Analogies, Symbolism and Other Things to Make You Look Smart – By Brian Morton

 I have contended for years, and will continue to contend, that I don’t like films. I like movies! And, don’t think for an instant that there isn’t a difference. Films are out there as some kind of art form, while movies are there for our entertainment! As the Bad Movie Guy, I tend to get a lot of grief about the movies that I enjoy. I have a lot of conversations at parties about the movies I like and why they’re not “good movies”. The problem always comes around when someone brings up some crappy movie that no one will see, but everyone will pretend to see because it’s politically correct to like these horrible things, and, yes, that’s a reference to Brokeback Mountain! But, let’s not get off topic here, when you’re standing there talking to some pretentious moron about the ‘cinematography’ or the ‘lighting’ of a film, if you’re like me, you’re using every bit of self control to not dive over the coffee table and choke them into submission. So, instead of doing that, I have a better idea for you…talk about the movies that you’ve actually seen, but talk about them in the way that these ‘artsy’ morons will understand, use the same terminology and bogus intellectual speak that they use, but talk about movies, not films, but talk about the movies you love as if there were art films! Here’s a couple of examples:

Let’s take the original classic Night Of The Living Dead as a starting point. What I enjoy about it is that it’s just a good scary movie. There’s a little gore, there’s plenty of shocks and it’s a great afternoon popcorn movie. But, when drawn into these discussions, I often bring it up as a movie that I like, because most people think of horror movies as things that are there for the brain-dead in society, but here’s some food for thought. Night Of The Living Dead was made in 1968, at the height of protests against the Vietnam War, and you can see the political overtones in the film. Made in black and white, Night mimicked the style of news reports at the time, in fact, the news reports built into the movie feel like reports that were coming from Vietnam at the time and the series of still pictures at the end of Ben being dragged by meat hook and thrown into the fire could easily have been pictures of atrocities that were coming out of the war at the time. Then, let’s talk about it being one of, if not the, first horror movie that features a black hero! And add to that the racial overtone of the whole film, with the zombies taking on the role of the oppressed race, and it’s not a huge leap when you consider that all the people who are shown in the ‘news’ footage hunting the living dead seem to be rednecks. So, Night Of The Living Dead might just be another Saturday afternoon horror movie, or it may just be social commentary of the highest order.

Now, it’s not a big stretch to see Night Of The Living Dead as a social satire, in that Romero designed it that way, so let’s look at another movie and see what pretension we can wring out of it. How about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Yes, besides being my favorite movie of all time, it’s also a movie that has one of the worst reputations of all time. In fact, most of the time, when TCM comes up, people will beat their breast and wail about it, but most of the time, they’ve also never seen it! That being said, let’s see what sub-text we can drag out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. First, you can see, rather easily, that Chainsaw can be seen as a commentary on the social order, the haves versus that have nots. The ‘hippies’ who are on their way to a fun weekend, probably on the money Mom and Dad gave them and the ‘Sawyer’ family who are living so hand to mouth that they’ve begun killing and eating people to supplement their food, when these two levels of society clash, it’s not pretty. So, could Texas Chainsaw Massacre be an allegory for societal breakdown, or is it just a good old-fashioned scare-fest? Or, how about Texas Chainsaw Massacre as an allegory for the breakdown of the nuclear family? You can see the ‘hippies’ as the normal family and the ‘Sawyers’ as the abnormal family, then you’ll see that even though they’re abnormal, the ‘Sawyers’ stick together as a family and eventually they succeed, while the normal family bickers and fights with each other and that leads to their eventual destruction on the end of a meat hook. The lesson here is that no matter what you’re family is like, and let’s face it, no matter who you are, it’s always easier to see the weird and odd about your family (familiarity breeding contempt and all), but if, like the family in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, your family sticks together, you too can get through anything, even if it involves killing and eating the neighbors. It’s a valuable lesson that most people miss in this movie!

And, just so you don’t think I’m firmly rooted in the horror genre…even though I am…let’s take at a different kind of movie. How about Robocop? While Robocop is, on the surface, a great sci-fi action movie, about a robot cop cleaning up Detroit, and speaking as someone who lives near Detroit, we’re really looking forward to the robot cops taking to the streets. But, if you scrape the surface of the movie, and you don’t have to dig that deep, you’ll see a commentary on the corporate society of the 1980s. When Murphy is shot and killed, there’s no respect for the dead or the family, the corporation just takes the body and does what it wants with it, and then ultimately, when Murphy’s personality reasserts itself, it’s the love of his family that saves the day, not the company, not the robot, it’s the ultimate triumph of the individual over the corporate structure. There’s also a smaller sub-plot about the dumbing down of America and the use of TV to distract the masses. I’m sure you remember that throughout the movie the characters are continually stopping to watch TV and it’s always the same show, with the weird little dude with the mustache saying, “I’d buy that for a dollar!”. This may seem like just a funny bit that brings some humor to a rather grim movie. When, in fact, everyone seems to know the show and like it, and they all stop what they’re doing to watch it. It seems that even in this largely dysfunctional city, TV can be used to keep the masses mollified and largely ignorant of the horrors that are being committed on and around them. So, even a relatively light sci-fi action movie like Robocop can carry a little sub-text and have some hidden symbolism!

Here’s my bottom line on this: Like fighting fire with fire, in order to combat a pretentious moron, you have to become a pretentious moron. It’s pretty easy, just use words of three syllables or higher, and slip the word ‘allegory’ in there a bunch and you’ll be fine. Quite honestly, most of the people who want to denigrate and talk down to you because of your movie choices really aren’t as smart as they think they are, so it’s pretty simple to shut them up. And, remember the Uncle Brian rule of movie talks: If all else fails, just tell the jack-ass the “It’s Just A Damned Movie, Moron!!” that one always shuts them the hell up, and, when you’re dealing with a pretentious idiot who’s looking down their nose at you, shutting them up is really all you want to do anyway!