Steven Seagal: Man, Myth, Lunatic

If Steven Seagal were as good at fighting as he is at being physically incapable of backing up even 1 percent of his claims, we would all be wearing the illustrious Lord Seagal's mandatory plus-size kimonos. Thankfully, he's dragged his legendary reputation of being an arrogant jerk out of America -- probably for good, since it wasn't so long ago that he was granted Russian citizenship by Vladimir Putin himself, which means Phase 2 of Putin's master plan to destroy the United States is well underway. Now Seagal can only gripe about kneeling football players and get into weird spats with elderly boxers turned grilling moguls from the safety of the Russian wastes. The feet he's stomped into fictional criminals to nourish the rich soils of patriotism will instead spout flowers beneath each step he takes on the snowy streets of Moscow.

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The man with the fighting style of a convulsing marionette trying to brush cracker crumbs off the face of a second convulsing marionette will be missed stateside, but thanks to humanity's enduring fascination with the opinions of irrelevant people, the near-constant lies he's been telling about himself since he got famous in the late 1980s will never go away. These lies run so deep that they can be found at the very root of Seagal's identity.

At first glance, I couldn't tell you Seagal's ethnicity, but he looks like the kind of guy who's been banned from a local Denny's. He claims to be Italian, when the only Italian in him are the flecks of salami clinging to his goatee. He also has a history of telling people he's Asian. I bet whenever he wants to give friends a sampling of his traditional culture, he takes them to Panda Express, since he's basically a living version of Panda Express' disdain for the food they serve.

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Seagal is neither Italian nor Asian. His paternal grandparents were Russian Jews, and his mother was Irish with German, English, and Dutch ancestry. Though none of that can dissuade me from believing he's a sentient collection of novelty display knives with dragon handles. If he ever killed someone, I'm sure he'd flee to a Benihana thinking it gave him the same immunity as a Japanese Embassy.

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If you're feeling a little heartbroken that your hero would lie about who he is as a person, take heart in knowing that he also lies about how much of a creative genius he is. A Vanity Fair profile of Seagal includes a moment which proves that while he might be a conceited jerk, at least he's... no, no that's all it proved:

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One day an executive walked into Seagal's trailer and found Hollywood's reigning manly man ... Weeping. "Oh, I'm reading this script," Seagal explained, still misty. 'It's the most incredible script I've ever read.

"That's fantastic," the executive said, "Who wrote it?"

Seagal didn't miss a beat. "I did," he replied.

Some say that on quiet nights, when the Santa Ana winds are blowing through Southern California, you can still hear that executive's laugh. And if you listen closely, you can also hear his death rattle. Steven Seagal has never been in on the joke of Steven Seagal, the way Chuck Norris kind of is with his tepid embrace of Chuck Norris Facts. Seagal has that blend of self-delusion and pretension which renders introspection impossible. That explains why he once wrote a script about AIDS which led to him explaining to studio executives that AIDS was created by the CIA to "eradicate blacks and gays."

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More than anything, I want to read the script for Steven Seagal Slap-Fights AIDS. Knowing the formula for all his movies from his peak, there was probably an evil AIDS baron in a cowboy hat who gets a cut of the profits whenever the disease kills opponents of the Straight White American Male Agenda, so Seagal uses his martial arts skills to kill him with a shotgun before he can pour barrels of liquid AIDS into an inner-city water supply. Also, his partner and/or girlfriend was killed. Not by AIDS, though. Probably by a gun or something.

Speaking of which, for a supposed martial arts expert, Seagal spends most of his movies shooting people at point-blank range. That raises the question of whether or not he's actually good at martial arts. The internet tells me he has a number of black belts, so maybe he's good. I don't know. What do people who actually use their martial arts for a living think of him? Let's ask MMA legend Anderson Silva and his team of trainers as they make fun of Seagal's fighting style:

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Seagal has twice claimed to have taught UFC fighters the moves they used in victories, including the front kick Silva used to retain his middleweight title at UFC 126. He's reached the point where he's so physically useless he just watches people do stuff and claims he taught them that. He is America's (now Russia's) delusional lying grandpa, if grandpas were mostly known for refusing to shut up about aikido. His inability to back up his absurd claims were challenged the time he said he couldn't be choked out while in the presence of Gene Lebell, one of MMA's forefathers. So Lebell put Seagal in a rear naked choke hold. Seagal proceeded to pass out and supposedly poop himself. He's great at karate chops, is what I'm saying.

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Seagal spends most of the time desperately trying to convince people that he's so much cooler than his ponytail lets on. That's why in a 1988 interview with The Los Angeles Times, he just casually mentioned that in addition to teaching the best fighters in the world everything they know, he was also an adviser for several CIA field agents during his years in Japan. Because of course the star of Hard To Kill would be.

