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The Chuck Norris mystique

James Dechant | Tuesday, September 25, 2007

If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can’t see Chuck Norris, you may be only seconds away from death.

Those, my friends, are words to live by.

These days, Chuck Norris enjoys international fame and a well-deserved place among the pantheon of American heroes. He is a phenomenon that crosses all boundaries, be they cultural, political, religious, sexual, racial, or other. He is a man whose popularity, far from declining with his age, only waxes as he ripens into his upper 60s. Chuck Norris has roundhouse-kicked his way into our televisions, our movies, and our hearts.

Right now Chuck Norris is on my wall. Not literally – that wouldn’t work – but in the form of a poster for a 1982 action movie called “Silent Rage.” My roommate and I found this little gem at the University Park Mall and we could hardly contain our excitement. The large tagline near the top of the poster reads: “Science created him. Now Chuck Norris must destroy him.”

Below that is more description – ah, but how this poor language fails me! “Description” does not accurately capture the poetry contained in these words. “He’s an indestructible man fused with powers beyond comprehension. / An unstoppable terror who in one final showdown, will push Chuck Norris to his limits. / And beyond.” Below the text (and a picture of Chuck Norris sporting a sheriff’s badge and ten gallon hat), the title “Silent Rage” appears in bulky shadowed black letters. Next to this, a smaller icon of Chuck Norris, shirtless, delivers a kick to the word “Rage” so that it begins to crumble and crack in half. This poster aptly showcases the selling power of Chuck Norris. In the movie he plays Texas sheriff Dan Stevens, but you see no mention of that character on the poster. Instead the actor’s name appears multiple times like a brand product. The marketing geniuses at Columbia Pictures knew they were not going to sell this film on the basis of the plot alone. (In case you’re curious, the story follows Chuck Norris as he battles a re-animated murderer he previously shot and killed, but whom scientists brought back to life with rejuvenating powers.) So they tried to sell the film based on Chuck Norris’ superstar charm, his captivating charisma, and his unassailable martial arts skills.

But what do you really know about Chuck Norris; the man, the myth, the legend? Less than you might suspect. For instance, did you have any idea that Chuck Norris:

-Was born Carlos Ray Norris and did not get the nickname “Chuck” until he was serving with the American Air Force in South Korea.

-Has a professional karate record of 65-5, with all five of his losses being avenged (that is, he later fought the victorious fighters and taught them the true meaning of pain).

-Filled in for Sean Hannity on that host’s Fox News “debate” program on Jan. 26, 2007. (Look it up on YouTube; you won’t be disappointed.)

-Instructed Bob Barker in karate for years and appeared on “The Price Is Right” once for Barker’s 80th birthday.

As should be apparent, Chuck Norris is a multifaceted, multitalented humanitarian who eats criticism for breakfast. There is a reason that his name is a household synonym for sublime, a reason Conan O’Brien installed a “Walker Lever” on his desk to play random clips from “Walker, Texas Ranger,” a reason that Chuck Norris Facts are the biggest Internet craze (ever), a reason we can’t get enough of him.

Most of us fail to realize what exactly drives the Chuck Norris mystique. I once realized it, but then Chuck Norris became aware of this fact and roundhouse kicked it out of my mind. I can only offer the fragments of my hypothesis.

I posit that Chuck Norris’ career path was no mistake. I believe this as firmly as Chuck Norris believes evolution does not exist (as he stated in an online column for WorldNetDaily). Yes, you may look at his life and figure he is your average American soldier turned hardworking superstar karate fighter, turned incredibly stiff movie actor showcasing formulaic and repetitive fight scenes, turned television star responsible for reviving morally unsophisticated Westerns, turned Total Gym infomercial salesman, turned evangelical Christian author, turned Internet fad and conservative spokesman. You may see him that way, but it would be the last mistake you would ever make.

Chuck Norris, who is omniscient, knew scripts for movies like “The Delta Force” and “The Octagon” hardly merited the paper they were written on, but he accepted those projects anyway. Just as some theologians argue that our tarnishing universal sin only further glorifies Christ’s redemptive work for humanity, I argue that Chuck Norris’ early Hollywood mishaps only further elevate and exalt his many storied accomplishments today. He has karate-chopped our expectations in half, he has taken the glut of Chuck Norris humor in stride, and he has never rested on his laurels.

Remember, Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.

James Dechant is a senior English and Theology major who can be contacted at jdechant@nd.edu. One time, a man asked Chuck Norris if his real name was “Charles.” Chuck Norris did not respond; he simply stared at him until he exploded.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.