Schwarzenegger also says nothing about his abusive father Gustav’s voluntary service with the Nazis, presumably because he flicked away that association in his 2012 memoir, Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story. People only bring up the past when they want to smear you, Schwarzenegger suggests in footage from a 2003 press conference. (“You know, when you get into politics, they try to tear down your character, tear down everything you stand for.”)
Your tolerance for this much smäh will depend on how much you like Schwarzenegger’s shimmering present-tense narrative. (About working on “End of Days” after undergoing heart surgery: “This is a new day. Let’s just move forward.”) Some will find the sheer length of “Arnold” to be punishing enough, while others will puzzle over a clueless narrative full of ersatz values, like when Schwarzenegger repeatedly conflates the worth and the box office performance of his various star vehicles (“Twins” was apparently great!), and then piles on pseudo-inspirational lines like, “Nietzsche was right, that that what does not kill you, will make you stronger.” Schwarzenegger deploys that last paraphrase right after he talks about his brother’s death, calling Meinhard “delicate” and speculating that his dead sibling simply couldn’t take their father’s abuse.
There’s almost enough truth in all this smäh to make it seem credible, like when Schwarzenegger remembers wearing down doubters like “Conan the Barbarian” producer Dino De Laurentiis, who at first didn’t like Schwarzenegger’s accent. Never mind that Schwarzenegger insinuates more than he actually says, adds little to what he’s previously said, and often makes weird asides, like how America in the 1960s and 1970s “had problems” like “the Manson murders and protests against the Vietnam War,” which suggests that “Hippies were rising up.”
The relentless march of time might still make you more susceptible to “Arnold” and its slick, consistently unbelievable revisionism. “We are the last dinosaurs,” Stallone says of himself and Schwarzenegger in episode three, which not only explains why Rocky’s in “Arnold,” but probably also why “Arnold” exists. Schwarzenegger continues to control his hyper-mediated destiny, and many people agree that his accomplishments as an American politician more than compensate for his earlier indiscretions. That was then, and this victory lap is for now until the foreseeable future.
On Netflix now. Whole series was screened for review.