John McClane is a Feminist

On the ‘Sweatpants and Casseroles‘ episode of the Call Your Girlfriend, back in December, co-host Ann Friedman admitted to having never watched the film Die Hard. WHAT?! I thought. Ann Friedman, who is such an important feminist voice both in her writing and her other projects, has to know that Die Hard is one of the earliest and most powerful feminist influences I had. So I dashed off a quick email to her, making my case.

She replied the next day. Was it ok to use my email in the next edition of the CYG newsletter? The December edition of the newsletter was sent out later that month and included my email to Ann; you can read it in full in the archive here. (I recommend subscribing, too.)

Here is my email:

Just listened to the latest episode of CYG. Omg I can’t believe you haven’t seen Die Hard! It’s the greatest film of all time (yes, greatest film, not greatest Christmas film). I talked about it in my wedding speech and my husband bought me jewellery engraved with ‘now I have a machine gun ho ho ho’. I’m kind of a big fan.

But wait! Let me tell you why.

1. It challenges traditional ideas of masculinity without discounting them completely

The whole premise is that John McClane is travelling to see his wife, Holly Gennero, who moved across the country because, as John himself puts it, “she had a good job. Turned into a great career.” And he’s being kind of a dick about the whole situation– her life is taking off without him and as a white man in the 80s he’s just not ready for that. But give him credit where credit is due: he kind of gets that he’s being a dick… later, when John is running around an office building fighting terrorists, Holly is managing the relationship between said terrorists and the hostages, and doing a baller job. Both play really important, and very different, roles in how the situation unfolds. And there’s a lot of emotion wrapped up in there, a lot of navigating relationships. It’s actually really heartwarming!

2. A lot of the conflict is just office politics

Everyone in Die Hard is at work. Argyle the limo driver, the Nakotomi Corp employees, Sgt Al Powell on the ground, the news anchors, the terrorists, and then of course John McClane himself (although he did not intend to be working on Christmas Eve dammit!). There’s some great examples of good managers (Hans Gruber) and really terrible ones (Deputy Chief Dwayne Robinson) if you look for them. Watch it and see if you see any of your former bosses in there.

3. It really holds up in 2017… maybe too well

I mean, this film was made in 1989.There’s touchscreen technology, cybercrime, and women just trying to get along in a world where men aren’t quite ready to give up their privilege. There’s several really smart, pivotal black characters who are not playing black characters, just characters, in the truest Grey’s Anatomy sense. If I’m being honest, I can’t believe a film hasn’t replaced Die Hard in my top spot, where it’s been since I was 11, but there we go. 

Plus it’s a lot of fun. The one-liners are excellent (“Now I know what a TV dinner feels like”) and obviously there is action. The plot is simple and clever at the same time. It’s perfect.

Just don’t ever watch Die Hard 2, 4 or 5. They will ruin everything for you. Die Hard 3 is pretty good. Recommended.

If you haven’t seen Die Hard, please, do yourself a favour and make some time to watch it. Yippe-kai-yay!


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