Alex Casey explains why in Dog the Bounty Hunter, this generation got the Batman it deserved. //
Duane Chapman aka Dog the Bounty Hunter first stomped onto screens in 2004 in a reality show called Take This Job. He was quickly picked by A&E and given his own show. The basic premise is that he goes around with his huge family looking for fugitives that have skipped bail and have a warrant out for their arrest. He then arrests them very aggressively, smashes their meth pipe dramatically, says a prayer, and then cashes in the bounty to buy more feathery tassels for his hair. It’s remarkably repetitive, and remarkably good.
Dog is a real life vigilante hero much like Batman – if Batman looked like Ron Perlman dipped in Fanta with a bunch of spaghetti stapled to his head. I know that we have the elaborate likes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Smallville and Heroes, but we needn’t look as far as fiction – our hero is right here in a flurry of beads, handcuffs and mullets. Here are a few of the reasons why I believe Dog is the greatest real-life television superhero of our times.
He has a dream sidekick
Dog’s wife Beth is his partner in bounty hunting and in life. She has enormous fake blonde hair, enormous fake nails and definitely no more notably enormous features. Her and Dog make the perfect pair, when he lays down the relaxed hawaiian “Aloha” vibes she blazes on in, effing and jeffing all over the place. Beth swears about 900 times an episode, frequently at Dog. They have a very loving yet incredibly explosive relationship, which is tested almost daily as they go head to bleached head on most cases.
[aesop_video width=”content” align=”center” src=”youtube” id=”ybAdiKUyrv4″ loop=”off” autoplay=”off” controls=”on” viewstart=”on” viewend=”on”]
She truly is one of the most kickass women I have ever seen on TV in my life, lacquered as hard as her bejewelled talons from years and years of bounty hunting. She even has custom-made leather gloves to let her glittery claws poke through. It’s not often we get a female sidekick, let alone a female sidekick that can cuff a rogue crim without even breaking a nail. And just look at them, if that’s not true love I don’t know what is.
He has a sordid past
The most interesting superheroes come from murky beginnings. Dog’s impetus to get involved in the bounty game was due to the fact that he went to prison for five years for murder in 1976. There’s a stinger for you – bet you didn’t see that coming. He was involved in a drug deal gone wrong, and somebody died as a result. Dog didn’t do the shooting, but he was still an accomplice or, as some would say, a guilty Denver Dog. Forget Orange is the New Black, Dog was the first sassy blonde Chapman to be put behind bars. After doing his time in the doghouse, he swore he would never put himself through that kind of hell again, and instead would devote his life to ensuring many others went through the very same hell.
He has a superhero costume
There is no denying that Dog has an iconic aesthetic from head to toe. His look is a fusion of leather vests, problematic Native American trinkets, and the kind of scarily over-pocketed black utility pants that my mum accidentally bought from an adult goth on trademe once. Despite occasionally going for a more casual denim rhinestone shirt (casual = completely undone except for one button) his look is unmistakable, and easily replicable. Just like a true superhero, his look has spawned many copycats- some closer to home than you think.
He has a dark side
He isn’t all Aloha, hanging ten and happiness. Dog has a dark side. And when I say dark side, I mean vaguely racist side. Why is it that so many TV personalities must quash our expectations of them by going on an insane racist rant? Dog recently joined the likes of Charlie Sheen and Michael Richards when a tape leaked of him yelling the “n word” again and again in a phone conversation with his son. Dog seemed to want him to break up with his girlfriend because their relationship meant that he won’t be able to say “N*****” comfortably again. Woe is dog. There is an easy solution here- don’t use racial slurs. You can’t just hold up a parrot and act like everything is fine.
He has powerful associates
Dog weirdly bailed out Nicolas Cage for $11 million when he was imprisoned last year for domestically abusing his wife. I don’t like anything about that, apart from the idea that maybe Dog and Nicolas Cage have hung out and watched Ghost Rider with the commentary on at some stage. But his little black book doesn’t stop there. He’s also best buddies with Hulk Hogan. During Hogan’s sex tape lawsuit (please excuse me while I shudder all the way to Mexico and back), somebody claiming to be “Duane Chapman” filed a motion to intervene in the case. Nobody knows if it was the real Duane Chapman, but if it was- why the hell is Dog getting involved in Hogan’s skin flick? Does this means he watched it? Does this mean he’s in it? Has anyone ever seen Hulk Hogan and Dog in the same place? So many questions. All I can say for certain is, he seems to be assembling a friend group even more terrible than The Expendables.
He has a weakness
All superheroes must have a weakness. After watching many many episodes of the show, I have decided that Dog’s weakness is somewhere around his eye area. I’m not exactly sure what that is yet, but he never takes his sunglasses off. Not on his daughter’s wedding day, not on the red carpet, not even in a brightly-lit Borders (below). He definitely doesn’t play by the rules of indoor/outdoor sunglass etiquette. There are occasions where we see him sans sharkies, and often this is when he is crying. Dog actually cries a hell of a lot on this show. Maybe the glasses are to do with protecting his vulnerability. Maybe his eyes tell you how you die like that witch in Big Fish. Maybe he doesn’t have any eyes at all. It’s never a good idea to look a dog in the eye anyway.
He has a theme tune
Forget the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Forget Batman. Forget Superman. Forget everything you knew before these lyrics:
“There’s fear and darkness all around you.
The criminals are on the run.
No use in hiding in the dark.
I’ll hunt you down ‘coz I’m the dog.
I’m the Dog.
The big bad Dog.
The Bounty Hunter.”
Ozzy Osbourne wrote the incredible song for the show and by gum, it is by far the best theme tune I have ever heard in my life. I love everything about it. I love how it sounds like it has been recorded through a cardboard tube. I love the evil laugh at the end. I love it when paired with the opening visuals and imagining Dog walking staunchly in front of a green screen. I love South Park’s parody version. Hot tip: this song goes down average to well when played on hijacked sound systems at parties.
I know what you are thinking: “Alex, this is an amazingly sound argument – but Dog can’t be a superhero because he doesn’t have a superpower”. First of all thank you for your praise, second of all, that’s what makes him great. He’s just a regular guy with a heart and leathery skin of gold, and still manages to infiltrate America’s underbelly and round up the baddies into his van. If you have never seen Dog the Bounty Hunter before, I highly recommend giving it a whirl. It is an absurd combination of intense high-octane action, blindsiding sincerity, family fall-outs and bizarre hairstyles. The man has had a pretty amazing life, and is a reminder to us all that it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. In Dog we trust, amen.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.