Arnold Essay, Research Paper
Biograhy of Arnold Schwarzenegger
His gap-toothed grin is one of the most recognized in the United
States and the world. Broad shoulders on top of an abnormally muscular
torso with legs of steel are also trademarks of the man. For most people,
the sight of his bulging biceps wielding ridiculously large arsenal of
weapons is not an uncommon phenomenon. The strange, thick accent that
escapes his lips does not seem ludicrous anymore. Labeled as king of
mayhem and mass destruction, he proclaims to the world he has a sense of
humor. He backs up his word with an image-shattering vehicle that
automatically thrusts him to the top of the comedy A-list. Arnold
Schwarzenegger is, arguably, the number one American Icon and movie box
office draw not only in America, but in the entire world; although he
represents different concepts to different people, the result is usually
the same, staggering box office receipts. The violence of his films speak
a universal language, ensuring that international markets are ripe
prospects. His identification with young children, politics,
bodybuilding/fitness enthusiasts, hollywood, and most importantly, an
inseparable bond with the American Dream make a superstar of the man who is
Born in the tiny village of Thal-By-Graz , Austria, young Arnold
Schwarzenegger did not seem destined for grandeur. “In the beginning
Arnold seemed an unlikely figure to become a cultural icon” (Flynn 10).
Living in poor, medieval-like conditions, Schwarzenegger was raised
alongside his older brother Meinhard in a strict, Catholic household. His
father, a police chief, often put his two sons through rigorous physical
tests, as well as mental. Schwarzenegger credits these tests and his
father’s strictness as a contribution to his strong self-discipline. As a
child, Schwarzenegger often spent many hours in a movie theater watching
Hercules films portrayed by various bodybuilders such as Reg Park and Steve
Reeves. An encounter with former Olympic Swimmer and Hollywood star,
Johnny Weissmuller left a deep impression on young Arnold. It would seem
that years later, Arnold patterned his career path after Weissmuller’s.
During his youth, Schwarzenegger was active in soccer, but he soon
abandoned the sport to pursue bodybuilding, due to a random run-in with a
weight room. “When I saw those animals climbing around?doing 20 chin-ups?
and squatting 200 kilos [440 pounds]?snatching up 315?it outweighed by far
everything that I’d seen on the soccer field” (Shaw 142). Schwarzenegger’s
infatuation with America further cemented his resolve. “?it was a very
American sport, and I thought, ‘If I do well, it could take me to America’”
(Hoberman 23). He has gone as far as to say that American was always his
true country. “I always felt I had an American mentality. I was born in
the wrong country” (Flynn 20). His family and friends urged him to give up
a sport which they deemed perverted and narcissistic. Their opposition
made no difference, however, as Schwarzenegger pursued the sport with a
vengeance. After collecting an impressive stack of bodybuilding magazines,
he soon littered his wall with images of bodybuilders h e wanted to emulate.
“Within a year, I had a very clear vision of where I wanted to go?I began
to work out, and from that moment on, my goals were clear!” (Flynn 18).
Bodybuilding became an obsession to Schwarzenegger. He worked out seven
days a week, at least three hours per day. When his parents tried to
restrict his workouts to three days per week, a rebellious Schwarzenegger
made a crude gym in his basement and worked out there. The gym in which
Schwarzenegger trained in was open only six days a week. One Sunday, the
owner came by to check the gym and discovered that a window had been broken
into. Inside, he found Arnold working out in a mad fury. Various sources
state that at this time, when he was a young teenager, Schwarzenegger
started to use anabolic steroids to supplement his intense training
schedule (Walsh 63). He continued to use them throughout his professional
bodybuilding career but claims that he suffers no side-effects because he
was always under the supervision of a doctor.
At age eighteen, a 200 pound plus Schwarzenegger enlisted in the
Austrian Army for his mandatory one-year service. Unfortunately, it was at
this time that the Junior Mr. Europe Bodybuilding Contest took place.
Schwarzenegger received an invitation to compete and did so by going AWOL
(Absent WithOut Leave). After winning the contest, he was caught sneaking
back into base. Schwarzenegger was released after serving some time in the
stockade, and, ironically, praised by his officers for winning the contest.
In fact, the military had him work out all day for the rest of his service
so that he could represent the military as a bodybuilder. With his time in
the Army complete, Schwarzenegger went on to win a string of titles in
Europe, including the Mr. Universe, and eventually settled in Munich,
Germany. However, Schwarzenegger looked overseas and saw America and it’s
superior bodybuilders. “While I was battling for titles in Europe, I was
very much aware of the competitions in the United States.I n the 1960s
there were two distinct worlds in bodybuilding: Europe and America. My
Universe titles in ‘67 and ‘68 established me as the preeminent bodybuilder
in Europe?but the question still remained as to how well I would do against
the American champions” (Schwarzenegger 48).
