In this one-man show, Chris recounts how movies have shaped his life,
I’m eight years old and I’m in my living room at Wantirna South - centre of the known universe. Well, my universe. Dad and mum have split by this time and I’m living with dad. But he’s not home now. It’s just me and Brad - who’s 13.
Dad was kind of liberal on what my brother was watching at the time but I’m not sure he would have approved of him watching a movie like this. And he certainly wouldn’t have approved of me watching it.
I’m not sure how Brad got his hands on it. Maybe somehow he was able to hire it at the video store or maybe he convinced Dad to hire it: “It’s not that violent”
So when Dad was out my brother popped it in our ancient VCR.
My bother was very independent. He had a great intelligence and initiative to start things up from nothing. Any sort of hunger he felt - he found a way to feed. Any thing he felt he had to do or could do - he would. Usually just for the experience of it – to grow from it. And because I hung around him a lot I shared in those experiences.
He had weird kind of enjoyment about sharing his mischief with me. I was the guinea pig for experimentation – with power, rebellion, corruption – you know… big brother stuff.
But this was more about him than me. In those days it was just Brad, Dad and me. It was a very masculine charged house – and my brother quite literally was wanting to become a man.
And an important part of becoming a man it seemed was watching Robocop. This was self initiation for my brother and I was along for the ride.
Prior to this I did have an understanding of violence. Controlled violence, in the form of combat – I’d been doing karate since I was seven.
But this was graphic, unbridled, celebratory violence – an eight year old boy should never watch a movie like that.
Detroit - in the future. Crime spreading through the city. The people need a saviour, a god like kick up the butt – so technology or OCP intervenes and creates a supercop. And then people start getting killed – in gorier and gorier ways.
Blood, explosions, bullets, death, blood, murder, injury, human bodies ripped limb from limb, blood, blood, blood. Pretty tough stuff for eight year old eyes. At the start of the movie Murphy, before he becomes Robocop,is showered with bullets.
As a kid I can’t stop looking cause it’s so surreal. Decimating everything I understood to this point about goodies and baddies, right and wrong, life and death.
I thought humans were quite fragile. That’s what other movies had taught me. If I ever got a punch in the face from a cowboy “Look out, I might die.”
But then I see 100 million bullets going into this guy. I see the violence that one human can administer on another human. I see what really bad sh#t can happen to you in this world. And then he gets up and walks away. As a Robot maybe – but he was still alive.
For an eight year old kid - it set a benchmark on how much violence can be produced by human beings. I realised the atrocities this world and its inhabitants can commit.
Also I now had the power to imagine myself committing that kind of atrocity. Or worse still - someone committing that kind of atrocity on me.
Violence had entered my consciousness and the possibility of those kind of acts was now alive and well in this eight year old’s mind.
My world perception had changed. It was the end of innocence. The first steps along the path to growing up. If growing up was something I still wanted to do. But something sustained me, got me through the 100 minutes or so of non-stop gore. The film did have one greatly redeeming quality. It was cool.
A man turning into a robot and kicking baddies arses. This to an eight year old boy was ultra cool – because you could pretend you were Robocop – maiming, dismembering, butchering - and still feel like you were doing the right thing. Robocop still had a heart, had memories or at least emotional recall – he still had his human side but when it came to the crunch, the bullets just bounced off him.
He was a legitimate superhero that you could pretend to be - half machine, half human. You could kick baddies arses and you were indestructible.
And in the tradition of all great action flicks of the 80s he was witty and creative in the way he despatched the villains and often with a super cool one liners:
“Looking for me ?”
Young boys play with lego and transformers. They want to find a bit of an edge towards their own failings that they instinctively recognise as part of being human. They get grass burns, fall over on asphalt – they bleed, they hurt. In a little kids’ way he wants to toughen himself up –and who was the toughest of all - Robocop.
If there was a Robocop action suit I would’ve bought it – the helmet, the metal plated thigh with hidden gun compartment. Plus you got bragging rights at school – “I saw Robocop”.
But deep down something had changed. Somewhere inside me a gash had been carved and the real world was flooding in.
I’d had my first taste of pornography. The pornography of violence. It would be nearly ten years later before I would experience the other variety.
More about this monologue