Posts Tagged ‘Communism’

Red Dawn

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

This week will see the release of a remake of Red Dawn. The movie seems destined for the rubbish bin and several “worst of 2012″ lists but I thought I’d spare a few thoughts on it, since the original Red Dawn was quite a moment in my early teen years. And not just because it was the first PG-13 movie.

Red Dawn is not a great movie, but it is an iconic one. Apart from the zeitgeist it tapped into, which I’ll discuss in more detail below, it was simply a good film. That characters were reasonably well-defined, their actions not outlandish and it delivered a tremendous amount of action professionally and effectively (today’s audiences are unlikely to understand just how violent this movie was for 1984). I’ll let on that it has a “boy’s fantasy” aspect to it: the idea of teenagers successfully resisting a evil and powerful foe. But it twisted that formula a bit as it became steadily grimmer and grimmer until its inevitable end. I have watched it a couple of times since the theaters and always found myself intrigued. I would probably rate it a 7/10, acknowledge I’ve added a point for personal reasons.

However, the remake, even it is well-made and well-directed, is unlikely to succeed the way the first film did for many reasons that have nothing to do with film-making. The most obvious and commented upon is that, to avoid tanking the Chinese market, the enemy is North Korea. It is unlikely that North Korea could successfully invade itself, least of all the United States. Maybe they’ll come up with some explanation for NK’s sudden military might. But the absurdity of this is sure to drive audiences away. Even if the enemy were China, the idea is still implausible. The United States has more military might than the next twenty nations combined. And that’s not even counting the millions of Americans who hunt and would, if we were ever invaded, comprise the largest standing army in the world. Hell, Pennsylvania could probably outgun most nations.

When you get down to it, the essential thing about Red Dawn is that it was a film whose making was only possible during the Cold War, when we had an enemy superpower of significant military might and the very real fear that entire regions of the world — central America in particular — would turn against us. It struck a chord with many people — especially my generation — because it played on the patriotism and paranoia that was so strong during the Andropov-Chernenko years. Unlike the new film, the basic premise of the older film was not completely ludicrous, even if it was far-fetched. Hell, my friend Adam and I used to constantly play at resisting the Russian occupation.

Red Dawn came with a ready-made audience: tens of millions of Americans who lived under the Soviet threat every day. Critics complained that it seemed like a commercial for the Reagan Administration. These critics apparently missed that Reagan was re-elected in a massive landslide at least in part because of his fierce opposition to Communism.

Today’s young people are simply unlikely to identify with that. They’ve grown up in a world where America’s military might is taken for granted; where wars are rare things fought in distant countries. They’ve grown up in a world where true totalitarianism — the gulags and secret police type — is in retreat. They’ve grown up in a world where our own country is the one becoming a police state. The zeitgeist that made Red Dawn a cult classic simply doesn’t exist anymore. And so it will just be another loud dumb action film.

50 Years of Starfish

Monday, July 9th, 2012

This post, from Phil Plait, is a must-read on the history of one of the most dangerous nuclear tests in history. I do have on quibble however, with the opening paragraph:

In 1958, the Soviet Union called for a ban on atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons, and went so far as to unilaterally stop such testing. Under external political pressure, the US acquiesced. However, in late 1961 political pressures internal to the USSR forced Khrushchev to break the moratorium, and the Soviets began testing once again. So, again under pressure, the US responded with tests of their own.

That’s a generous reading of the history. It could be argued, as Robert Heinlein said at the time, that the history was more like this: In 1958, the Soviet Union called for a ban on atmospheric test of nuclear weapons, and went so far as to unilaterally stop such testing. Of course, they had a massive country with closed borders where they could test weapons on the sly. The US eventually caved into to Soviet bullying and internal Communist sympathizers to join the ban. However, as Heinlein predicted, Khruschev later resumed testing when it suited him.

Thursday Linkorama

Thursday, March 8th, 2012
  • I agree that most of these words need to die. Mancave, especially.
  • God rest the real heroes of WW2.
  • Fricking Australia, man.
  • Fascinating, if somewhat tedious evolution of the Eroica symphony.
  • Why Putin won the election.
  • Amazing before and after photos from the collapse of communism. You will rarely see the failure of that economic “system” so well demonstrated.
  • A nice story about the newest woman to join Forbes list of billionaires.
  • Back in the USSR

    Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

    PJ O’Rourke has a great story about how he became the writer he is. Paraphrasing, he was touring the USSR in the Brezhnev years. And despite the obvious dysfunction of the Soviet system, the Leftists on his tour group kept insisting that everything was wonderful. While they were in a water lock, some Leftist started going on about what great engineers the Soviets were, culminating in the exclamation, “Where do they get all the water from?”

    The idea that the Soviet Union was our technological equal was a myth so pervasive even conservatives believed it. Today, cracked has the goods on the shit show that was the Soviet space program. Honesty, it’s a miracle they didn’t blow a city up.

    For the record, Robert Heinlein also thought the Soviets left a man in space to die. While in the USSR, several people told him that a recent capsule launch had included a cosmonaut. That story was later changed. I keep wondering if the truth is somewhere in the Kremlin.