Has anyone ever thought what it was like to be married to a man like John McClane? Well… Marriage, like most things, has at least two ways of looking at it. And I’m sure as hell no-one has even bothered to listen to Holly’s side of things.
With the newest installment of the “Die Hard” series, came a poop storm of reviews. I should know, I shared my two cents on what I think of diluting and desecrating the best action movie ever made by over-extending it into a pointless franchise. I don’t want to reiterate here, how destructive to the series was endowing its protagonist with superhuman powers, so a shocking rotten tomatoes score of 16% is almost self-explanatory here.
However, some time ago whilst sitting at work on a Friday afternoon and contemplating the notion of moving certain responsibilities for the following Monday, a thought lit up inside my head. That thought instigated some sort of a mild schizophrenic episode on my part wherein I had a conversation with myself on the subject of ‘why Die Hard ended up being a pathetic excuse for what it used to be’. Apart from the obvious ‘money, money, money’ reason, I dare say herein, in the geekiest manner possible, that John McClane has brought it on himself and from a point of view of character development it was simply inevitable.
In order to provide evidence for such bold claims of mine (yeah, I know – nobody cares, what I’m doing here is pointless) I gleefully proceeded to re-watch the original “Die Hard”… and the sequel… and the third one… and even the fourth one, even though it was a bit of a struggle, and after a bit of consideration I have to say that the key to understanding the inevitability of Die Hard’s demise is John McClane’s wife – Holly Gennero.
Interesting piece of trivia – I think nobody knows how to spell Holly’s name properly – even the guys that made the first Die Hard. Bonnie Bedelia (the actress portraying her) was credited as ‘Gennaro’ at the end of the film; however the name on her office door said ‘Gennero’. The computer touchscreen in the lobby of the Nakatomi Plaza didn’t really clarify anything because it showed ‘Gennaro’ at first, which changed into ‘Gennero’ upon being touched by John. Plus, Holly’s driving licence that the baddie in the fourth Die Hard had on his screen showed ‘Gennero’ yet again. There.
Right, to cut a long story short, Holly and John were not exactly your textbook couple. John – a devoted police officer whose Irish-blood-pumping heart was too big for his own good, and Holly – an overly ambitious lady hell-bent on proving everyone (herself included) that she could accomplish anything, even at the expense of her relationship and children. That’s how it looks at first glance, doesn’t it? John’s the guy who follows his workaholic wife to LA and makes sacrifices for her, rescues her time and again from the grips of death and in the end she still gives him the finger and leaves him. Not only that, she also uses their children and puts them against their own father (which is a big no-no when you are a parent, right?), so that poor John was left alone, divorced, unable to connect with his children, on the verge of alcoholism, cynical and depressed. Wrong.
What if I told you that we’ve been led astray by the film makers who wanted us to believe this pathetic story of a good guy that always found himself in a wrong place at a wrong time? What if it was not the trouble that found McClane, but it was McClane who looked for trouble and his wife was the first who noticed it and decided to make a run for it?
Let’s back up all the way to 1987. Holly just about took a highly powerful executive job in Nakatomi Corporation and had to relocate from NY to LA. She took her kids with her and pretty much left her hubbie to his own devices. What could possibly be the reason for it? Surely, she couldn’t just pack up and leave the father of her children without a valid reason, otherwise it would make her look like a mean little ice queen. If you read between the lines you’d notice that John was far from a perfect husband. He sure looked like a lovable nice fella, a cliché cop carrying his family photos around with him, but he did have a dark side, which Holly did imply in her conversations with John. These would point towards John being a very strong figure in their relationship, too strong even. What if John McClane was abusive and controlling and Holly was just not having it after so many years? Is that at all possible? I’d say – very.
In my opinion, John McClane was a violent and controlling husband who tried at all cost to tie down his wife to a role of a child-bearing housewife, because it was the only way he knew how to form and run a family. That kind of ‘macho’ attitude could not have simply grown on him, so it was most likely inherited from his own father. Anyway, John grew up to be a father and a husband you are not allowed to say ‘no’ to and obedience is the only way to survive in a relationship with him. Therefore, Holly – being a smart woman – decided she would not spend the rest of her life in shackles, so she got up and left. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if her landing a job on the other side of the country was planned from the get-go.
I would even go a step further than that. I dare say that John McClane’s dictatorial way of life was not confined to the family, but it spilled over to his job. The way he spoke to high-ranking police officers outside Nakatomi, or the way he spoke of his own superiors back in NY is the best evidence for it. In short, already then John McClane was a character that always knew best, did not respond to authority and took pleasure from being in charge. But that was only the beginning…
Even though the traumatic events at Nakatomi Plaza made him understand that his family could not be handled in an authoritative manner, things have gotten way worse in “Die Harder”. Although we saw John make amends to his wife – after all, he made the sacrifice of moving to LA with her in order to let her fulfil her professional dreams whilst saving their marriage – I think John’s sudden emergence as a national hero only hardened his belief that he was always right and that he was always surrounded by idiots.
I’m sorry, but there’s no other explanation for that, than an early onset of god complex and the events at Dulles Airport are a testament to that claim. The guy walked into an airport, parked illegally, had a problem with his car being towed, demanded his parking ticket to be voided, violated security protocol by forcing a janitor to let him into the restricted area, engaged in a gunfight, shot and killed two people, disrupted the departure service and topped it all off with calling the police incompetent (all in 20 minutes). However right he might have been, he was still out of place, but he was having none of it. Seriously, how do you argue with a guy who barges into your place of work, takes orders only from himself, brings an entire airport to a standstill, calls you an idiot and acts like he owns the place? You can’t. And how would you call a person like that? I think ‘an asshole’ would be an appropriate definition.
The question remains: would you want to have anything to do with a guy like that? I sure wouldn’t I think John McClane grew so confident that the only thing he needed to be Superman was a red cape that it became near impossible to live with him. As a result, his authoritarian character eventually spilled back into his family. He was just a mess, because in the end, everyone around him grew tired of it. Holly finally said that enough was enough and moved out, John moved back to New York (or maybe he was forced to leave, because no-one wanted to work with him) and his marriage slowly dissolved. Then, “Die Hard 3” happened.
John – a full-blown alcoholic still living in denial of his shortcomings – got involved in a game orchestrated with a sole purpose of making him the center of the world. As much as I admire the poetic justice, the timing could not have been worse, because by the time Simon bit the dust, John was certain he was in fact the center of the universe. After all, he saved the day – again – and he was the only person who could do it. Without him none of it would have worked. Without him people would have died. He was not only a hero – he was a messiah.
And that was the end of Die Hard. The minute John McClane realized that nothing and no-one could stop him, there was no turning back and the series was headed for disaster. He ceased to be the every-man caught with his pants down, but he became a superhero. From that point onward, he genuinely believed that any crisis demanded his attention. Otherwise, he would have just delivered Matt Farrell to the authorities as promised and gone about his day (in Die Hard 4). He wouldn’t also have gone to Russia with a sole purpose of stirring up trouble. Normal people would probably go through diplomatic channels, but not John. He knows best, he doesn’t trust anyone; therefore it is imperative for him to take matters into his own hands.
The saddest part of it all is that his messiah complex is most likely going to spread onto Lucy and John Jr. – his children – and if no-one intervenes they will follow suit down the path of self-destruction. They will never be able to form normal families and will surely develop the same arrogant attitude towards everyone and everything. Hence, I cannot anticipate anything good coming out of continuing the Die Hard saga. If anything, someone else will join the club of ‘The Victims of the McClane clan’. We’ve got Holly, we’ve got Matt Farrell. Who else will become prey of this dysfunctional family?