… but can't even beat back his trousersnake when it starts rattling up on live television.
We turn to our action stars for an escape. These big, beefy, badasses are supposed to be vessels for us to hop inside of like some cinematic MECH robot, there to give us the feeling of throwing a pipe through a man's chainmail vest or firing perfect shots from a vehicle going at a hundred miles per hour. Their job is to take us into these moments and make us feel like we could be achieving the same levels of accuracy, pain tolerance, and quippy one-liner timing even though the situation in no way calls for shit-talking if you're a moderately sane individual.
But then, you learn some stories along the way about the actors playing these characters that torpedo your ability to put yourself in these movies. True stories that take you from piloting your own Hollywood action MECH to feeling like Jean-Claude Van Damme is a Hot Wheels car with you're pushing around on one broken wheel across a motel carpet. These are some of those times, where our most beloved action stars were anything but badass ...
Unwanted boners happen. That's just science. That thing can have a mind of its own. Sometimes, you're there kneeling before an open casket at a particularly tragic funeral, and that bastard just pops up like the Undertaker, and there's nothing you can do about it. But you're not a badass action star. You're a guy at a funeral weirdly getting hard in front of a corpse. What makes Jean-Claude Van Damme's now-legendary boner on a strange European dance show so fantastic are the moves that preceded it.
He is, in a word, a confusing dancer. Van Damme has somewhat of a legacy of dancing in his films and outside of them, and it's not necessarily because he's a virtuoso in the art. It's more that he is a complete individual, with moves that nobody else on this planet has ... because nobody else steps onto the dance floor with 10 pounds of crickets falling out of their asshole and down their pant legs like his twitchy, gyrating moves seem to be the product of. I'd like to think that Van Damme's accidental boner had nothing to do with the lady he was grinding on but instead was because he was picturing his own dancing, how cool he thought he looked, getting so turned on by himself and his anal cricket flood dance that he just couldn't contain himself.
To Van Damme's credit, he plays it off pretty well. By the end, he's having a laugh and covering up while the host just cracks up while pointing at his dick. It's all the kind of television you would never find here, but somehow it's on before you've had your morning coffee anywhere in Europe. Boners are undeniably plenty badass. But proper boner control is even more badass. It's hard for me to believe that this guy can punch a rattlesnake out on film …
… but can't even beat back his trousersnake when it starts rattling up on live television.
Most people know Chuck Norris strictly through the now-insufferable Chuck Norris jokes that were something of a meme before we even had a word for such things. They, of course, painted him as a karate-kicking badass who could take on just about anything. Stand tall in the face of any challenge. Apparently, though, there is one thing that badass could just not overcome: homosexuality in the Boy Scouts. In 2012, Norris cut an interview with something called Ammoland. There he ranted about the Scouts not being a place for homosexuals and then proceeded to shit-talk the Obama-era policies which would enable such things.
There's a lot going on here, but it's most important to start with the idea that anything good could possibly come from giving an interview in something called Ammoland. You could be the most accepting, understanding, modern person with views that are unbelievably safe in today's culture, and something like Ammoland comes around, and you're suddenly the cover story, blustering out Holocaust denial theories and chemtrails.
But Norris doesn't get that kind of pass here; with a history of shitty behavior, Chuck just has lots of bad takes and views, and this was one of his worst. Imagine having so much useless time on your hands that you have any opinion at all about the Boy Scouts (other than, "No, I don't want your shitty popcorn; now go find a Girl Scout so I can get some thin mints.")? Outside of the lawsuits, grown-ass adults should not be sitting around wondering what's going on with the Boy Scouts and most certainly not give a shit what the sexual preference is of anyone affiliated with the group. I don't watch the latest John Wick movies to get distracted from murder mayhem when Wick goes off on a tirade about the dangers of gout in local Shriners communities.
Both thanks to the meme that helped keep him relevant well past his expiration date and the dogshit that comes out of his mouth, Chuck Norris is the old action star equivalent of the guy from your hometown that never quite grew up. While most of the other major names have at the very least had a few memorable roles after the steroids wore off, Chuck's lucky to be in a straight-to-DVD Christian karate movie where he grows angel wings to fly into heaven and kick Satan off of God's throne that 12 people in Nebraska will accidentally watch when the dog steps on their remote at the OnDemand cable screen.
Some action stars just don't pass the eye test for me. Arnold is huge, so it makes sense to go along with some of the beefcake shit his characters are doing. Despite being a pretty crap dude, Chuck Norris is also a legitimate karate expert, so his kicks look plenty believable. When it comes to Steven Seagal, I've just never been able to take that leap. I know he has a background in aikido, but he just doesn't ooze anything badass like that when on camera. He looks more like the kind of character who'd start a fight and then do that thing where they wait for a friend to hold them back before any punches are thrown. More than that, Seagal just looks like the type of dude who would report you to HR for keeping that second bag of chips that fell out of the vending machine for free. Which may possibly explain why he tagged along with pure human garbage, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, on a mission to bust a cockfighting ring that ended up in someone's house being destroyed by a tank and a puppy dead.
