Arnold Schwarzenegger New Book Review: From Terminator to Governator to Womanator


Arnold Schwarzenegger was one of my favorite people growing up. There was a point in my childhood when I thought Terminator 2 was the greatest movie ever; I remember riding an invisible motorcycle, spraying spit all over as I tried to inadequately reproduce engine revs with my mouth, and playing with this cheap, lever-action toy rifle (the kind with orange, rubber tips at the end of the barrel), banging it into living room furniture and swinging it the way the Terminator would whenever he reloaded. He was probably my second favorite action hero next to Harrison Ford.

Playtime with one of my big screen, action idols eventually ended. I turned 13 and started growing up (per se); Arnold, seemingly out of nowhere in my mind, became Governor of the state of California. I was still basically a child, and so I can’t really blame myself for losing interest. I went from practically growing up with the man’s movies to having no idea what had happened to him and also very little care.

A decade rolls by, and here I am: a PolicyMic book reviewer and screamer and no longer the action movie buff I once was; and here’s one of my former-favorite people, a has-been well past his prime doing a corny cameo in a movie full of has-beens well past their primes. I’d like to know where my homey Arnold’s been for the past, like, twelve years of my life. Thanks to his new book, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story, I’m about to get a better idea of how he got to where he is today.

Here are three reasons why I and other millennials in the same boat should read this candid, new memoir by one of arguably the most electrifying Hollywood superstar of the 1980s and 1990s.

1. How the Terminator Became the Governator: In addition to his ideological development, my curiosities with him extend to how he got his start. When did he begin to express political ambitions? If and when he openly expressed conservative ideals, did the GOP just blindly pounce on him the way they’d later pounce on Alaska’s favorite MILF in 2008? Was he genuinely smart (in the Republican sense of the word)? Was he politically savvy? I’d like to know the reasons why the GOP would bother calling upon this Hollywood megastar to helm one of the biggest and most important states; it’ll take a lot to convince me that he wasn’t just a shiny set of Republican dumbbells and whistles, or that Republicans didn’t just simply get excited about him because of how rare he was: a high-profile, Hollywood superstar who happened to be a Republican in a left-leaning industry.

2. The Women Who Made Him a Womanator: I wish I could say I can coin the term womanator, but unfortunately, if you Google it, many have beaten me to it. But that’s what the Governator has proven to be: a womanizer. In Total Recall, he admits to having cheated on his then-wife Maria Shriver (JFK’s niece) with not only his housekeeper (with whom he fathered a son, now a teenager), but also with actress Brigitte Nielsen, his co-star in Red Sonja (1985), whom I must admit is kinda nasty-looking — a little too butch for me.

The Womanator promises honesty in this book, and so I’d like to know if he can give a glimpse into the mind of a cheating moron; I want to see how introspective he is (or how introspective his ghostwriter and/or editor make him out to be). Honestly, there’s no mystery. It’s either you have a sexual addiction or otherwise something about you that keeps you from staying committed, whether it be due to your tastes having changed, newfound boredom with your significant other, an ego that needs to be stroked (preferably by multiple women), etc.

Also interesting is whether or not the book will include any of Arnold’s perspective on the women he’s cheated with. Does he blame them at all?

3. My Complete Ignorance: I got into politics late in the game; I hadn’t become the sort of junkie I am now until I learned that Oprah was endorsing this black guy from Chicago named Obama who was running for president. By then, I was already halfway through college; and thus, while I’d been quite liberal at heart for a few years already, I was still remarkably uninformed. I was making fun of Republicans, feeling like a rebel, but I had only the faintest clues as to who I was making fun of and why.

Now that I think about it, I only made fun of Dubya because everyone was making fun of Dubya, especially Letterman, my second-favorite comedian, and I have to admit that much of his Bush-bashing was funny to me only because of how it was framed: outrageously out of context.

The same could be said of the way I remember poking fun at then-Governor Schwarzenegger. To this day, I still don’t know anything, really, about his record; I can’t even tell you when his tenure as governor started and ended. I heard here and there, growing up, that California’s economy wasn’t exactly the best in the country, and I may have ignorantly dismissed that as a consequence of his governorship — something I’ll retract (for the time being).

I knew, being a 1990s action movie fanatic, that he was the God of beating the shit out of robots or killing the shit out of terrorists; I’d watch my favorite Schwarzenegger films like The Last Action Hero and Eraser thinking, though he could maybe do as well a job as Indiana Jones if his plane were ever hijacked, I couldn’t otherwise take him seriously as a head of state. I knew he was probably the highest grossing worst line-deliverer in the history of Hollywood, and that I would never forgive him for Batman & Robin; I’m certainly guilty of projecting his career as a bad actor unto my idea of him as a real-world governor (thereby assuming he was a bad leader, which shouldn’t necessarily be the case). I knew he was called the “Governator”, which I will always find hilarious and clever. Oh, and I knew what sort of leader he was from The Simpsons Movie, in which a dumb, incompetent fictional Schwarzenegger was the president.

And I can’t forget some gloriously ridiculous things he’s said over the years. I’m never going to forget cringing at his 11th hour stump speech for Senator McCain in the lead-up to the election, listening to him advise Obama to do squats and curls and lamenting being the lack of “meat on his ideas.” I’ll never forget laughing hysterically at him when he said, “I think that gay marriage should be between a man and a woman.” And recently, I was able to listen to his 2004 RNC speech; it always leaves me wondering how the hell men like Nouriel Roubini or Nobel laureate Paul Krugman respond (with a straight face or with any degree of seriousness for that matter) to a guy when he belittles them as “economic girly men”?

The bottom line is I really have no idea who this guy is — but I’ve been judging him anyway. And I’m sure I’m not the only member of my generation floating along in the same boat. Hopefully this book will fill in some gaps for all of us.