Monday, November 14, 2016

Who Do They Root For?

Tonight I watched Tremors (1990) again for the first time in a long time. I really liked it the first time around, but seeing it now is like seeing it in a new light. The cast is good. I especially like Fred Ward, and he plays his part perfectly. He reminds me of guys I have known in real life, in the military or doing other kinds of physical work. Michael Gross and Reba McEntire are great as the heavily armed survivalist couple. The scene in the basement of their bunker is hilarious in its excess, and the punchline is priceless.

I realized something as I was watching Tremors this time around, though. The movie takes place out in the middle of nowhere, or in B.F.E., as people in the military put it. There isn't a city, a suburb, or even an exurb in sight. There are no coffee bars, no microbreweries, no artisanal this or handcrafted that. Nobody works in media, or entertainment, or government, or higher education. They all work with their hands, making ends meet as they can. There aren't any elites to save them from anything or to instruct them on how they must live. In Perfection, Nevada, the cluster of buildings in which Tremors takes place, college degrees are scarce, but everybody has a gun. In short, almost everybody in the movie is a deplorable, or what used to be called a bitter clinger. Towards the end they even get into the back of an old semi-trailer, as close as there is to a basket in the film. My realization--more a question--is this: Who do leftists, or liberals, or progressives, or whatever they call themselves, root for in a movie? They can't possibly bring themselves to root for a bunch of high school graduates living with guns and knowhow out in some horrifyingly remote, backwards place. So who do they root for?

Copyright 2016 Terence E. Hanley


  1. Terence,
    I haven;t seen Tremors in quite a while, either. I fondly remember seeing it in the theater when it came out and being pleasantly surprised by the film. In style and structure it harkened back to the great Jack Arnold science fiction films of the 50s that I love so much, like Tarantula and It Came From Outer Space, in which remote desert communities have to overcome some weird menace. It's a great mix of mystery, horror and tongue-in-cheek humor, and a salute to the resiliency of the human spirit. And yes, the survivalists' scene in their basement is indeed "hilarious in its excess."

    I'm sorry that you have such a low opinion of people on the political left. I'm a liberal with nothing more than a high school education and who works with his hands. Many of my closest friends fit into this category as well. True, there are people on the far left who are absurd in their demands and expectations regarding how others should live, but the same can be said for people on the far right. Any extreme is bad, is unrealistic.
    Government is all about imposing restrictions --i.e.laws -- upon its populace. Liberals and conservatives differ in their belief in what some of those restrictions should be, or on what the extent of those restrictions should be. That is why we need compromise, we need open-minded dialog that listens to and respects varying opinions. And that's why we need to drop the dishonest, insulting rhetoric that misrepresents the views and goals of others. For instance; people who discuss gun-control laws in response to gun violence are , for the most part, not in favor of outlawing firearms across the board. Some are, but they are in a very small minority. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either misinformed or an outright liar.
    I'll never understand why so many conservatives seem to be so contemptuous of education. I. for one, am glad that we have doctors, engineers and teachers in our world; jobs that require a fair degree of higher education. This growing fear and distrust of education makes me fear for our future, makes me worry that we are headed for another Dark Ages, in which superstition and ignorance take president over science and learning.
    To answer your loaded question: In a story such as Tremors, people root for people, regardless of their politics.

    1. Mike,

      While reading up on Tremors, I found out that it's a Universal picture (I guess I wasn't paying attention at the beginning of the movie), and it all made sense. It's basically an updated version of those great Universal monster movies of the 1950s, so many of which, like you point out, take place in the desert. (Now there's a good subject for research: Why the desert?)

      You wrote: "I'm sorry that you have such a low opinion of people on the political left." I think you take my meaning the wrong way, but maybe I wasn't entirely clear. I despise leftism. That's an easy enough thing to say, especially in view of the events of the twentieth century, when leftists murdered and starved upwards of 100 million people, and tortured, imprisoned, and otherwise tormented countless millions more. But my view of leftists in this country isn't what I was getting at in this brief posting. It's their view of the rest of us, whom they hold in such utter contempt. That contempt was in plain view before the election. Since the election, I have been reading left-leaning commentary, and it's all still there: a bizarre combination of extreme arrogance and breathtaking cluelessness about what has happened and about why people (and states) voted the way that they did. They call us here in flyover country "bitter clingers," "deplorables," "racists," "sexists," "xenophobes," and on and on. I thought about writing to one commentator to try to get him to think about the things he had written. (One of the most preposterous of them: "Clinton had the best résumé of anyone who ever ran for president." See what I mean about breathtaking cluelessness?) But I decided not to: I cooled off. But I also thought of a better strategy. Right now, I would counsel everyone on the conservative (or at least Republican) side of the equation: don't interrupt the opposition while it's making a mistake.

