26 January 2006

Go ahead, make my day

Googling on "Dirty" Harry Callahan's immortal words "go ahead, make my day," I stumbled across a witty and interesting law school paper using the phrase as an example.
The assailant could complete performance, and thus manifest his acceptance of the offer, by continuing to threaten the hostage and risking Callahan’s violent response. This did not happen. Nor is this an example of acceptance by silence. Although the man gave no verbal response, by putting his gun down it effectively established he did not presume to discover what might have made Callahan’s day. As there was no acceptance, no contract was formed.
I hadn't seen Sudden Impact in some time. It turns out that Lt. Callahan was implying that he hoped that a robber would shoot a hostage, thereby giving Callahan justification in shooting the robber.


Now let me say that Callahan's other famous line, from Dirty Harry, doesn't squick me in the same way. At the beginning of the movie, Callahan has just been in a shootout with a bunch of bank robbers and has a bead on the last one who has a gun within easy reach.

I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being as this is the .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and could blow your head clean off, you have to ask yourself one question, "Do I feel lucky?" Well, do you, punk?
The robber surrenders, but it turns out Callahan was bluffing. That kind of cool in the face of high stakes is an appealing fantasy. There's a part of me that yearns to be that kind of cool, even if it isn't a fantasy that I actually want to fulfill.

But the "make my day" isn't even appealing on a fantasy level. Callahan isn't even just shooting bad guys, or out-cooling them --- fantasies I can roll with. He's actively hoping that the bad guys make things worse so he has cause for further violent retribution. My fantasies don't look like that. But apparently some people's do.

1 comment:

Shataina said...

This reminds me of a book I read once, Men on Rape, in which there was one man talking about rape fantasies and, essentially, saying that his own were much better than most because he didn't actually fantasize about raping "nice girls" -- rather, he dreamt of raping women such as female Nazi concentration camp guards, as a kind of punishment.

Sometimes I think our cultural emphasis on violent vengeance has made us lose sight of the fact that there really are crimes that shouldn't be committed, and that even wanting violent vengeance can quickly turn into a dangerous kind of sickness. Like this.