Steven Seagal, the kicking-and-punching expert, is now living in Russia and bro-ing out with the least flabby of the autocrats, Vladimir Putin. And in a British TV interview, he waded straight into the debate about athletes protesting against police violence during games.
Like the rest of us, Seagal is not required to stay exclusively in the lane of his expertise or employment. Athletes and action stars have the right to talk about and protest politics, policies, and current events — just like politicians can play pickup football and shoot hoops without abdicating their authority or violating the responsibilities of their job.
But since Mr. Seagal seems to think otherwise, I’d like to invite him to revisit his own films, which contain some lessons that might help bring him closer to the right side of history.
There are a bunch of Mr. Seagal’s films where he stands up for the downtrodden who can’t defend themselves against oppressive forces. In On Deadly Ground, Seagal kicks his way through a lot of goons to stop a ruthless oil company CEO who is flagrantly violating EPA regulations and threatening environmental disaster. Seagal eventually drowns the CEO in oil and then delivers a closing monologue on the dangers of pollution. In Fire Down Below, Seagal plays an EPA agent who sticks up for people who are threatened by a coal company that is dumping waste into old mine shafts. In both movies, someone sees a problem in their community and decides to stand up for what’s right. Seems like Colin Kaepernick is doing the same thing, but kicking and punching a lot fewer people (zero, in fact) in the process.
Seagal should also rewatch the first act of his 2001 film Exit Wounds, in which he plays a Detroit cop who saves the Vice President from a right-wing militia — that feels a little prescient — but is fired because he goes too far and kills a bunch of the militia members. The police, in Exit Wounds and in real life, have a duty to wield their power responsibly. But unlike in this movie, the police in real life rarely face consequences: 883 people have been killed by police so far in 2017, and in only six of those cases has the officer been charged with a crime. That’s less that one percent, versus the 100% conviction rate in the first act of Exit Wounds. Mr. Seagal should consider whether that’s worth protesting.
So Steven, if you happen to be back in New York anytime soon, let me know, and we can set up a little movie night. I’ll bring the popcorn if you bring some cool nunchucks and an open mind.