It's a classic example of how our country's police departments get off on excessive force. Did you just put your trash on the curb a day before pickup? Oh, forget that. The local PD is going down into their tax dollar bat cave to pull out every car from Twisted Metal 2 (but with sirens and black and white paint jobs because these are cops, these are the good guys) to come hose your house with rockets and bullets for that infraction. Oh, and also, they're getting a bloated, washed-up celebrity to do a ride-along for their reality TV show as well.
That's basically how it went down when Seagal signed up to help bust a cockfighting ring in Arizona, and police steamrolled the house, the cocks, and a puppy in the process. Naturally, Seagal claims that he, and the TV show he was filming out there, had nothing to do with the events going south, but just the fact that he was in this position alone is enough to make this list. No matter if he was simply getting craft services while the puppy got flattened in the treads of a tank or behind the wheel with little goggles on, he was present. He signed up for this in some capacity. I'm just happy it was Seagal that got roped up in this because I don't think my heart could take it if Kurt Russell was caught moonlighting as an ICE agent in his spare time.
One of the trademarks of a good action hero is their blatant disregard for their own lives in service of others. They put themselves into impossible situations, not caring if they die or get blown up or ripped apart, because they are so singularly-focused on the job at hand: protecting the greater good. One of the trademarks of a bad action actor is their blatant disregard for the lives of others in service of themselves. Bruce Willis made sure to put that on full display during a romp through Rite-Aid without a mask at the height of the pandemic in California.
Bruce just could not be bothered to so much as pull up the bandana that was already around his neck and was asked to leave the store. He is simply too much of a bad boy to go and try to protect the health and lives of others with that stupid piece of fabric. While the rest of us use Rite-Aid runs for one thing: picking up a bag of Tostitos and nacho cheese dip for dinner because we forgot to grocery shop, and we hate ourselves so much that we open the bag of chips in the car and place the nacho cheese in the cup holder to dip on our ride home while we cry into our laps, Bruce uses Rite-Aid as a place to show just how disconnected he is from the human experience.
I get it; Hollywood and stardom probably turns you into a piece of shit. The temptation to not be a piece of shit must be impossible with every single decision, offer, and person in your life is actively trying to point you towards the option that says, "Pull this lever to become a piece of shit. Like, you guys, THE BIGGEST PIECE OF SHIT. Just with one pull of a lever." But come on. Wearing a mask is the bare minimum you can do to signal that you have once again resisted the piece of shit lever for your day as a human being.
Action stars are supposed to keep us all alive by throwing a toaster through somebody's head, catching the slice of bread between their teeth on the way out, and telling the lifeless body that they're "toast." They're not supposed to kill five WWII vets picking up their vitamins because they're too lazy and conceited to put on a mask.
It's not just the action stars of yesteryear that can dabble in the bullshit; there's plenty of room for today's heroes to join in on the fun. Nobody jumped in with more vigor than Hawkeye himself, Jeremy Renner. Renner decided that his superfans needed a place to celebrate and discuss all things Jeremy Renner, so he created the Jeremy Renner app. Designed to be a safe space for the kinds of lunatics that are so enamored with a sole actor that they would download an app dedicated to that sole actor to communicate with and about that sole actor with lunatic fans and the actor who is quite clearly a lunatic themselves, the Jeremy Renner app was clearly a bulletproof idea on concept alone.
The issue then, like most things online, became when trolls caught wind of the app. But, in one of those rare instances when trolls play the joke perfectly, they mostly just got on there and impersonated Renner or other famous people to simply get under his skin and have a laugh or two. Renner was not laughing along. Though he tried to fight back and silence the trolls, it was far too overwhelming and eventually led to the app being shut down.
I like to picture that Renner gave it a real go before resorting to this. Going into some mid-90s movie representation of a hacker's setup as he fought the online fight against these trolls, getting into every last mainframe that he could before they simply were too much to handle. Doing everything possible to save the Jeremy Renner app and preserve it as this utopia for fans of Marvel's most inconsequential hero that doesn't even have a distinguishable power and an actor that doesn't have a distinguishable feature, but alas, it was not to be.
They will simply have to wait until he rips the covers off of his programmer room in his basement, blows the dust off of his desktop computer, and sits down to start coding the Jeremy Renner neural chip, where you can have it implanted into your brain to get a video feed of everything that Renner is up to that day and finally watch Hawkeye struggle through his monthly bout of explosive diarrhea like the rest of us.
Top image: Bakounine, Markus Wissmann/Shutterstock