Chrissy Williams on her forthcoming festive one-day poetry workshop, ‘Yippee-Ki-Yay: Writing Poems Inspired by DIE HARD’.
Ah, Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year, a time for sharing warm fires, hastily wrapped gifts, and generational discord. Like many, I gravitate towards Die Hard at Christmas: a film about family and violent resolution with all the yuletide trappings anyone could ask for. And, being a poet, I want to write about it.
It’s one of the greatest action movies ever made, spawning a thousand knockoffs that have little of Die Hard’s original appeal (some within the Die Hard franchise itself). Director John McTiernan, fresh from making Predator, took the fight into the urban jungle, transforming a Los Angeles skyscraper with the help of cinematographer Jan de Bont, ensuring every second of action was delivered in clear, economical, explosive detail. There is not just one single memorable scene, but a plethora of iconic festive death-related moments.
Die Hard changed action movies forever. It took the gruff, unshakeable, determined action hero and made him a vulnerable everyman who somehow succeeds under extraordinary circumstances, one who carries giant soft toy bears and breaks down in tears. It took the maniacal one-dimensional action villain and gave him depth and appeal; Alan Rickman in an impeccable suit transcending the trope of the evil foreigner (and threatening to steal the show entirely). It perfectly balanced the tonal shifting between light and dark, comedy and death, action and character. It brought Beethoven into machine-gun fights, and the ecstatic energy of ‘Ode to Joy’ pulsates throughout.
Can Die Hard really be one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time? I want it to spur us into thinking about films and writing poems in new ways…
You can look at Die Hard through the lens of Westerns, but not the tough, gritty, John Wayne kind. John McClane is ‘Roy’ after Roy Rogers, the gentle sequinned-shirt crooner, who saves the single-minded woman and foils the slick city gang. John McClane is an alternate link in the chain of cowboy iconography, one that (amongst other things) helps propel America’s nostalgia for freer and more gun-toting times, even if it wears sequins whilst doing so.
You can see Die Hard as anti-government, with G-men and police chiefs showing up on cue to be the butt of the jokes. You can see it as anti-corporate, with the unseasonal snowfall of untraceable currency at the end. You can also see how easily the franchise would later backslide and turn relatable renegade John McClane into a right-wing superhero.
I want to talk about all of this. How can something so overtly pro-violence retain such charm and appeal even today? Can it really be one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time? I want it to spur us into thinking about films and writing poems in new ways, in this case Die Hard specifically. We’ll spend the day discussing the film, watching clips, and writing. We’ll use existing poems and poetic techniques as jumping-off points. This isn’t about workshopping or critiquing your work (though there will be an online forum where you can share poems afterwards) – it’ll be a fast-paced day on Zoom that whisks us from screen to page in a high-octane bid to generate new work. Welcome to the party, pals!
Chrissy Williams is teaching our one-day Zoom workshop, ‘Yippee-Ki-Yay: Writing Poems Inspired by DIE HARD’, on Saturday 16 December 2023, from 10.30am to 4.30pm.