Monday, June 3, 2013

The Professional

I like to think about story archetypes. One of the most appealing to me, for some reason, is the story of the absolutely unsurpassed professional, whose professionalism includes the rejection of personal relationships. Then, of course, he stumbles into a personal relationship that destroys his professionalism.

There is an aspect of this story that applies to other stories that I've loved: single-mindedness. I went through a period many years ago when I read Civil War histories, biographies, and autobiographies, and the characters I loved best were those that had a single-minded commitment to principle. John Mosby, Nathan Bedford Forrest, William Tecumseh Sherman, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson... These were the men who were extraordinarily successful because they were committed to achieving their purposes to the exclusion of all other considerations. Later, I read about Che Guevara, and completely independent of his political views, I loved him because of his absolute commitment to what he believed.

I think my admiration stems from the complete opposition to myself that such commitment represents. I can't even say for sure what it is I believe, let alone commit to that belief with a passion that excludes all else. This is also why I admire military men and women. I could never imagine myself joining the military and committing my life to an ideal. There's not much for which I'd willingly die. My wife. My son. The circumstances in which such a sacrifice would be necessary are limited, though.

I started thinking about this again after watching Drive this week. Ryan Gosling's professional driver who is undone by his affection for a little girl reminded me so much of Jean Reno's professional assassin who is undone by his affection for a little girl in, of course, The Professional. Assassins apparently have a weakness for spunky girls on their own, as evidenced by The Man from Nowhere. This "assassin who lets a little girl into his heart" theme occurs again in The Warrior's Way, but the warrior isn't quite destroyed in that one. Sometimes, though, it's romantic rather than some substitute for paternal love, as with Robert DeNiro, undone by his affection for a woman in Heat.

I don't know where I'm going with this, but I like stories of pure commitment to a single purpose. And I like them better when that pure commitment is unraveled by love, even when the hero's death is the ultimate result.

What does that say about me?

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