Saturday, January 23, 2010
Steven Seagal is a line graph, an image disseminated not only through the wet dreams of statisticians, but also through the pulse of television. The graph consists of two lines, both ascending, cast against a backdrop of his defeated enemies. Visually represented are the innumerable victories Seagal renders real in a season of Steven Seagal: Lawman. Halted outbreaks of evil plotted here and there; hints of profanation decimated along the X axis; a beast missing eyes, stomped supine by the boot of justice. All this lathers an otherwise vacuous system of cells with shimmering content and a reason to keep on looking.A talent for waging dual wars spins two lines into the web of vertices and dots, two simultaneous campaigns captured by a graphically-intense suction, each line powered by a force labelled Seagal. One signals an ongoing mission, a mandated drive to prevent societal cataclysm; it purges the young and old of vice, eradicating a virus set to kill all that is moral and right. The other signals a need to shoot big rats.The skill involved in balancing two such wars is rarely endowed upon a human. Seagal, however, has no difficulty maintaining two distinct fronts of attack. He battles one, he battles the other, united in a single instant of time. Of course we can only experience one of these at a time, hence Seagal’s staggered exhibition, his insistence upon unfolding the acts of each across an episode of Lawman. Seagal is always two lines etched on a line graph. This is only a metaphor, but metaphor is our only recourse, our sole route to comprehending the phenomenon of timelessness in which Seagal flutters.One crusade has a band of hardened warriors stripping society of liquor-fuelled ills. A Friday night, damp miasmic dimension of revelry, suffocating in its raw stench of alcohol. Pavements are made slippery by the wash of vomit; quietude is shattered by the screams of grannies. A wasteland yields loutish satyrs, a parading troupe seeking lager highs amidst a cacophony of echoing rap beats. Battered miscreants hide behind half empty whiskey bottles, scattering when hit by the beam of a flashlight. A dirty scene straight out of pulp dystopia.Charged with quelling this turpitudinous Friday excess is Seagal and his warriors. They admonish drunk drivers, kick vodka from the hands of the obnoxious, punch sober impoverished bench-kippers. Society’s brutalised alcoholics, slaves to the paroxysm of immoderate alcohol abuse, are dealt a heavy dose of judgemental advice and urged to reduce their beer drinking. Yet Seagal’s righteousness is justified. Whilst in Japan, he learned to relax through meditation, not intoxication. Alcohol clouds the mind and inhibits one’s ability to kick ass. Seagal can administer his wise Zen words of reproof by dint of his alcohol-free head, a cloudless mind that sees danger flood the dry pastures of the parish every Friday night.The other crusade sees a separate spread of rodents fought against. This time the rodents are not the figurative nonsense of hitherto, but real rodents. The bothersome bastards are eating away the banks of our rivers and the ground upon which we build our homes. These sinister fiends, these nutria, are wrecking livelihoods and erecting dens all over the city. Someone must tackle the problem and quickly. Enter Seagal. At last we will get a glimpse of how Seagal squeezes the world free of pests like the nutria. But no: exit Seagal. A zany ethical trance usurps Seagal’s good sense and he recedes into the background. Enter the local SWAT team. They and some of Seagal’s colleagues enjoy a mad time shooting rodents and swigging jars of ale. Meanwhile, Seagal sits with the SWAT boss discussing humane alternatives to the mass slaughter going on elsewhere. That no grand plans are devised is quite obvious when we see the episode end with Seagal thrusting a nutria corpse into the jaws of an alligator. Circle of life and all that.