September 15th, 2011
Hooray! It’s the 80s! Reaganomics forever unshackles money from concrete notions of labour and production! Credit and finance win forever! But wait: the American psyche becomes suspicious – it can smell something is not right. How can wealth no longer be attached to the creation of tangible value? What about the vast and mighty powerhouses of industry and agriculture (and forcible ‘freeing up’ of overseas markets – but forget about that for today) that American prosperity was built on? Are these going to rot? Is money just going to be a run of digits now, moved from place to place, percentages creamed-off for the great and the good to grow very fat on while the working man is left to suffer and starve? It is? Well that’s just unAmerican dammit! That’s dishonest, effeminate even – positively European in its emasculate, corrupted chicanery.
(Plus now that cash is just a big game of pretend numbers, there’s shitty stinking rivers of it everywhere, and it won’t sell itself. To soak up that much dirt you are going to need a lot of life’s finer things: cocaine, of course, bad modern art, exquisitely expensive yet ugly and unflattering suits, diamonds, exotic-looking guns and other household furniture, and, of course, cocaine.)
The traditional enemies of the movie hero – Indians, Mafia-style gangsters, Commies of various descriptions – aren’t equipped to embody this malaise. Something new is needed – something with a funny accent, in a designer suit, with a superficial, oleaginous charm, exotic weaponry, and a predilection for dabbling in the New Crimes concerned with these freshly-dominant arenas where wealth is purely symbolic and sustained by willed, collective, enforced delusion: market speculation, the international art trade, counterfeiting. Oh, and ponytails. Ponytails are fucking important here. That’s basically it – the real-world corollary of a certain feature of popular American cinema that hasn’t been explored very widely (check out the google desert – 1420 hits in a whole internet? That’s practically nonexistent): The Eurobaddie.
For reference, your key texts are 1) Die Hard (just the first one, though comparisons with the sequels may be rewarding lines of enquiry), for its parade of undisguised actually-European mercenaries jealously muscling in on the wonderful consumer-driven business relationships developing between America and the wonderful Asian tigers; and b) Beverly Hills Cop, for its demonstration of how the key aspects of the Eurobaddie phenomenon may be adopted by anyone at all, no matter where they come from. It’s the 80s remember -the flash of outward signifiers is everything, and anyone can be a Eurobaddie if they a) have the right suit; are b) using vapourous cheat-industries like art dealing or the diamond trace as a cover for running coke and have c) rucially, the right hair.
What follows is a field guide to identifying Eurobaddies in their natural environments, with some explanantions and very important factoids appended for your interest.
If you see a man wearing a ponytail, call the police. Not the fashion police, the ones with guns who’ll shoot anything. Especially if you are near an art gallery, an over-styled nightclub, a well-lit warehouse, a jewelry shop, a bank, a racecourse, an interior designer or especially a high-rise office building, run like bloody jumping fuck cos it’s about to go off.
Meet Hans. Hans Gruber, the movement’s alpha-yuppie / Athena poster-boy/ thoroughbred example of the Eurobaddie executive class.
You know him already, because he’s the main baddie in Die Hard and therefore one of the main baddies full stop. Hans only half counts as a Euro baddie, as being played by ac-tor Al-an Rick-man he also comes in under the better-documented rubric of the Brit Baddie, which is an island to the North West of mainland Eurobaddies. Rickman is a proper British actor (went to RADA and everything) playing a proper German baddie. For his portrayal of Hans, Rickman went to some lengths researching the accent he would use and in the film. He watched over fifty German-language films, from Anders als die Andern (not really much point in that, it being a silent film), to Ich suche Dich to Alice in den Städten. He spent many teacups talking to a Hamburg man who lives down the road from him, and several minutes thinking about going to Germany itself. He brought the full strength of his dramatic talents to bear on the study of Gruber’s clipped, stern yet aristocratic tones, and then deliberately ignored everything he’d learnt and went with a laughably camp evil-German-leering-sneer unseen outside of this much loved documentary series:
Well done Alan, your accent in Die Hard (German trans: The Hard) is a meisterwerke of silly rubbish. Though admitteldy much better than your brother Jeremy’s in The Hard With A Vengeance.