      I figured you would respond to what I wrote. And you're right, my question is loaded. You gave the response I might have expected: that if you're a human being, you have to be on the side of human beings and not on the side of monsters, vampires, zombies, etc. (Although you know that Daryl on The Walking Dead has to be a deplorable.) But if you do a thought experiment--if you project a fantasy into the real world--and make your story about real people living in places like Nevada or Nebraska or Indiana (where I'm from), who do you root for? The deplorable, who perhaps owns a gun, reads the Bible, goes to church, and has nothing more than a high school or trade school diploma, or the elitist with his ideas--and too often the official force to back them up--about how that man should live? That is my point.

      I know you're on the liberal side of things and that you work with your hands. I'm on the conservative side, and I work with my hands, too. I think that you and I most likely agree on a lot of things. Like you said, people have to be able to meet in the middle. Compromise is one of our great skills and one of the things that has made this country such a great success. But there has been little in the way of compromise in recent years. This election highlights that.

      Part 2 below.

    2. To your comment: I am not "contemptuous of education," and I don't think most conservatives are, either. Conservatism in America was founded by and is led by intelligent and highly educated people. But we all have reason to be extremely skeptical of well-educated, overly intellectualized, and very elitist people who believe that they know more than we do about how we should live our lives, moreover, of those who believe that everyone should be subject to their intellectualized system. Intellectualized systems have meant the deaths of millions of people and the oppression of millions more.

      Like you, I'm glad we have doctors, but a doctor is an expert in medicine, not on what rights and freedoms should be permitted his fellow citizens. Likewise, engineers should stick to the engineering of physical forces and physical objects, not on the engineering of society. Perhaps most importantly, teachers should teach, not indoctrinate their students. People are and by rights free and have unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. If a doctor (like Josef Mengele or Ezekiel Emmanuel), or an engineer (like Yasser Arafat or Bill Nye the Science Guy), or a teacher (like Mao Zedong or Bill Ayers) seeks to take away those rights, he should expect to be met with opposition, or force, or, if necessary, violence.

      I don't think we're heading for a new Dark Ages, and conservatives certainly aren't going to lead us there. Contrary to what leftists in this country believe, conservatives are not "anti-science." Conservatives--true constitutional conservatives in the American mode--see things pretty clearly, I think. And maybe it's that attachment to reality and to facts that earns them the bitter hatred of their opposition.

      Thanks for writing.


      (A link to the article I mentioned:

  2. Yes, compromise has been sorely lacking in our political arena in recent decades, and the situations seems to somehow keep getting worse. It's truly, profoundly unfortunate that the mindset has shifted to one of "liberals vs. conservatives" rather than "liberals and conservatives." We are not two sides, we are one country, and we can all learn something from one another, and should be able to respect our varying concerns without resorting to hostility and contempt.
    Look at the video of the speaker at an anti Trump rally yesterday at OSU being pushed headlong down the stairs for daring to voice his opinion as an example of what's wrong in this current political environment. The prevalence of this kind of thuggish attitude is what concerns those who are opposed to the new president elect. When Donald Trump says that his opponents should be carried out on a stretcher, well, that is legitimate cause for concern...even moreso when his supports begin to act on such advice.
    I hope such acts are aberrations, but I'm concerned that they might escalate in the days, weeks and months to come.
    At this point, I must add that I don't see Trump as a typical conservative, or even as a conservative at all. And he's certainly not a liberal. In my eyes he's a self-centered autocrat, and throughout history the appeal of such people has led to horrific consequences for those on the outside of their selfish ideals.

    I wish I shared your perception that conservatives are not anti science. But when I hear conservatives who don't believe in evolution or climate change, or who believe that a rape victim would only get pregnant if she wanted to, well I have a hard time believing that they have any understanding of the scientific method of discovery; let alone any respect for it. Again, this isn't true of all conservatives, but certainly is representative of enough folks on the right to be most disconcerting.
    I'm not aware of Bill Nye, the Science Guy being an opponent of human rights...

