Everything you never knew about Clint Eastwood’s invisible tiara.
I’m a sucker for tear-jerker chick flicks.
Like Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, for instance.
I’m a typical guy in many ways, of course. I got misty-eyed with joy when Clint Eastwood killed Gene Hackman right in the face.1 And I got downright lachrymose when Gene Hackman took Richard Harris’ gorgeous nickel-plated, pearl-handled plated Colt .45 Peacemaker and bent the barrel into a horseshoe.
But that’s not the tear-jerking part.
Cuts Like a Knife
If you’ve never seen Unforgiven, here’s the Cliff’s Notes:
Delilah, a prostitute in the old West, makes the mistake of giggling at a client’s minuscule manhood, so he proves to her it’s bigger than she thought by carving her face up with a Bowie knife. Because Hummers haven’t been invented yet.
Delilah’s prostitute friends pool their money and put out the word that they’ll pay $1,000 to anyone who kills Big Dick Littlejohnson, or whatever the bad guy’s name is.
Said word eventually gets to William Munny, one-time train robber and Killer of Women and Children.2 Munny’s been on the wagon ever since his dear departed wife got him to join AMWOA3 and change his evil ways, baby. But staying on the straight and narrow isn’t feeding Munny’s kids, so Munny and his friends decide maybe a couple cowboys with their brains in their dicks don’t have any use for either, and maybe they just oughta be put down.
Munny and two friends get to town just in time for the sheriff to beat Munny half to death and nearly shoot his friends. They hide out on a ranch outside of town while Munny heals up.
One morning Delilah brings her sliced-up face out to the ranch with some groceries to feed Munny’s beaten-up face. And she broaches the subject of Munny’s friends getting free ones.
Free whats? Munny wants to know (jump ahead to :50):
“Would you like a free one?” Delilah asks shyly.
“No. I guess not,” stammers William Munny, Killer of Women and Children™.
Delilah hastens to add, “Oh, I didn’t mean with me. Alice and Silky (two of the other prostitutes) would be glad to give you a free one if you want.”
Munny finally realizes there’s more than a clumsy proposition going on here and says, “I didn’t mean I didn’t want a free one on account of you bein’ cut up. What I said before, how I might look like you, I didn’t mean you was ugly like me. I only meant how we both got scars.
“You’re a beautiful woman, an’ if I was to want a free one, I guess I’d want you more than them other two. It’s just I can’t on account of my wife.” She’s back home watching the kids, he explains.
Why are all the good ones gay or married? Delilah thinks. “I admire you for that, bein’ true to your wife,” she says. “I’ve known a lot of men…” — she trails off and they carefully look away from each other — “…who weren’t.”
Now, what Munny honestly means, but doesn’t precisely say, is that his dead wife’s spirit is back home watching over his kids — and bedding a hooker just wouldn’t honor her memory. He says just that to someone else earlier in the movie.
An honest mistake, but so what? Let’s get to the killin’!
Kill Bill. And Skinny and Ned and Andy and Fatty…
And so we do. But partway through the killin’, Delilah remarks on Munny’s staying faithful to his wife, and Alice replies, “What wife? He ain’t got no wife.”
And Delilah says, “There must be a mistake.”
No, wait — Delilah says, “He looked awful sincere. Are you sure?”
Not so fast! She doesn’t say that either. She says nothing, in fact, but her face falls, in much the same way Warner Brothers cartoon characters fall through the sidewalk when a safe lands on their heads.
I knew it, you can see Delilah think. At least he tried to be polite about it. And she kicks herself for buying his schtick.
But it wasn’t schtick, and that’s why watching it always breaks my heart.
Munny was lucky enough to have been loved by a good woman, and she changed him. So much so that he learned beauty is much more than flawless skin or any other arbitrary physical standard. They both had scars, as he said; hers didn’t make her ugly. When he told Delilah she was beautiful, he meant it. He wasn’t shining her on.
He’d been lucky, and he knew it. And he couldn’t believe he might actually meet someone else some day. He wouldn’t be replacing or dishonoring his dear departed wife; if he’d thought about it, he would have known she would want him to be happy and not mourn her forever.
But he didn’t think about it. He thought he’d already had all the happiness he’d ever have; more than his fair share.
Delilah, on the other hand, dared to believe for just a little while that maybe Munny was different from all the men she’d seen come and go.4 In the long run, though, it didn’t matter. She couldn’t have him; she couldn’t have anyone.
Munny and Delilah both missed the chance to find a soulmate because they believed the worst about themselves: Delilah believed no one could love her because she had scars. And Munny’s scars kept him from considering whether he deserved a chance to ever be happy again.
Munny was right, though — Delilah was indeed a beautiful woman. Big Dick McLittlejohnson, or whatever his name was, couldn’t steal it. The only person who could steal Delilah’s beauty was Delilah herself. And Delilah saw the beauty in in Munny, too.
You can’t give yourself the benefit of the doubt if you don’t have any doubts. No doubt, no benefit. Delilah and William Munny, Killer of Women and Children™, had no doubts that they were ugly and unloveable and worthless, and it stole their chance at happiness.
Death to All Marketers
Do me a favor: Go look at yourself in a mirror.5 Now, take a deep breath and GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK.
Instead of hating what you see, stop and think a moment: Out there is a vast, multibillion-dollar marketing industry that buries you in an avalanche of shit — all day, every day.
And that industry has one goal: To make you unhappy. All day their message to you is You’re not attractive enough. You don’t make enough money. You’re not wearing the right clothes. You’re not driving the right car. You are ugly and inadequate.
Not only that, they’re really, really good at slipping under your skin into your subconsciousness and getting you to say all these nasty, untrue things to yourself. They’ve spent decade and trillions of dollars learning how to do it and they get better all the time.
So today, when you look in the mirror, try this — just this once: Look yourself right in the eyes and give that vast marketing industry a some feedback. Tell all those asshole marketers that you’re beautiful, that you’re not broken, that there’s nothing wrong with you and you’re happy with yourself just the way you are right now.
Hoist a middle finger at those asshole marketers and tell ’em: “Not today, motherfuckers!”
You deserve better. You are better. Don’t let anyone tell you different — not even you.
- Don’t you love it when you can use stupid contemporary slang literally?
- He gets called that so many times in the movie it sounds like his official title.
- Alcoholic Murdering Womanizer Outlaws Anonymous.
- Pun not originally intended, but I couldn’t let it pass by once I saw it.
- For you younger readers, a “mirror” is what old farts like me used to use before they invented selfies.