As you may recall, the inaugural post in the "This is a real thing in the world" series was a trailer for A&E's new reality series, Steven Seagal: Lawman.
Okay, so Iain and I watched the first two episodes this weekend, and it's more horrendous than you can even imagine.
First of all, the police force of which Seagal's a part is in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, and his unit—comprised exclusively of middle-aged white men—patrol an area that is extremely impoverished with a population that appears to be mostly black. And they spend the first two episodes basically acting out every negative narrative about white cops in black neighborhoods: Treating two black men sitting in a car as "suspicious activity," overzealous (I'm putting that nicely) use of the taser, arresting white men who started some shit and the black men (and woman) with whom they started it, being generally fascist and officious assholes in every way.
There's also an incredibly disturbing scene in which the cops are called to a bar in which the owner has called about a patron who's drunk off his ass and bothering the other customers, and refusing to leave. Despite the fact the way he's "bothering" the other customers is that he's been "touching the women inappropriately," he's sent on his way to "sleep it off." Har har—boys will be boys, amirite?
And yet, none of that is even what made the show unbearably painful to watch. What made it excruciating is that Steven Seagal is a wanker of mythic proportions. And he doesn't even know it.
Steven Seagal: Lawman is the adult story of the martial arts-obsessed weirdo kid in your middle school—not the one who was fun and witty and was totes okay with being seen as a bit of a dork by a less enlightened lot, but the one who generally believed he was cool and would stand off to one side doing karate kicks by himself after he got knocked out in dodgeball and who actually thought a good way to impress girls was by getting them in a headlock. It's that kid, all growed up, and saying things like "Don't think of me as Steven Seagal, movie star—think of me as Steven Seagal, the guy who could save your life" with a straight fucking face.
Seagal has no sense of humor about himself—none. And when you're a joke, not having a sense of humor about yourself makes you a colossal wanker.
It also makes the show incredibly difficult to watch.
The guys in Seagal's immediate unit aren't Jefferson Parish's finest. They seem like cops who are a bit past it—I don't mean old; my grandfather was NYPD and was fit and nimble and agile-minded and driven until the day he retired. I mean that these guys seem complacent, resigned. They look like the guys who were never good enough to make detective, basically—guys who are expendable while they fuck around with Steven Seagal and a camera crew. One, maybe two, seem in awe of him. The others seem like they're trying not to roll their eyes when Seagal says "the zen way" for the thousandth time in ten minutes, or mentions, yet again, that he's got 40 years of martial arts experience.
They all look miserable and embarrassed when subjected to Seagal teaching them aikido "moves" to dispossess a suspect of a weapon. He twists their arms and bends their fingers until they wince and beg for release. "It took me 40 years," he tells them, "but I've got to teach you in a day to save your lives."
When Seagal is put in front of a wide group of Jefferson Parish's finest to teach them some defensive maneuvers, there are officers who can barely stifle the laughter. It's absurd—spending an hour being taught random crap by Steven Seagal, STEVEN FUCKING SEAGAL, who gives no indication he understands how patently absurd it is.
At best, they're wondering who the fuck this dude thinks he is. And the thing is, he thinks he's their hero.
Yes, it's a real thing in the world. But I don't recommend watching it.