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The head butt appears in hundreds of other films, usually used by fight choreographers to raise the stakes of any given tussle, letting us know that the loser of the fight is facing more than just shame and headaches, but possibly death or imprisonment.
The head butt is not funny and is rarely, if ever, used in romantic comedies.
The Mechanics of the Head Butt, Revisited
As I mentioned above, Mr. Engber did a decent job outlining the techniques of the head butt, but for a bafflingly exhaustive study of the head butt, I recommend Gerald Moffat’s masterpiece of internet prolixity on the subject, Head Butts or How to be a Nutter. I shall, however, try to briefly add to the above two readings.
Speed, efficiency, and surprise: these are the cardinal virtues of the head butt. Unlike a punch or even a kick, very little back swing is required to generate the necessary concussive force to an opponent’s nose (which also adds to the element of surprise). As most of the literature indicates, the mouth and the forehead are not ideal targets, as they offer more potential harm to the buttee than do the soft, cartilaginous nose and the vulnerable joint of the jaw. Of course, when facing an opponent, one must take into account height and angle when considering the target (for Zidane to have reached Matterazi’s nose would’ve required an improbable, no doubt comical, leap).
To engage with the head butt is to anticipate, even invite, an intensity of conflict outside the average bar tussle or playground donnybrook (though you can’t always be sure what might happen once a fight starts). The head butt precludes the standard face-saving rituals of sidewalk tough-guy talk and moves straight to blood; it is a preemptive strike and should be used only when violence is a foregone conclusion. If you’re willing to commit fast and early, it can be an invaluable tool in moments of crisis. However, you must also accept that you’re introducing a level of barbarity into the situation that cannot be withdrawn, paving the way for eye gouges, groin shots and biting — it’s as close as you can get to introducing a foreign object into the proceedings. As Mr. McCollough himself described it, a head butt can seem "vicious, violent and unprovoked."
A Personal Note to Kiefer Sutherland
Mr. Sutherland, while I feel a certain shimmer of nostalgia and a brief frisson of vicarious pleasure at your use of our shared ancestral approach to conflict resolution, I must ask you to employ a bit more common sense in the future. You are a guest in this country, Mr. Sutherland, as am I, and you are a public figure. Also, you head butted a diminutive fashion designer, and fucked up his nose, which, frankly, seems like an asymmetrical response. Sure, this might’ve been what Jack Bauer would’ve done, but is what your Dad would’ve done? Your granddad? Next time, please just consider a gentle shove to the chest, won’t you?