Geoffrey Harpham in The Hill –
In a now-forgotten film, a satire of the action genre — a police detective (Arnold Schwarzenegger) indulges in a moment of reflection, asking himself, “To be or not to be?”
He immediately decides in favor of not-being, both reversing the typical action hero’s all-consuming drive to achieve his goal and drawing attention to an unacknowledged undercurrent of that drive — the desire to court one’s own extinction, not merely risking and defying death but seeking and embracing it.
Fittingly, the film is titled, “The Last Action Hero.”
Film audiences in 1993 may not have been ready for a hero who would choose not to be, but in recent years Hamlet’s appalling question — and Schwarzenegger’s appalling response — seem to have invaded social discourse, and even to have evolved into a political ideology.
How else to explain why so many of the millions of Americans who lack health insurance have voted for politicians who prevent them from getting it? How to account for the fact that skepticism about the global threat of climate change has become a partisan issue? Closer to home, how can one explain the politics of COVID-19 denial?