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"You can say that I became an adviser to several CIA agents in the field, and through my friends in the CIA, met many powerful people and did special works and special favors."

The CIA is not in the business of confirming or denying these kinds of things, but it's Steven Seagal, so they made an exception. What's the worst that could happen? He squints and sulks away into the void of his cavernous black button-ups? They called his claims "improbable," and his own wife at the time flat-out said he'd never had anything to do with the CIA. But none of that stopped him from claiming that his 1988 movie Above The Law, about rogue CIA agents, was partially autobiographical.

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By now, I have well established that every time Seagal speaks in public, he's testing people to see if they know what to do when a senile old man has wandered too far from his nursing home. But none of what I showed you so far is anywhere near as wonderful as an anecdote he casually dropped into a 2001 interview with PETA.

Seagal is a fabricator of hysterical lies, obviously. But more than that, he's an environmentalist and animal rights activist.

Interviewer: In your travels, have you had any special interactions with animals?

Seagal: I was in Japan and I had my own dojo, or school, there. I was having some difficulties with a group of lawless individuals -- there was this big conflict. I remember I was sitting out in front of my dojo and I saw this white dog who just walked right up to me as if he had known me forever. I petted him and fed him. He stayed with me for a few days. On about the third day, he woke me up with really intense barking at about four in the morning. I noticed that my dojo was on fire. I quickly summoned help, and we got the fire out, and I thanked the dog. The next day, he disappeared.

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Steven Seagal was warned of an impending fire set by local gangbangers by a mystical wandering dog that repays debts for displays of kindness and vanishes when its job is done. This might be the most believable lie he's told so far. The interviewer, summoning a strength people usually only tap into to lift SUVs off of babies, somehow resisted the urge to give Seagal a bewildered stare for 25 minutes.

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Interviewer: What would you say to people who say animals are here for us to use?

Seagal: I had a foreman once who said that, and he didn't last long. He was supposed to be looking after my animals. I just don't feel that way. I think we're here to take care of each other. The more people commune with animals and relate to animals, the better off we'll all be. There are stories about people who have gone into comas or have had strokes being brought back to health through communion with animals. What does that tell you?

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I want to make fun of him so bad, but maybe I'm the deluded jerk here. I looked into this, and there is a report from a legit source which renders me unable to claim animals have never woken people from comas. In this story from earlier in 2017, a guy slipped into what doctors suspected would be a week-long coma. But it ended after only four days when coma guy's dog started barking in his hospital room. Is it the same dog that saved Steven Seagal's dojo from a fiery demise? Yes, of course is it. Absolutely. I've never been more confident about anything in my life. But I can't find anything other than that one story that happened nearly 17 years after he claimed that animals are a the number one doctor-recommended treatment for comas.

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The only record of this PETA interview is cut off before the interview ends, and it's a tragedy:

Interviewer: If relationships with animals can heal us, doesn't that tell you that they're quite special?

I can't stop thinking about how he might have answered that. Would he have told of the donkey that dragged him off the beaches of Normandy on D-Day? The owl that fought by his side as he defended the mean streets of Harlem from vampiric crack fiends? Maybe I'm hyping it up too much. Having read dozens of his interviews, I've noticed there's always a point about five or seven questions in when he starts answering in monosyllables, thinking it'll speed things up so he can get back to reapplying his hairline with a Sharpie.

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In my quest to find his response to that final question, I came across this gorgeous Steven Seagal fansite which seems to be mostly focused on his movie On Deadly Ground. It looks and sounds like a GeoCities page that somehow avoided extinction. That particular page has a few interviews and words from Seagal on the subjects of nature conservation and animal protection. It has exactly as much of the PETA interview as the cached version. So I guess the rest of the interview has been lost to time. But the page also has the text of an "Earth Day Letter" Seagal wrote on behalf of the National Wildlife Federation which perfectly sums up the way he has woven his unique brand of terrible martial arts action stardom with his genuine passion for environmentalism and his warped sense of grandeur.

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He opens the letter with:

Being an action hero means fighting a lot of important battles.

The fight to protect the Earth is one we can't afford to lose.

If you've seen me in On Deadly Ground or Fire Down Below, you know I'm not a "Johnny-Come-Lately" to the environmental movement. I re-wrote those scripts hoping I could make the world a better place and bring people's awareness about the environment to a higher level.

He chose to raise awareness about the environment by killing seven people in Fire Down Below and 40 in On Deadly Ground. The only time Steven Seagal can communicate with the world without making things up is when he's murdering polluters. When Putin gets sick of him after he claims he was a founding member of the Jackson 5, he can ship him back over here. We'll give him a pair of brass knuckles and make him the head of the EPA.

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Luis worries he may not be worthy of a visit by the magic dog. You can find him on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

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