Hollywood circa the 1970s and early 80s spewed forth a slew of macho catchphrases. Here are a few examples; you’ll recognize every testosterone-laden specimen:
- “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” – Harry Callahan, Dirty Harry, 1971
- “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” – Vito Corleone, The Godfather, 1972.
- “You talkin’ to me?” – Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver, 1976
- “Go ahead, make my day.” – Harry Callahan (again), Sudden Impact, 1983.
- “Say hello to my little friend.” – Tony Montana, Scarface, 1983.
- “I’ll be back.” – The Terminator, Terminator, 1984.
Swashbucklers, cowboys, and tough guys had been Hollywood heroes for decades: Errol Flynn and John Wayne’s stock of masculine icons come to mind. Many even uttered catchy one-liners that became cultural mainstays, i.e. Rhett Butler’s “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” And some of said phrases were as aggressive as those above, such as The Honeymooners’ Ralph Kramden’s persistent threat of domestic abuse, “One of these days, POW!!! Right in the kisser!” But the Me Decade saw an unprecedented ejaculation of terse, violence-tinged retorts.
What drove this trend toward curt fury? Was this celluloid rage a reflection of a real-world torn asunder by Vietnam-era chaos? Did jaded, shock-inured audiences just need to be jarred and awed? Was it that Hollywood writers of that era were informed by television, a pithier media than the radio that nursed earlier scribes? All are plausible possibilities. Yet it’s just as likely these macho one-liners were a reply to the ascendant women’s liberation movement.