Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Lose the Arm: How I Learned Every Life Lesson from Robo Cop
Ask me what my favorite movies are and I will always respond with these three: Ghostbusters, Batman and RoboCop. This is no coincidence. I was born in 1985. Ghostbusters was released in 1984. Batman in 1989. RoboCop in 1987. I grew up watching these films, for better or for worse. They are part of my makeup as a human being. That sounds ridiculous, I know. But very true. Especially if we look at possibly the most important film of the three I listed, RoboCop.
First and foremost, RoboCop is a fucking violent movie. It is full of visceral bloodshed. It teems with adult language. It takes place in a future-version of Detroit. Need I say more?
Do the math. If I was born in 1985 and the film came out in 1987...I was 2 years old. Obviously I didn't see it in theaters so let's assume my father brought home the VHS sometime in 1988. This would have made me around 3 fucking years old watching RoboCop for the first time. I was 3 years old and enjoying such endearing scenes as...
Murphy getting ritually executed by a gang of thugs. I have this scene memorized. Line for line. I shit you not.
Not only did I absorb this film at such a young, tender age. I had all the god damn toys too! Nowadays, they don't even bother manufacturing tie-in merchandise for children when it comes to Rated-R movies. Back in the 1980s things were vastly different. Robo Cop was Rated-R. A hard fucking R. This film still contains some of the most Over-the-Top realistic violence I have ever seen. The only thing that could maybe compete was the last Rambo movie 2008. Did they make toys for that one? Absolutely fucking not.
But back in 1988 or 1989....I had all of this shit....
It wasn't just action figures either. I had the car, the motorcycle, the full on costume kit that had the RoboCop helmet and Gatling gun accessory. Fuck man, they even made a toy of E.D. 209.
Yeah, that's right. The machine that basically mutilates some OCP executive within the first 30 minutes of the movie. Remember, these are toys aimed at children. The company must have made the assumption that yes indeed children were seeing this horrifically violent movie, recognizing the characters and purchasing the toys. It is stunning when you think about it. We truly live in a different time.
Back to the point of this blog. I saw this all - fully took it in - at a very young age. I also derived a codified set of values from the movie that not even the force-feeding of organized religion could challenge. In so many words it can be summed up like this: If somebody hurts you...strip away the humanity, eliminate the weakness, come back stronger...and shove a steel ice-pick thing through their neck.
There's a similar message in Rocky movies too. If you lose, train hard, come back and win. In RoboCop, no training necessary. You get rebuilt into a callous machine. Since I was a child I always had an affinity for callous machines and 'phoenix rising from the ashes' stories. Now you know why.
When a scientist working on RoboCop tells OCP executive Bob Morton that they can save the human right arm of Officer Murphy, Morton mechanically responds, "Lose the arm." It is a scene that happens very fast but it is incredibly important. You replace the human aspect of the creature and you get something stronger. RoboCop functions on directives. That's all. At one point he remarks that he can feel his family, but does not remember them. My little brain soaked all of this up.
RoboCop is one of my absolute top 3 favorite movies for a lot more reasons but this one always seemed the most paramount. It taught me that the cold execution of a plan was the surefire method to get something done. Leave no room for error. Error is human. Humans get blown apart.
Directive 1. Serve the public trust.
Directive 2. Protect the innocent.
Directive 3. Uphold the law.
Directive 4 is, of course, classified. ;-)
Oh yeah, and one more thing...