Study Guide

Die Hard Men and Masculinity

Men and Masculinity

MCCLANE: Come out to the coast. We'll get together, have a few laughs… Now I know what a TV dinner looks like.

This is not the first time McClane talks to himself. And it certainly won't be the last. His snarky soliloquies serve two purposes: (1) They highlight his vulnerabilities. He often talks to himself in quiet moments and particularly dire situations, showing just how alone and up you-know-what creek he is. (2) They show us that McClane's sense of identity and self worth come from a rather sarcastic place. When faced with a dicey situation, he wisecracks, rather than despairs. This is not a guy who's in touch with his feelings. This is a guy whose snark helps him survive.

MCCLANE: I figured since I waxed Tony and Marco and his friend here, I figured you, and Karl, and Franco might be a little lonely, so I wanted to give you a call.

In his first conversation with Hans, McClane lays his cards out on the table, in a snarky attempt to shift the power dynamics of their relationship. He uses a slang term for killing—"waxed"—and lets Hans know that he's not sitting as pretty as he thought he was. McClane has managed to shake up Hans's carefully crafted world. And the conversation that ensues after he drops this info is full of masculine posturing. You know, "who's the real man here?" type stuff.

MCCLANE: I was always kinda partial to Roy Rogers, actually. I really like those sequined shirts.

GRUBER: Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?

MCCLANE: Yippee-ki-yay, motherf***er.

McClane's manliness is also tied to his class. Dude's a down-home cowboy cop, not some fancy criminal in a luxurious suit. He's thoroughly working class, and his tastes make that known. Even while he references a decidedly unmanly outfit—Roy Rogers's sequined shirts—he does so in a way that lets him know he's secure in his own awesomeness. Just to seal the deal, he drops that famous one-liner, calling Gruber a "motherf***er," even as Gruber calls him "mister."

ELLIS: Hans. Bubbe. I'm your white knight.

This is not Ellis's finest moment, but you can bet he thinks it is. Ellis's sense of masculinity is defined by his ability to walk into any situation and wheel and deal. But the problem here is that he's in way over his head.

AGENT JOHNSON: I'm Agent Johnson, this is Special Agent Johnson. No relation.

CHIEF ROBINSON: I'm, uh, I'm Dwayne Robinson, LAPD. I'm in charge here.

SPECIAL AGENT JOHNSON: Not anymore.

Chief Robinson used to be a big fish in a big pond. He introduces himself earlier on in the movie as Deputy Chief of Police Dwayne T. Robinson, and now he's shortened that a bit. It looks like when the terse, take-charge FBI guys show, his masculinity takes a hit.

MCCLANE: Tell her that, um, she's the best thing that ever happened to a bum like me. She's heard me say "I love you" a thousand times. She never heard me say "I'm sorry." I want you to tell her that, Al. Tell her that John said that he was sorry.

Johnny's feelin' the feels. Part of his character arc in the Die Hard storyline is learning how to get in touch with his feelings so that he can be a better husband to his wife and a better dad to his kids. It's a good thing he's got Al around to help him out.

MCCLANE: Hang on, honey. Hang on, baby.

Even while he's bruised, bloody, and, um, shot, McClane's still the manly hero, coming to rescue his damsel in distress. Which reminds us of another important facet of McClane's masculinity—he's a family man. Sure, he may not be the best family man, but at least he's trying … now.

MCCLANE: Happy trails, Hans.

Just as McClane says this, he blows the smoke away from his spent Beretta like an honest-to-goodness cowboy. With this line, McClane puts the nail in the coffin of Gruber's educated, well-dressed, old-world masculinity. He's proven once and for all that a real man wears sad khakis, smokes like a chimney, and swears every chance he gets.

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