In case you've never seen Die Hard, it is a film where a young Bruce Willis arrives in LA on Xmas eve to meet with his estranged wife. It being the 80s, she has taken a job in a Japanese corporation that threatens the central character's masculinity and marriage. Fortunately, Alan Rickman and a bunch of European terrorists arrive and by the end, many people will be dead, masculinity will be restored and McClane's wife will have lost the horrible watch that signifies her independence.
Then, a black man will drive them home in a limo.
That the mediocre film has earned a 'classic' status tells us more about the current status of film making than anything else I might write, but that's okay, because I now plan to use it to explain the NRA to you.
Not so long ago, there was a mass shooting in Newtown, in which twenty-six people were killed. Twenty were children, six were adults, teachers at the school. Kept silent for a few weeks, the NRA finally had a press conference in which their spokesperson, Wayne LaPierre, made the now infamous comment, "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun." He was arguing for why, at the very least, there shouldn't be some restrictions on the kind of weapons you can buy. He then said you should have armed men and women in schools. Click below to watch, and imagine thousands of Americans heading to gun stores, to stock up.
It is a strange, strange argument to follow, really. For many people outside of the United States, the conversation, filtered through personal rights, freedom of speech, personal safety, the lack of affordable health care, the growing divide of economic status', the culture of fear based on race, age, culture and religion, can be nothing more than a big, dumb echo chamber. One side says one thing, and all you hear is the same words, again and again, with no debate taking place. The difficulty of establishing the debate, of changing a huge part of society, is lost. For many that I know, the argument is as Bill Hicks said once, "There's no connection between owning a gun and shooting a gun and anyone who says otherwise is a Communist," but Hicks, the fine and excellent social comedian, has been dead for eighteen years, and the debate really hasn't moved any.
It won't, either, not until the NRA is changed.
Fortunately for both you and I, there is Die Hard, or as I like to call it The Hope and Dreams of the NRA, in 131 Minutes, which may give you a better understanding of why this is a difficult task.
Die Hard presents us with the fading masculinity of John McClane, as portrayed by a stoic Bruce Willis. In the days when a good man could take a gun on a plane, the New York based Policeman arrives in LA not to spend time with his family, but rather to put an end to his emasculation at the hands of his wife, who has, it might be worth mentioning, begun to his her maiden name instead of his. The connection between McClane's masculinity, his failed marriage, and his gun is established early, as these three things are mentioned within the opening minutes of the film. To understand the mentality of NRA, you have to understand that subtext, which is clearly stating that we are in dire times. Most likely, we have been since the 1970s, when all that free love and feminist bullshit started getting a leg up. A decent, hard working white man will find it tough in this new world. He will be attacked. He will be made to look as a dinosaur, as if he is in a world where he is failing to grow, and at risk of losing not just his voice and power, but his guns, as well.
But never fear, for there are vaguely European men around the corner, and to return to the quote of Wayne LaPierre, "The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun."
Except what LaPierre really means, as filtered through the film, is "The only way not to feel disempowered is with a weapon," and we shouldn't shirk away from that.
Having taken his weapon on a plane, having worn it in the limo, having kept it through security and up to the 30th floor of a building to meet his wife, John McClane, without shoes, without a shirt, and certainly without any help, is left with only it to stop the men who burst through the front door, heavily armed. McClane's loss of shoes and shirt is a clear message to the audience to demonstrate the importance of the gun, and the power that it has. Having a weapon takes precedence over simple things such as footwear and perhaps a protective jacket, both of which are exploited in later stages of the film, though neither of these cause McClane loss. Indeed, so long as he has a gun, McClane's power is undeniable, and his references to old cowboy films only highlight the 'utopian' Old West that lies at the centre of the NRA and its approach to America. The power of the gun is what motivates McClane to send the dead blond German down with the words, 'Now I Have A Machine Gun, HO HO HO' written on his chest, not in blood, of course, but in a red that is close enough. His actions clearly say to the audience that, now armed with a much better gun than the one he arrived with, he is a much more formidable and dangerous and masculine product--and the response of the bad guys, who clearly outnumber him and have control of the building, but respond in fear, demonstrates the response to this power.
You can imagine how much more power he has when, later, he finds a bag full of plastic explosives. He needs that, by the by, to stop the rocket launcher that is doing bad things to the Police.
There is no moment in Die Hard after McClane runs up the stairwell bare foot and with a gun where he is ever weak. His strength of weapon requires him to be juxtaposed against an overweight black cop whose one moment of characterisation comes when he tells the story of how he accidentally shot a child. Having been emasculated by the act, he put away his gun and rendered himself useless. He is not just a man, but also a Policeman, who can no longer serve and protect. Al--as the character is known--is therefor not afforded any respect until, in the final scenes of the film, he draws his gun again and shoots the final terrorist, who has survived being hanged in an earlier part. This reveal, view in the light I am presenting it to you, is not so surprising when you consider that no weapon was fired in that fight. Masculinity, as clearly displayed through Die Hard, requires a firearm--and in doing so, it allows Al to regain his sense of power, his sense of authority in the world, again.
It is not difficult to use Die Hard to illustrate the mentality of the NRA, and to use it to help better explain how the organisation responds to the situations that are being played out in real life around America. In the heart of the NRA, they believe that the fiction will one day be birthed, and should that moment ever arrive, they will jump up and down and laud whoever it is.
Until then, of course, what men such as Wayne LaPierre hope for, are nothing but a daydream, a fantasy, a fiction, and not until that is recognised, will the NRA begin to change.