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Exit stage left Arnie? Louder Than War muses on what next for Arnold Schwarzenegger, by John Robb

So farewell Arnold.

You were the boss of California and now your term has ended.

You leave office this week for what looks like, on paper, your first public defeat.

It was not quite like the movies but it could have been if the recession hadn’t arrived like a twist at the end of a blockbuster.

Politics is a cruel and pitiless lottery in a way that even Hollywood could never be.

Yours has been the most unlikely career so far. An Austrian bodybuilder who turned into a box office superstar and then a  governor. Only in America, as some would say.

What we liked about you was your relentless will power and your oddly goofy, self-depreciating character. That kind of positivity is rare.

With mind over matter you were a winner. You were built like an oak, an Austrian oak in fact and became the best body builder in history and whose pumped up, perfect symmetry will forever be a benchmark in that sport. Your poster in those funny little trunks is still sellotaped onto sweaty gym walls round the world.

After dominating the world of muscle you crossed over into film and made the most of your, in traditional terms, limited acting ability and by the time you did Terminator you turned it into a marked advantage.

That clipped Austrian/English accent and deliberate wooden style was perfect for the robotic Terminator who became one of the icons of the eighties. You were deceptively far smarter than they thought you were and your acting career from Conan The Barbarian to your bizarre comedy roles were made to seem easy.

Infact you didn’t need to act atall if you didn’t want to- you had the sheer size and granite charisma to fill the screen without having to pretend to be anyone else and, like Clint Eastwood before you, they built the characters and films around you. You were the film.

You were happy to let the critics sneer at your acting whilst you were box office number one. The Terminator films remain classics and in your spare time you got on securing huge business deals and playing smart when you needed to.

You turned body building into an international sport and were one of the last great Hollywood old school actors- a genuine celluloid action hero who actually walked the walk and delivered the catch phrase.

When you announced on a chat show in 2003 that you were getting into politics and running for governor of California it surprised no-one. There had been hints for years and your peculiar brand of left wing Republican seemed to fit in California- a left wing, right wing sunshine state where the hippies and the starched shirts mix. It seemed like the perfect post- politics post and a stepping stone to the presidency (if only they would ignore your Austrian birthplace- which made a run for the top job illegal).

But it didn’t work out. Your box office style, funny one liners and green politics were noted and you seemed to be very different from the usual snarling, right wing rhetoric that we have got used to from American right wing leaders. You seemed oddly human but that Hollywood star power wasn’t enough when the bankers wrecked the economy and California was hit hard by the recession. In the films you could have sorted those clowns out but in real life you couldn’t just blow them away. There could be no ‘Hasta La Vista Banker’ in real life.

You leave with low approval ratings, but then what politician doesn’t. You will swiftly rise about the naysayers and you still may be able to bend the rules and run for president. Or you could have done if we were watching a movie.

In real life they say you will become a spokesman for the green, enviromental lobby and some say you could return to film.

You could even return as the Terminator- god knows that franchise needs you…


  1. Only in America could a politician who owned eight – count ’em, eight – Hummers be spoken of in all seriousness as having green credentials.

    As far as I know, nobody ever challenged Schwarzenegger on this. His alleged green-ness has always been accepted as a given. Nobody ever took a look inside his garage and asked the obvious question.

    What happened? Did real journalism get squashed flat by the big green Schwarzenegger PR machine, or what?

  2. Quran (4:104) – “And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain…”

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