So King Abdullah has started thinking he can carry a Winchester and go all squint-eyed on ISIS. With him quoting Clint Eastwood from “Unforgiven” and with fighter pilot experience (Not like Mr. Mission Accomplished who shirked Vietnam) we have a crazy chance that a head of state might actually lead his troops into battle like it was the Medieval Ages. But let’s get back to King Abdullah, a Middle-Eastern King, quoting America’s favourite gritty cowboy.
It may be odd for a head of state to quote Hollywood, but it’s a testament to Abdullah’s savviness of how pop culture narratives influences our perception of reality.
While I’m sure Jordanians watch Hollywood movies, Abdullah was talking to U.S. lawmakers who have at least watched a Clint Eastwood film (I would expect that Dirty Harry is required watching for every Republican) and undoubtedly enjoyed the escapism of them. Now “Unforgiven” is a great film, four Academy Award wins including Best Picture and Best Director is the definition of a great film. A hallmark movie for a genre that is unequivocally American and part of it’s psyche. And announcing ones intentions for “Any man I see out there, I’m gonna kill him. Any son of a bitch takes a shot at me, I’m not only going to kill him, I’m going to kill his wife and all his friends and burn his damn house down.” can be taken that Abdullah is as serious as Clint Eastwood’s face.
Of course Jordanian Kings isn’t the only head of state to try and evoke the power of popular culture in political rhetoric. Kim Jong Un, was his usual adorable self again and refused to hold talks with the US (unless it’s US giving food aid) calling them gangsters.
Kim Jong Un was probably trying to channel the best of Al Pacino and Robert De Niro, his movie knowledge likely from powering through his dear departed dad’s movie library. He was likely using the definition of our gangster narratives. The stories from Brian De Palma and Martin Scorsese. The rags to riches rise to the top of the criminal underworld, losing friends and family along the way until the inevitable downfall as a metaphor for U.S. capitalist culture. Or maybe gangsters is a naughty word in North Korea. Who knows with the country that threatened to bomb J-Pop?
But King Abdullah on the other hand is a smarter sort of chap who runs a country a little more competently than the land of people who think grass is nutritious. Because Abdullah isn’t just making sure the U.S. fully understand his intentions but also setting up his and his country’s narrative of vengeance against ISIS. “Unforgiven” is about inexperienced boys getting caught in violence and old veterans embracing it. Quite appropriate for the situation. Something that King Abdullah means full well and ensure he is going to bring narrative compliance of destroying ISIS.