Many heroes featured in ‘80s action and comedy movies encapsulate a Reaganesque flavor of American exceptionalism: the maverick cowboy with authority problems. Take Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman, one-fourth of The Ghostbusters. The movie opens with him flirting with a student volunteer while simultaneously torturing another. Venkman has zero respect for his customers, coworkers, or government agencies. And we love him for it, because he’s funny and charming. In fact, we love all of the Ghostbusters, not just despite the fact that they are a bunch of bumbling idiots recklessly following their own dream, but because of it. In contrast, William Atherton’s Peck is a bit of an ass, but we mostly hate that he’s smothering individualism with all of his concerns about environmental damage. Concerns that are the primary function of his job. He’s neither funny nor charming; he’s the enemy of funny and charming, and we hate him, despite his good intentions.
That’s pretty much the gist of Medium’s recent “Iceman List,” which reverses the lens through which we identify many heroes and villains in ‘80s movies. Sure, John Kreese and his Cobra Kai goons were definitely assholes, and Clarence Boddicker unquestionably deserved to be neck-stabbed by Robocop’s USB connector. But Ferris Bueller’s Dean of Students Ed Rooney? The guy was just trying to do his job and put an end to the disruptive academic career of an obvious psychopath. And Top Gun’s reviled Iceman? He’s a highly trained pilot whose biggest crimes are trying to look cool while conforming to military authority and harshing on Maverick, a smug, rule-breaking ass whose very callsign is the distillation of 1980’s American heroism. Almost everything Maverick does is at the expense of everybody around him, and yet, for some reason, he’s allowed to continue his career in the United States Navy. No, Maverick, you stink.