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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

He's Billy. He's Jack. He's Billy Jack!!!

A lot of people who read my post the other day mentioning Billy Jack (all three of you) asked a very cogent and penetrating question: "Just who the hell is this Billy Jack bloke anyway?"

I'm glad you asked! Billy Jack is a character, played by cult actor Tom Laughlin, from a series of of three high-grossing films in the 70's. (There was an earlier film in 1967, but it was just about biker gangs and college students and was thus completely overshadowed by Easy Rider, because Tom Laughlin is no Peter Fonda. I'm not sure that's an insult, by the way.) The titles of the three films are Billy Jack, The Trial of Billy Jack, and (get ready for it) Billy Jack Goes to Washington. As you may have guessed, Billy Jack really fancies Billy Jack.

The plot of all of these films is as follows:

  • A group of gentle hippie pacifists attend a school on an Indian reservation.
  • The gentle hippie pacifists are threatened by "the man" (played by either E.G. Marshall or Richard Nixon, if I remember correctly.) Someone is either beaten up and raped, or raped and then beaten up, or beaten up, raped, and beaten up again. This gains the sympathy of the audience, while allowing the producers to focus ten minutes on the foul little sex film they'd rather be making in the first place.
  • Billy Jack, a half-Indian, half-white, 100% egomaniac, pacifist, ex-Green Beret with a mean streak that would make George Galloway soil himself, decides to take matters into his own hands.
  • Taking matters into his own hands translates to dealing karate death, usually with a kick to the throat in extreme slow-motion, to the slimiest represenative of "the man". He also shoots a few people, just for variety.
  • Billy Jack is unjustly arrested for murder. Unjustly means, "the guy I killed had it coming when I crushed his windpipe."
  • Teenage girls play acoustic guitars. The remaining survivors hold hands and sing Give Peace a Chance, while the school burns down in the background.
  • Everyone heads for the wrap party to snarf the hashish brownies.

The only difference in the third movie is that Billy Jack is a U. S. Senator when he does all this.

Reading this, I'm sure you can appreciate what an incredible phenomenon this was.

All right, what if you realized that almost everyone was completely stoned in the 70's? Now, I'm sure you can appreciate what an incredible phenomenon this was.

The most incredible part was the dialogue. Even I, a semi-professional comedy blogger (we've had to cut back on salary around here) find it difficult to imagine topping the magnificent heights reached in the following actual lines from Billy Jack films (Acquired via The Internet Movie Database):

Billy Jack: Bernard, I want you to know... that I try. When Jean and the kids at the school tell me that I'm supposed to control my violent temper, and be passive and nonviolent like they are, I try. I really try. Though when I see this girl... of such a beautiful spirit... so degraded... and this boy... that I love... sprawled out by this big
ape here... and this little girl, who is so special to us we call her "God's little gift of sunshine"... and I think of the number of years that she's going to have to carry in her memory... the savagery of this idiotic moment of yours... I... just... go... BERSERK! [General kicking of necks and crotches ensues]

**********

Cindy: I pray Billy kills him!
Jean: You mustn't tell Billy, Cindy.
Cindy: Why not?
Jean: Because he will kill him.
Cindy: DAMN YOUR PACIFISM!

**********

Jean Roberts: You did it...no matter what anybody says about you now, you did it. And you didn't have to even once take off your boots.

There's not enough room to do the dialogue justice. For those, like myself, who delight in such florid prose there's more here, and here.

Even today, Billy Jack holds an incredible appeal for a number of people, especially Tom Laughlin, his wife Mrs. Tom Laughlin, their children Tommy, Thommy, Thomas, and Thomasina, Monsieur Thomas Laughlin, T. L., Puff Tommy, Senor T. Laughlino, T. O. M. Laughlin, and Mr. Thommy L. O'aughlin.

Even today they maintain an Official Billy Jack Website where Tom Laughlin and Mrs. Tom Laughlin continue to apply their philosophy of "peace through kicking the crap out of someone's larnyx". On this site have suggested that there are extensive parallels between the Billy Jack films and the current peace movement. One interpretation: Billy Jack is Howard Dean. The Man is George W. Bush, The School on the Reservation is Joe Leiberman, the death-dealing karate kick is Donald Rumsfeld, the guitar playing teenage girls are the Dixie Chicks, and the hashish brownies are Jacques Chirac.

Probably the most exciting news of all for the legions of Billy Jack fans (almost as large as our following) is that Laughlin and Mrs. Tom Laughlin are producing a new Billy Jack film entitled The Gentle Peturbations of the Nightengale.

Nah, I'm just kidding. It's called Billy Jack's Crusade and ends with Billy Jack kicking the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Toilet Seat Appropriations to death in a strip joint and being sentenced to Guantanamo Bay as an enemy combatant. Meanwhile, Mrs. Tom Laughlin sits in front of a burning Starbucks holding hands with Hare Krishnas and singing Imagination from Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory.

I'm sure there won't be a dry eye, or seat, in the house.

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