‘Tis the Season – Die Hard and Lethal Weapon use Christmas to promote white values and the LAPD.
I wrote an article for The Essential recently on the use of two of our most beloved cop films as positive promotion of white LA cops at the height of their notoriory.
In 1986, the LAPD purchased a fourteen-ton armored breaching vehicle the use of which was essential to smashing quickly through walls of suspects’ homes. The constitutionality of the vehicle was questioned and eventually the California Appellate court ruled that the vehicle was indeed unconstitutional, violating the terms of lawful search and seizure.
Around the same time, an investigation into the controversial “choke hold effect” (placing an arm or a flashlight over someone’s throat) brought back in the early 1980s by chief Daryl Gates found that sixteen people had died soon after being restrained by LAPD police who used the choke hold. Despite widespread community disapproval and its subsequent ban, the LAPD continued to use the choke hold until they were exposed. (Martha L. Willman, “Police Violated Chokehold Ban, Valley NAACP Official Claims”, Los Angeles Times (June 24, 1982))
The 1992 L.A. riots are now known to be a response to overwhelming frustration with the LAPD under Chief Gates, which reached its peak in the 1980s. By the late 80s word was spreading about the treatment of non-whites and the behaviors of the LAPD were being exposed. Someone had to defend white might, and coming to the rescue was one Joel Silver, who started a local production company, Silver Pictures, in 1985.
Within two years he brought out two films that were to transform action films forever, and so resonate with the community that together they would launched two enormous action careers (Mel Gibson and Bruce Willis), make over $261 million from a combined budget of $43 million, and change perception of the “L.A. Cop” forever.