Hans’ choice of pistol, or hansgun, is worth thinking about. Obviously a smaller weapon is essential for one in his position – a larger gun, anything that would ruin the lines of his suit, is unthinkable.
Much more than that, it’s an instantly recognisable signifier of smooth. The chrome finish goes perfectly well with your S+arck designer interior, it’s unashamedly reflective surface saying ‘I will not be using this pistol in a place where my own safety is in question. I have men for that.’ The Heckler & Koch P7M13′s slim design is obviously reminiscent, and yet a deliberately yuppified, precision-engineered update of Walther PPK favoured by James Bond, the British gadabout made famous in a series of films starring Roger Moore. Old Germany eclipsed by its silvered new self image. The plucky and, let’s be honest, lucky Brits put firmly back in their place by the winners of the peace. (Germany, or the Berlin-y bits I’ve seen of it anyway, is probably my favourite place on the planet by the way. Modernist architecture and lashings and lashing of socialism, everywhere.)
Anyway. Meet Karl, Hans’ top henchmensch. He’s the wild, blonder than blonde, troglodytic flipside balancing his boss’ urbane sophistication. Also, check out his gun.
This season Karl is sporting a Steyr Aug, one of the two signature firearms of the Eurobaddie movement. (The other being the Uzi 9mm, more on that in a minute). The Steyr is a beautiful and beguiling weapon. Check out those curves – Karl karnt keep his hands off them. Via the encoded ‘femininity’ of its space-age design, that by manhandling and manipulating it into a machine of death, this rifle symbolises a triumph over womankind that is at once both graceful and nakedly aggressive. You prove what a man you are by carrying a girl’s gun, in other words.
That logic might be somewhat immature, but consider this: The trigger mechanism of the Steyr was innovative at the time for its unique pulling mechanism: a light touch on the trigger would fire a single semi-automatic round. Pullng hard on the trigger and holding it down would switch it to fully automatic, firing a jet of hot, leaden, sexy etc murder. This model was clearly based on the way that schoolboys have been pretending to play with guns since the invention of gunpowder. Maybe guns are just for kids. Maybe grown ups who play with guns are wrong in the head.
Not this gun of course. This gun is just cool, and has been ever since an Austrian Eurobaddie gargled its name in a film in ’84. Forget the fact that it runs out of bullets about a second after you pull the trigger. Forget the fact you can’t aim with it because of the silly short muzzle. Just look at it.
It’s basically the gun equivalent of having large shoulder pads in your designer Italian suit-jacket. It is weaponry as art and as status-symbol. They even make a mini version, so you can carry it around in your manbag, like on of those Paris Hilton dogs. What could be more decadent, more wrong, more European? The lines, the angles, the slick black slickness of it. These guys know what’s up:
Look, if you’re trying to be a Eurobaddie, and you don’t have an Uzi, and your garden doesn’t look like that, just forget about it.
Above image included because it’s kinda High Art in its uselessness in showing you either the gun or the baddie, but check the casual vulgarity of the architecture. This passes for good taste in the criminal classes. Vulgarity and high art are both very Eurobaddie things.
Kind of running out of steam with this now. Better stop.
(PS When out in the field you’ll probably quickly notice there’s also Eastern Eurobaddies now, a more aggressive – they will target a policeman’s family as a matter of course, which is just dashed unfair – and hence dominant strain than their shite-soft mediterranean cousins. Eastern Eurobaddies are bald and gay-clone looking and have one accent covering the thousands upon thousands of square miles of territory they might putatively originate from. Most eurobaddies in the 21st century can be found in southeast Asia, making dozens and dozens of microbudget Seagal and Van Damme flicks.)
(PS Eurobaddies are only in the films, they’re not real. Excpet Val Kilmer, he’s real. And not very good looking any more.