The only Steven Seagal primer you need
Washed ‘80s action star Steven Seagal is back in the news for a very crazy reason: He’s been appointed by Russia as a “special representative” on Russia-U.S. relations. “The special representative will perform his duties without any financial remuneration and for the purpose of strengthening direct contacts, mutual understanding and trust between the Russian and American peoples,” according to a statement by the Russian foreign ministry. Alright, okay.
Placing Seagal’s importance in a modern context is difficult. Seagal hasn’t made an unconditionally well-received movie since 1992’s Under Siege, and yet he’s endured in the mainstream consciousness as a kind of humorless, aggressively masculine action goon, a faded Van Damme or Schwarzenegger though nowhere near as likable. Fortunately, there is a very easy way of learning everything you need to know about Seagal. The news got me revisiting one of my favorite pieces of online content: A 2014 AV Club interview with Run the Jewels, the rap mega-group of El-P and Killer Mike, conducted by Outline contributor Eric Thurm. The premise of the interview was to allow RTJ to wax poetic on Seagal’s movies, and what resulted was a deeply, deeply entertaining back-and-forth where El-P slowly convinced Mike on the essential absurdity of Seagal’s oeuvre and personality.
As El-P lays it out, Seagal is a multi-layered concoction of kookiness: an environmentally conscious martial arts enthusiast who declared himself racially ambiguous, seems like a giant prick, and can only do good by performing the most violent action possible. “I just love Steven Seagal for his pure — his perspective on what being a hero is just a purely evil, cruel perspective,” El-P says. If you know nothing about Seagal, this is all you need. It’s a great interview; you should read it now. There is also this super prescient, scary observation, as they discuss Seagal’s friendship with Vladimir Putin.
Be very afraid.