Here we sit, arms interlocked, happily cohesive, happily idolatrous, happily sharing a rich platter of preconceived ideas. All thoughts point to one thing: Steven Seagal, exemplar of the arts, muse to the masses, bounteous treasure of humankind, is a presence whose force exists on a single plane, a splashing liquid life held inside one container, easily definable, easily spoke of, a friend to a simple understanding. The filmic rivers flow full of Seagal, alluvium of ass-kicking action coating every shingle, a righteous dynamic that constitutes the very integrity of the medium. Seagal is a movie star. His literature consists of pictures and sound. He embellishes his theorems with car chases. He paints scenes in technicolour fisticuffs. Seagal is cinema and cinema is Seagal.
Yet our grasp loosens, we begin to cling with less force, our faces turn pale as news arrives to contradict all held dear. Not one but two, a duality, blocking the path, dissolving the singularity, superimposing a new state of multiplicity.
There are two Steven Seagals.
One is Steven Seagal, fictional officer of the law, a symbol of justice battering bad guys and keeping the streets clean. The other is Steven Seagal, actual officer of the law, a symbol of justice battering bad guys and keeping the streets clean.
What’s that? A man known for throwing his foes down elevator shafts is a cop in real life?
Fiction has truly spilled over into reality. I wonder if two decades’ worth of leg snapping, neck breaking ultraviolence will make the transition. There’s been a breach in the cinematic hull somewhere, make-believe vocations are rapidly escaping, spraying out unhindered. Seagal just punched a giant ontological hole in the fiction-reality divide.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what Seagal says:
“I make a living in the movies, but for the past twenty years I’ve also been a cop. And along with some of the finest deputies on the force, I serve the people of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. My name is Steven Seagal. That’s right. Steven Seagal, Deputy Sheriff.”
So there you go, the hole’s been there all this time and you never even noticed. Shame on you.
Anyway, Seagal’s sprung from the cop closet for a new reality TV show called Steven Seagal: Lawman. This pseudo-Cops docu-diary series follows Seagal as he plays at police duty, busting hoodlums for possession, patrolling the “jects” and what-have-you. Shaky vomit-inducing cameras capture Seagal as he and his colleagues pile on a carjacker making attempts to avoid ‘juvie’. Blurry collages of blue and red flank the screen as Seagal and co are called off the road to silence a drunken ne’er-do-well. All of this set to a soundtrack of shouty Seagal Zen-words and street-addled ambience.
To rest our eyes and ears from the gritty reality of quelling injustice, we get short scenes of Seagal showing a younger colleague how to shoot like a master marksman. The demonstrations are punctuated by sagacious words, slim aphoristic wisdom encouraging the neophyte to push the bullet, to guide the bullet, to be one with the bullet, give himself to the action without trying. Like a horrifically-inflated Yoda, Seagal leads by example: not content with successfully shooting the heads of cotton buds from a distance of twenty feet, he tries to light a match by shooting it. Alas this proves hard to achieve and Seagal retires for forty hours’ meditation in the fortress of Seagalitude.
Well, what did we learn from the first episode?
Steven Seagal is an ordinary working man, a duty-bound pillar of the community, identical to those he serves. His quotidian everyday-ness is a rebuke to the Hollywood stereotype, for he is a man respected as one with the commons, dishing up banquettes of justice for the poor and the hungry. Sure he wears sunglasses indoors and signs autographs, but regardless, the proletariat knows no better example.