People are wondering if the American Dream is still alive. To answer this question we take a look at somebody who has lived the American dream, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Some know him as a bodybuilder who is considered a role model for many, others know him as an actor who played in many successful films or he is known for his political role as the governor of California, but certainly he has set his footsteps in the history of all the mentioned categories. Before we can answer the main question that I am dealing with, to what extent Arnold Schwarzenegger represent the American dream, we have to make clear what the American dream actually is. The American dream can have an individual meaning for each person, but the basic idea is a promise of freedom from religious and political persecution, equality of opportunities and individual freedom. The most important rule in order to achieve great goals is to think different, to live different and to be different. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “The worst thing I can be is the same as everybody else. I hate that.”
First I will introduce his background, about his childhood and his family, how he became a bodybuilder and who helped him to reach the goal to become Mr. Olympia. Then I want to explain how he became an actor and which types of roles he played. Finally I want to speak about his career as a politician, how he became a politician, why he became a politician and what his goals as a politician were. We see that Arnold Schwarzenegger´s life is a very good example to prove that the American Dream can become real because he did a lot of different things by being very successful. He was the most successful bodybuilder in the world, played the most important role in “Terminator” and was the governor of California.
In the End I will answer the question “To what extent does Arnold Schwarzenegger represent the American Dream?” Is he an example for somebody who lived the American Dream, who can reach the goals that he set, somebody who is different? I will answer all these questions in the following research paper. I chose this topic in coherence with our subject matter in the first semester: the American Dream.
The Way of Becoming a Bodybuilder
“Growing up in poor conditions makes you hungry for success”
Becoming a successful bodybuilder was Arnold’s first major achievement; to understand how he reached this goal it is necessary to look at the way he grew up.
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger was born on July 30th 1947 in Thal, Austria. Arnold was raised by his parents Gustav Schwarzenegger (1907-1972), a policeman, and his wife Aurelia (1922-1998). Arnold was raised in poor conditions, his family never had much and they were strictly religious. His father’s military background affected Arnold a lot as his official ways of raising his children was not always easy.
His parents were not really concerned with him leaving home, as a matter of fact, at age 15, Arnold had to pay to live at home. Arnold Schwarzenegger paid one third of his monthly income, which was 100 Schilling. Furthermore, it was his father’s discontent that built hatred inside of Arnold. His father never complimented him on his achievements making him feel unworthy. He also never supported his ideas and weight training, “Every time he hit me, every time he said my weight training was garbage, that I should do something useful and go out and chop wood, every time he disapproved me or embarrassed me it put fuel on the fire in my belly.” These were the reasons that contributed to his decision of leaving home.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was fascinated by documentaries shown in his school that depicted the life in America. “I saw highways and freeways and the bridges and everything seemed to me so huge. I just fell in love with it.” Compared to Austria where he lived at the time “… you see everything little, little bridges, little cars … I felt that it was too little for me, I was much more attracted to America.” Arnold always felt the urge of not belonging and therefore he promised himself to get to America, however his path was still unclear. Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to figure out possible ways to get to America and he eventually decided that bodybuilding was the key to America, as he argued that bodybuilding was a typical American sport.
His intention was that if he became like Steve Reeves and Reg Park, famous bodybuilders at his time, he would be eventually invited to America for competition.
At first he was a normal boy from Austria who was interested in sports; he played soccer, swam and boxed in different clubs, until age 15, when he hit the gym to train legs for soccer for the first time. After that experience he quitted playing soccer with the intention of lifting weights only, which is a clear sign of the American dream: Someone begins small, but works for something to get big, to reach his goals, even if you have to take the risk and give up something. Concentration and focus helped him to keep on working. Arnold got his motivation and knowledge from different US-magazines. Until the age of 18, Schwarzenegger participated in different bodybuilding competitions, but also in powerlifting competitions. In the year 1965 he was the junior state champion in Olympic powerlifting. In the same year he won his first bodybuilding title as the best junior athlete. This was a milestone on his way to become Mr. Olympia. After some other competitions he won the title as NABBA (National Amateur Bodybuilder Association) Mr. Universe, at only 20 years. He is still to date the youngest person to receive the title of Mr. Universe. One year later, in 1968, he won his second title as NABBA Mr. Universe, which made him popular.
