She who pays the pfeiffer*

*IF Michelle Pfeiffer was a bathroom fitter. Look, I just needed a title that married films and the idea of paying for things, and in particular paying for bathroom fitters, and I liked the title, so lets all just imagine that Michelle Pfeiffers a bathroom fitter for the sake of a pun now, shall we?

This has been bothering me since last night, and, actually for a long time before that, every time I watch an action movie.

Action movies worry me. Not just because they are very shouty and I find shouty things quite worrying – though that is also true – but because they present an anti-social problem with no solution. Or no solution that I have worked out yet. Perhaps you will help.

So the point of action films (as far as I know) is that there are explosions and high speed chases and also fighting and things. But these all take place in – to use the technical word – locations.

Actually, now I think of it, thats the normal word as well. How convenient.

Whatever. My point is this:
(I do have a point, honestly; it is this:)

So last night we were watching a particularly violent fight. I dont know if youve seen Star Bournes III: Return of the DeadGuy
(and return and return and return and return and return of the dead guy. Literally, Matt Damon is possibly made of rubber) – but if you have, you will know there is a particularly violent fight. Or several. Hundred.

During one of them, two men had come crashing through the window of someones house, and were busily beating each other to death in a bathroom. My Beloved turned to check that I was all right, what with me being a nervous type and that. He found me staring at the screen, slightly slackjawed and upset-looking.

Are you ok? he hissed, worritly.

Yes, but but but, this is HORRIBLE. I mean
I whispered, weakly
that is someones BATHROOM. Theyre RUINING it. Who will FIX it?
I demanded, quietly.

Writing it down, Im not sure if it says more about my shameful house-pride or The sad decline of Western Society represented in this: that we are thus desensitised to violence and conversely oversensitised to hard furnishings, like bathroom suites and the like.

It troubled me deeply (the bathroom thing, not the decline of civilisation thing, obv) and it filled our conversation all the way home.

So the whole thing was an evil plot of the CIA?

Yes he said.

Who were those guys with the beards, mainly?

Yes He said, patiently. He is used to describing complex bits of film plot that I have missed when my concentration has waned and I have spent some time looking backwards at the rest of the audience for inspiration for later writings.

And they were caught? The baddies?

Yes he said. (Oh! Sorry if you have not seen it, but please remember it was him who spoiled it for you, not me.)

So they will have to pay, will they? I pressed.


The people who were at fault for the whole thing. They will have to pay damages and reparation and costs to all the people who had their cars smashed up. And the people in Morocco. The ones who need a new bathroom. They will buy them a new bathroom?

He stopped walking and thought about this hard. Or laughed, or something. I dont know, he was quite quiet, which can mean either.

I dont think so, Anna, no

Well why not? Did you SEE the damage that was made to other peoples property in the course of that series of events playing itself out? Lots of people who were just driving to work and got crashed into by a freedom fighter and half a dozen bendy agents

Bent agents.

Whatever! Or people who had left their car in a car park and are going to come back to the car park to find that someones nicked their car and driven it off the roof and the person who DID that is just fine because theyre a good guy – but this poor sods car? Its fucked! Whos going to get them a new car? And what about the person in Tangiers, theyve gone off to work one morning, come back that evening, wanting dinner and maybe a shower, but theyre denied that, arent they, because not only is there some dead guy in there, but worse still, the whole suites been knocked clear out of the wall, so not only will they have to get that replaced and plumbed back in, they have to deal with the fact that someones gone and died in there as well. And they smell, you know, dead people. They excavate their bowels, and in a hot country they can start to go off quite quickly. And half their bloody windows are broken too, and there are bullet holes everywhere. Who will pay for all this to be fixed, do you think? And what about all those cars. And we dont even know yet about victims of stray bullets! There might have been several! Dozens! More! Who will PAY?!

He didnt know.

We batted around the idea that after a official indictment process there might be room for some kind of civil suit, brought by individuals in a precedent setting kind of way, or by the whole group in an Erin Brockovich kind of way.

We did consider that possibly some of it might be covered by insurance, but overall that seemed unlikely.
The owners of the cars that kept getting used by the hero were unlikely to be covered by third party insurance for him no matter how many identities he had.
The unfortunate householders with no more bathroom (and no more bathroom with a dead guy in at that) were going to find it hard to argue Act of God in a violent suite-destruction of a film that no one vaguely God-like was in.

The whole thing troubles me. These people rush about, saving the world, their loved ones, their arses, whatever, with absolutely NO regard whatsoever for other peoples personal safety or property. Have you seen how fast people drive during those car chases when they have to stop some bomb going off or whatever? It is RECKLESS, I tell you.

So I would like to know, if there are any great legal minds out there, who would be the person to pay for the damages that have been caused to all these blameless bystanders without any cars, or bathrooms or windows, or some other random thing? How are these people supposed to rebuild their lives once the world has been saved, or whatever was going on this time around?

I feel very sorry for them.

The bystanders.

It is a real overlooking, I think. On the part of the people investigating the CIA and the people who make films.

So you think on that, will you, greater minds than I? Think on the blame problem.

And in the meantime, I will be over here, writing a script about some plucky and beautiful young lawyer who agrees to take up the case of a whole crowd of people victimised by some destructive dogooder whos saved the planet and trashed their stuff in the doing.

And in my script, the beautiful and plucky young (ish) (about 30 probably) lawyer will take on their case pro bono, because she is a good person, and because she cares about the little people. And because shes nice. And witty, and a bit clever, although not clever-clever, and it could be said she doesnt have a very long concentration span. And she will also be really quite similar to me, obviously. Though in the film, she may look a little more like someone prettier, like Julia Stiles. Or Kate Winslet. Or Michelle Pfeiffer**.

And in the end, she will win the case for all the little people and the bystanders, and they will all get new (possibly electric or hybrid) cars, and they will get good medical treatment for the stray bullets and runnings overs they have suffered, and they will get new windows, their laundry returned to them, their doors replaced. And they will get new bathrooms. Oh yes, they will have new bathrooms, all.

**See? It all comes back to Michelle Pfeiffer. Like in the title.
You doubted me, I know it.
I doubted myself, even. But it all comes back to Michelle Pfeiffer in the end.
Motto to live by.

You know its true.