Schwarzenegger eventually immigrated and settled in Santa Monica,
California, to pursue bodybuilding in America. From 1970 to 1975,
Schwarzenegger reigned as the king of Bodybuilding, winning the Mr. Olympia
titles an unprecedented six consecutive times, and once more in 1980.
After “retiring” from bodybuilding in 1975, Schwarzenegger focused his
energies in other endeavors, specifically, real estate investment, and a
film career. Schwarzenegger’s first film, Hercules In New York (a.k.a.
Hercules Goes Bannanas) was a made-for -Italian-television spoof that
eventually made its way to America. The low quality of the film did not
help Schwarzenegger’s movie career. However, Schwarzenegger’s stock value
skyrocketed with the documentary Pumping Iron, a film which follows various
bodybuilders, including Schwarzenegger, on their quests for the Mr.
Universe and Mr. Olympia titles. “The success?gave my career a big boost
and helped bodybuilding find its way?” (Schwarzenegger 61). This led to a
leadi ng role in Stay Hungry, a film in which he portrays a Mr. Universe
contender who is involved in a love triangle between himself, his
girlfriend (Sally Field), and a investor (Jeff Bridges). Many critics were
impressed with Schwarzenegger’s performance and he received a Golden Globe
award for Most Promising Male Newcomer. He went on to make several
blockbusters such as Conan The Barbarian, The Terminator, Commando,
Predator, The Running Man, Total Recall, and Terminator 2. “He
[Schwarzenegger]?has both outlived and outgrown his image of a cult
celebrity of the bodybuilding craze and has attained a level of
respectability as Hollywood’s biggest star” (Flynn 13). This
accomplishment is made more remarkable by way of the fact that
Schwarzenegger was born in a foreign country, he never changed his name,
and he originated from an obscure professional background (Bodybuilding).
Although Schwarzenegger is a born Austrian, speaks with a German
accent, has an almost unpronounceable last name, and is freakishly large,
he is accepted as a part of American Culture, and looked upon as an
American Icon. “While generations of would-be movie stars were compelled
to Anglicise their names, this one sports the least pronounceable, most
problematic moniker ever to emblazon an American movie marquee” (Hoberman
24). Despite Schwarzenegger’s resolve to leave his name unchanged, he goes
on to embody the American Spirit. “?Arnold has willed the return of the
American Dream” (Hoberman 24). Arnold Schwarzenegger came to The United
States with only a gym bag, and single-handedly worked his way to fame and
fortune. Arnold is a perfect example of the American Dream realized.
Perhaps his struggle is the reason that Schwarzenegger appeals to the world.
The symbolic representation of the American Dream is a powerful force. “?
Time’s?Richard Corliss called him ‘the most potent symbol of worldwide
dominance of the US entertainment industry’” (Hoberman 24). People see
Schwarzenegger as an American Icon because he achieved the American Dream,
thus making him an American in both body and spirit. “Arnold has achieved
what many fantasize but few often realize-the riches of the American dream”
(Flynn 10). Only by paying the price in the gym and studying hard at
schools such as UCLA and the University of Wisconsin, did he rise above the
many obstacles in his path. “By embracing the traditional values of hard
work, perseverance, and adaptability-the very cornerstones that America was
built upon-Arnold has achieved a much deserved place in our popular
culture” (Flynn 16). Interestingly, Schwarzenegger claims that he feels
that he is a born American. He says he “felt deep down inside of me that I
was an American” (Shaw 142). Other countries look at America and see
Schwarzenegger as the embodiment of the United States, making
Schwarzenegger an internationally-appealing star. “He [Schwarzenegger] is
the most bankable star in the US, Germany, and Japan” (Hoberman 22).
Additionally, Schwarzenegger’s films appeal over international waters
because of their violent content. “?he has become such a huge box-office
star abroad primarily because action is understandable everywhere?Everyone
gets Arnold. If he hits somebody, they fall down. If he shoots them, they
die” (Shaw 149). Even young children are familiar with Schwarzenegger’s
films, despite the usual ‘R’ ratings that are associated with his movies.
While filming Kindergarten Cop, Schwarzenegger thought that the children
would generally be ignorant of his status, but they proved otherwise. “I
was in a state of shock. Ivan would ask the kids, ‘Does anyone know who
this is?’ And they would all go, ‘Yeah! Predator! Terminator! Twins!
