Monday, March 9, 2015

Who Looks Like Charles Bronson?

     “Mr. Lee! Where ya going?” I shouted out to one of our Korean drivers on the dirt road outside of our Army base.

     “Mobie!” (translation – movie) he said and waved. “We go see Charlson Bronson!” (translation – Charles Bronson).

     I laughed. In South Korea at that time, the 1970s, Charles Bronson was the "numba hanna" (translation – number one) movie star. Not only could Bronson sort of pass as a Korean, which really counted, but he was an international action star. But this interesting situation goes even further.

     It occurred to everyone capable of semi-deep thought that if any person looked like Charles Bronson in Asia, on some psychological level, a movie fan would see this look-alike person and may immediately register that the innocent Bronson-looker had some of the action star’s traits and skills. Psychological “projecting” they call in.

     In fact, we all bet that any Korean that looked like Charles Bronson would probably not be considered an easy mark for a mugging or be someone to pick a fight with. Sort of an instantaneous, subconscious decision on the part of troublemakers. A profile. An assumption. A prejudice, if you will.  And we all know that just because someone looks like Charles Bronson, it doesn’t mean he was once a member of the Magnificent 7, or he can beat seven armed gang members up in a Death Wish. We know this, but still….

     Let’s sidetrack just a bit to the movie Death Wish, just for one second. A tale of a normal man taking revenge for the murder of his wife in New York City. The first choice for the part was actually Gregory Peck. Peck could play the perfect, tame, citified businessman transformed into a ruthless vigilante. The crux of the movie is really this transformation. Peck was a perfect choice, like Gary Cooper might have been. But with Charles Bronson, it wasn’t so perfect. We all expect revenge from Bronson. We just waited for it. Yes, the movie made millions and was very satisfying, but the storyline would have been better with Peck. In NYC movie houses back then, with crime a bit amok in that region, when Bronson shot his first thug in the movie, people in some theaters applauded and cheered. Everyone expects something when seeing the face of Charles Bronson, and then to some extent with Bronson look-alikes? Not so much with Gregory Peck.

     Animism is placing/projecting religious significance onto inanimate objects. Sun gods. Tree gods. Rock gods, whatever. Some fancy stones are deemed magical. Rabbit’s foot. Lucky charms. Etc. Placing/projecting/imaging various traits and expectations on people is a bit like that, too. 

     Men see certain women that look like their favorite starlet or just their so-called physical “type.” Women? Often the same motives as men. A relationship starts on these projections alone. Then often … surprise! 

     In the who, what, where, when, how, and why of fighting? Who are you and who do you think you will be fighting? Is the guy you need to arrest or stop or fight off Charles Bronson, or does he just look like Bronson? Does he look like Pee Wee Herman and fight like Bronson? After training with and against thousands of people and arresting over a thousand people, I can tell you that this assumption can be a tricky one.

     Can you take advantage of your own … Charles Bronson-ism? Who are you and who might you look like? I think so. And in many ways merely a uniform (or certain clothes) alone can influence your psychological impact, least of all how you physically look.

     There are so many examples and anecdotes of this, but here’s at least one. My colleague cop was not too tall, just a normal, average height. He said that numerous times while on vehicle traffic stops, he would get into a verbal "snit" with a driver. He would often go back to his car, put on his tall, crowned, police hat with a badge atop it and return. The mere presence of the hat and the 3 inches of height sometimes toned down the altercation and changed the tone. Just the hat. But imagine this concept in street clothes or military uniforms.

     Some people used to say I somewhat resembled Clint Eastwood when I was younger. I don’t think so, and I know other friends who resembled the "Clintser" much, much more than I did or do. I always felt I was plagued a bit by looking a little strange and more like Dick Van Dyke - not hardly an action star! Now as the years tumble by, I am off this look-alike chart and look more and more like an odd canvass sack of loose nickels. 


     But who do you look like? Who do you think your enemy resembles? Does this affect you? I like to say your opponent may fight worse than he looks, or looks worse than he fights!