Written By: - Date published: 9:35 am, February 5th, 2019 - 119 comments
Categories: crime, Deep stuff, film, International, journalism, Media, patriarchy, racism, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, violence against women - Tags: liam neeson, racism, violence
British actor Liam Neeson has made an extraordinary confession in an interview with the Independent news site.
Promoting his new film, Cold Pursuit, Neeson has claimed that many years ago, he spent a week or more hanging around bars late at night hoping to get into a fight with a black man who he could kill with a cosh.
This was in response, Neeson says, to the news that a family member had been raped.
“She handled the situation of the rape in the most extraordinary way,” Neeson says.
“I asked, did she know who it was? No. What colour were they? She said it was a black person.”
“I went up and down areas with a cosh, hoping I’d be approached by somebody – I’m ashamed to say that – and I did it for maybe a week, hoping some ‘black bastard’ would come out of a pub and have a go at me about something, you know? So that I could … kill him.”
Reflecting on his rage, Neeson is contrite:
“It’s awful. But I did learn a lesson from it, when I eventually thought, ‘What the fuck are you doing,’ you know?”
Neeson also talks about his upbringing in divided Ireland.
“I come from a society – I grew up in Northern Ireland in the Troubles – and, you know, I knew a couple of guys that died on hunger strike, and I had acquaintances who were very caught up in the Troubles, and I understand that need for revenge, but it just leads to more revenge, to more killing and more killing, and Northern Ireland’s proof of that.
All this stuff that’s happening in the world, the violence, is proof of that, you know. But that primal need, I understand.”
It’s that ‘primal need’ that is central to this news story. Liam Neeson has made a career out of playing revenge seeking macho men with a ‘particular set of skills’.
His films, the Taken series and various lookalikes on planes, trains and automobiles, have at their heart a man putting things right with a bit of the old ultra violence. Clearly it’s a fantasy that many men buy into, if the box office receipts are to be believed.
At it’s heart, the male revenge movie genre is flawed thinking. The answer to male violence is not more male violence.
However, I suspect that the racial aspect of Neeson’s story will dominate the news cycle.
His admission that for a week or more he wallowed in race profiling in the vain hope of meting out vengeance on a random person for the sins of another is going to be the obvious headline.
His career may suffer as a result, and maybe it should.
However, the wider point Neeson makes is important.
There is something primal in male psyches that makes the irrational acceptable in the moment.
This is Neeson’s argument. Men, even famous men, are capable of self absorbed, ego driven violent fantasies. And many, many times, the fantasy becomes the reality.
It’s a shame that his revelation will make the headlines for the sensational race aspect, not the fundamental truth Liam Neeson was trying to bring to light.
And that truth is that violence is inherently a male problem.
An irrational, primal problem.
UPDATE: Liam Neeson on Good Morning America expanding on the incident: