do with Mary Poppins (1964). At the end of the book, you ask how you can appeal to female readers. Because I like you, I’ll give you some advice on gaining fangirls: write more reviews where you hit it out of the park stylistically while simultaneously analyzing women’s position in society. Yet you don’t just wonder about women, do you? In your final section, you ask, “What does it mean to be a man?” In the end, my conception of a stand-up guy is pretty similar to your idea of a really good movie -- be authentic; have heart, imagination and conviction; and, if the situation calls for it, blow things up good (intellectually, at any rate).



Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer!: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema and Other Important Topics by Vern
Titan Books
ISBN: 184856371X
320 Pages