Why This Pen Name

The prized possession, in its current location
The prized possession, in its current location

Since its premiere in 1988, Die Hard has never left me. There are two specific memories I have from that ancient summer.

The first, an article that ran in the Arizona Daily Wildcat, about upcoming summer movies and their double entendre titles. I don’t remember if it was from the wire, or written by a student. It was funny, and Die Hard was one of the movies.

The second, seeing it at Joy’s Panorama on Airline Highway – the dollar show. That probably wasn’t during the summer, maybe it was when I was home for winter break. I don’t remember where I saw Die Hard for the first time. But I remember thinking it was SO GREAT, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see it for a dollar.

Through the years I’ve owned the VHS, the DVD, the Blu-ray. I received the movie poster as a gift sometime in the early ‘90s, and it has been proudly displayed everywhere I’ve lived since. Several years ago, one of my husband’s friends, seeing our house for the first time, commented, “it’s nice that your wife approves of the Die Hard poster.” He responded, simply, “it’s her poster.”

Die Hard was woven into my L.A. days. Getting to reflect upon the Nakatomi Plaza every time I drove down Olympic Blvd. Spending Christmas with my brother and his family in the Inland Empire, we’d watch it on Christmas morning. I worked in International Development, just like Ellis. Though I’ve never done a million dollar deal for breakfast. One of these days.

My husband was the one who came up with the pen name Anne McClane. I had considered using my maiden name – but while Mialaret might sound lovely, it isn’t necessarily the easiest name to read or pronounce. I like that McClane gives nod to the “M.”

So I still haven’t gotten to the “why.” Why a pen name at all? The answer feels complicated to me. But this feels like the heart of it: because what’s expected of Anne McClane is different from what’s expected of me. I imagine there’s practically nothing expected of her, yet, and I love that. Anne McClane could do the literary equivalent of strapping oodles of C-4 and a computer monitor to an office chair, explode it in an elevator shaft, and who’s gonna say, “wow, who’d have thought she’d do that?”

The reason for this particular pen name is easier to answer: it’s aspiration. I recognized some time ago that I aspire to be like John McClane. Good intentions, misunderstood, butting heads with bureaucracy. But getting the job done. There’s a line in Die Hard 4.0 Live Free or Die Hard (possibly the second best installment in the series, though I’m torn between that and #2. I don’t hate #2 as much as some fans do, and I hate #3 more than most fans. Jeremy Irons ruined the Gruber family name for me). Anyway, there’s an exchange between John McClane and Justin Long’s character, Matt Farrell, in #4:

John McClane: You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin’. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can’t remember your last name. Your kids don’t want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.

Matt Farrell: Then why’re you doing this?

John McClane: Because there’s nobody else to do it right now, that’s why. Believe me, if there were somebody else to do it, I’d let them do it, but there’s not. So we’re doing it.

Matt Farrell: Ah. That’s what makes you that guy.

John McClane is an ordinary guy who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances. On multiple occasions. I’ve not been in many – or any – extraordinary circumstances, but I’d like to think I’d respond in a McClane-like manner if it ever happens.

And then there’s the aspiration to create something as compelling and entertaining as the first movie has been to me. The yin yang between John McClane and Hans Gruber. Bruce Willis’ and Alan Rickman’s portrayal of each. John McClane’s estranged relationship with Holly, and the perfect subtext this provides as he’s running around the Nakatomi Plaza being the monkey in the wrench to Hans Gruber’s nefarious plans.

And the villainy! Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber stands out as one of the best bad guys in moviedom. Darth Vader and the Child Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang are supremely scary, but neither one nails the suave attraction like Hans Gruber. His suits, his greed, his command of the situation – Hans Gruber was John McClane’s perfect foil, and there’s never been a better one. (But again, Timothy Olyphant in # 4 came close. I may decide by the end of this post that #4 is the second best installment. But wait, William Sadler from #2. . .)

There’s plenty more I could say on the subject, but I won’t. Except. . .

Yippee Ki Yay

3 thoughts on “Why This Pen Name

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