Joe Weider, one of the first persoms in the world that began with bodybuilding, invited Arnold Schwarzenegger to come to Florida, but he did not have enough money to buy a ticket to Florida. This reflects that he lived in bad conditions. Joe Weider saw his potential, believed in him and bought him the ticket. 1968 was the year when he immigrated to the USA. There he found better conditions to train than in Austria or Germany. Arnold only reached second place in the first IFBB Mr. Universe competition against Frank Zane. Arnold, however, was not disappointed, but rather on the contrary, he was more motivated for the next competitions.
“Failure is not an option. Everyone has to succeed.”
His next goal was the Mr. Olympia competition, the most challenging award in the world in relation to bodybuilding. The Mr. Olympia and the Mr. Universe competition were on the same night, but he failed again, this time against Sergio Olivia. One week after that he won his fourth NABBA Mr. Universe title.
He failed twice, but he trained harder and more to be the best bodybuilder in the world. In 1970, Arnold Schwarzenegger won his fifth NABBA Mr. Universe title in London. A day later he won his first Mr. World title against Sergio Olivia in Columbus (Ohio) and two weeks after that he won his first Mr. Olympia title also against Sergio Olivia.
After these victories Arnold won every competition he took part in until 1975. Then he decided to pursue an acting career, however in 1980 he went back for one more time and won his last Mr. Olympia title. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the most successful bodybuilder in the world; he won a lot of competitions, among them five Mr. Universe and seven Mr. Olympia titles. Just Ronnie Coleman (Bodybuilder) and Lee Haney (Bodybuilder) won more Mr. Olympia titles than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Both won eight Mr. Olympia titles. Ronnie Coleman won his titles one after the other, from 1998-2005. This shows that everything is possible if you work hard enough for it, if you think positive and focus on your goal. Arnold Schwarzenegger was a guy like everyone else, but then he came to a point in his life that made him change everything, when he did not want to be like everyone else.
Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to pursue a career of acting after winning his fourth Mr. Olympia title. He has been a fan of movies with heroes for as long as he can remember. Even though Arnold Schwarzenegger faced a lot of critic when he proposed his idea to friends, he still pursued his dream and eventually became successful.
At first many criticized him for having a ‘funny looking body’ and having a very thick accent, however Arnold did not care. “It was very difficult for me in the beginning – I was told by agents and casting people that my body was ‘too weird’, that I had a funny accent, and that my name was too long. You name it, and they told me I had to change it. Basically, everywhere I turned, I was told that I had no chance.” He auditioned for several movies until he got a role for the movie ‘Hercules in New York’ in 1970. Due to his strong accent the voice of Arnold had to be dubbed in the editing process and the movie was generally a flop. It was not until 1982 that his role in ‘Conan the barbarian’ was the breakthrough of his acting career. Two years later Schwarzenegger starred in the movie ‘The Terminator’ in which he played the role of a villain for the first time. Although Arnold only said a total of 17 sentences and 70 words, his role in The Terminator is by far his most influential to his acting career. Arnold Schwarzenegger got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1987, which for an actor, is the one of the most honorable things an actor can get.
At the end of the 80s he was one of the best paid actors in Hollywood, his accent and his ‘Terminator image’ had become a trademark. His image had manifested itself in the minds of the viewers, thus the sequel of The Terminator, ‘The Terminator 2’ became the best-selling movie of 1991 and Arnold reached the peak of his acting career. The next year, Schwarzenegger directed his first movie “Christmas in Connecticut”, however this is the only movie he has directed. In the following years cinematography techniques and methods improved and the traditional ‘hero movies’ became less and less favorable. Movies like “The 6th day” or “Collateral Damage” disappointed the audience and received a lot of negative critics. After the negative reception of several movies Arnold decided to make a change in his career and started to go into politics.
Schwarzenegger’s next goal was to become the governor of California, however in order to achieve that he had to take a pause from acting. During his time as the governor of California, Schwarzenegger made several guest appearances on movies and shows. In 2011, after leaving office, he continued with acting. In 2013, Schwarzenegger starred in the movie “The Last Stand”, his first leading role after a whole decade.
Due to his demanding bodybuilding career, Schwarzenegger was exposed to a great physical burden when he became older and therefore had to consider alternatives that would not be physically exhausting. That is why he decided to go into politics to set another milestone in his career. Schwarzenegger determined to become the governor of California. On 7th August 2003 he publicly announced in an episode of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” that he would take part in the candidacy for Governor of California.