He’s Danny DeVito’s twin brother! What happened to your twin brother?’”
(Flynn 176). Again, Schwarzenegger’s appeal oversteps boundaries such as
race and age.
Schwarzenegger is portrayed in several different manners during his
career, he is shown as a freakish, dumb, muscle-head, a macho gun-wielding
hero, a relentless killing machine, a good-hearted, na?ve Samaritan, and so
on. As a bodybuilder, many people did not take Schwarzenegger seriously.
“?many Hollywood producers had dismissed him as a muscle-bound freak?”
(Flynn 22). George Butler, the maker of Pumping Iron, recalled that
Schwarzenegger was often the subject of ridicule due to his unusual body
composition. “It was particularly hard for Arnold because he was treated
as a complete freak?he had a physique that people were repulsed by?if I was
sitting opposite him at a restaurant, I could see people at the tables
behind laughing at him. Of course he noticed it, but he was never
impolite” (Flynn 34). Probably most recognized as a heroic figure,
Schwarzenegger is the physical manifestation of the modern-day Hercules. “?
Schwarzenegger has come to represent the image of a hero for the eighties
and nineties” (Flynn 13). However, the most important portrayal of
Schwarzenegger is his comedic personality. This portrayal is what sets him
apart from other action stars (Stallone, Van Damme, Segal, etc.). “Even in
his most brutal action films, it’s his sense of humor that distinguishes
him from Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris and other denizens of the death
and destruction genre” (Shaw 146). The huge success of the comedy vehicles
Twins, and Kindergarten Cop showed the world that Arnold was not a one-
dimensional killer, but a misunderstood brute with a heart. In other words,
they showed that he had a healthy sense of humor. The two comedies
expanded his audience to include young children, and the family in general.
Today, Schwarzenegger acknowledges that he has two particular audiences,
the action-hungry audience, and the family audience. In turn, he now
rotates his film schedule by alternating action films with lighter comedies
The many representations that are a part of Schwarzenegger an
integral part of the reason why he is so extremely popular among the masses.
To the common layman, he is the Hollywood movie star, an object of
entertainment. To bodybuilders around the world, Schwarzenegger represents
the ultimate bodybuilding ideal, a man who has conquered bodybuilding with
an incredible physique and has advanced to other more prestigious areas.
To a lesser degree, fitness enthusiasts see him as an figurehead, leading
them to the promised land of washboard abs and firm buttocks. In 1990,
Schwarzenegger was named Chairman of the President’s Council On Physical
Fitness and Sports ( Stoddard 43). Strategically, this is a masterful
move on Schwarzenegger’s part in regards to increasing his appeal among the
people. Physical fitness and sports are universal concepts that everyone
can identify with and almost no one can oppose. Choosing such a non-
controversial concept and associating his name with it is guarantees an
increase in popularity. In terms of politics, Schwarzenegger is a unique
individual, having ties to both the Republicans and Democrats. A staunch
supporter of the Republican party and its causes, yet pledging loyalty to
the Democrats via his relationship with his wife, Maria Shriver of the
infamous Kennedy Clan. In addition, Republicans look to Schwarzenegger as
a potential political candidate for office. “During? 1988?Schwarzenegger
was nicknamed, ‘Conan the Republican’?Both the New York Daily News and the
Chicago Sun-Times have run articles suggesting that Arnold’s destiny lies
in politics, possibly as governor?of California” (Flynn 25).
Schwarzenegger is also actively involved in real estate development. The
most notable of his investments lies in the Planet Hollywood franchise
which he co-owns with Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis. The franchise
is world-wide, with locations in Paris, France and Tokyo, Japan, ensuring
that Schwarzenegger’s fans around the world will not be left out.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is recognized universally because he is an
Icon that appeals to everyone through the various aspects of his
personality and image. The proof of his appeal lies in the impressive
numbers that follow his name. “Since the 1980s, his films have grossed
more than $1.5 billion world wide” (Shaw 149). Schwarzenegger has
successfully conquered Hollywood and, in a sense, the world. The vast
majority of the consumers do not seem to mind his faults any longer. “?
most ticket buyers have simply accepted the worldwide stardom of Arnold
Schwarzenegger as such an inevitable part of our popular culture?” (Flynn
10). Americans have accepted him into their culture as one of their own.
Each viewer may see Schwarzenegger a different way, as a different
representation, but they all see him as a star. In the end, the name
Schwarzenegger sounds American.
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