    1. Mike,

      I agree with you completely, that we are all Americans and not two sides. The only demons among us are the demons among us, not simply the people who disagree with us. This country was made by both sides and by people in the middle--conservative, liberal, and moderate. There used to be those three wings in each of the major parties (and more, if having more than two wings doesn't make a monster), but no more. As a registered Democrat, I can tell you that there isn't any room in the Democratic Party for me anymore. That party gave up on the middle--the political middle, the middle class, and the middle of the country--a long time ago. Never mind about conservatives.

      As for thuggish behavior, that's happening on both sides. You gave an example for Ohio where I live. Here's an example for Connecticut where you live:

      I think these things are aberrations and that things will calm down. After all, it has been only a week since the election.

      As for conservatives and "anti-science": You used the word "belief." Well there is no such thing as belief in science. A thing is either borne out by the scientific process or it is not. A thing is either a fact or it is not. Evolution is a useful scientific idea. It has also been used for political purposes. That makes it not a scientific idea but a political one in some cases. As for "climate change": one of the claims that "climate change" people make is that it is "settled science." Well, there is no such thing as settled science. To say that science can be settled is to make it into dogma, in other words, not-science. Relativity has been shown time after time to be useful and accurate, yet it is still being tested, a century after it was put forth. How can "climate change," a far less scientific idea, be settled and be beyond testing, questioning, or skepticism?

      Finally, Bill Nye is a subscriber to the cult of global warming. Global warming is a political idea, not a scientific idea. It is a kind of Lysenkoism and is designed to control people's lives. To not "believe" in global warming is not to be "anti-science." It is to be skeptical of people who want to control the lives of other people. Bill Nye is not a scientist. He is a political figure, and his ideas are political.

      Thanks for writing. We'll both become better writers and better thinkers by doing this.


  3. Terence,
    When Pat Paulsen was running for president in 1968, he was asked whether he was left-wing or right-wing. He replied, "I'm kind of middle of the bird," and went on to explain that, if you're too left-wing or too right-wing, you tend to fly in concentric circles.

    You are right, I used the term "believe" on purpose for just the reason that you stated -- in science there are only demonstrable facts and likely theories based upon those facts. People who challenge or don't accept the facts do not understand or respect the process that arrived at those conclusions.
    Yes, repeatedly testing accepted knowledge and theories is, and should be, an ongoing part of science. Testing the accuracy of what we know or think we know is an integral part of the self-correcting process of scientific advancement and discovery. Newtonian physics was a very good approximation of the foundation of the universe, but close testing located its flaws and led Einstein to his Theory of Relativity.
    Climate change is, in fact, a fact; as is global warming. A century+ of weather reporting has observed that the planet is getting warmer and climactic patterns are changing. The question is: How much of this due to natural cyclical change and how much is man-made? There is very good scientific evidence that humans are playing a part -- we are, after all, changing our atmosphere and our landscape to remarkable degrees, and that by definition is changing the environment.
    When people address the economic and sociological ramifications of reversing, of correcting the problem, then it does become a political issue, but that doesn't in anyway negate the scientific reality. Skepticism is healthy -- it is the heart of science. But we can't let our skepticism blind us to unpleasant truths.
    Unfortunately, you may be correct in the assumption that there is a faction who are trying to use fear of global warming to control people's lives. The desire to dominate and control others is an all to common human failing. But again. the faults of some of its proponents does not delegitimize the reality that their tactics attempt to employ. There are some, such as myself, who suspect that self-serving manipulators are to be found on the other side of the issue; people in positions of power who, for economic and political reasons, strive to muddy the waters and obscure the truth about this environmental threat.

    1. Mike,

      On this blog, I write about Weird Tales, its authors, and its artists. At first glance, you might ask: What is political about weird fiction? But weird fiction, as a sub-genre of fantasy, is or can be made political in at least three ways:

      1. Weird fiction or fantasy grew out of traditional culture and out of the Gothic or Romantic reaction to the reason and rationality of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Romantic writers tended to be conservative and to resist the excesses of reason and rationality expressed in the violence and depravity of the French Revolution, obviously a political event.

      2. Fantasy is, in general conservative, as it looks to the past and describes the decadent state of the present. Fantasy is on the opposite side of the balance from science fiction, essentially a progressive, hence easily political, sub-genre. If science fiction is political, it's hard for fantasy to be non-political, even if that is only an implicit political angle.

      3. Weird fiction and fantasy have been politicized as all things have become politicized in our current age.

      Because I like to explore the political and historical context of fantasy, weird fiction, and science fiction, I have run into political and historical ideas apart from literature and art. Maybe I go too far sometimes. But one of the themes of this blog is that, in your words, "The desire to dominate and control others is an all too common human failing." I would go even farther than that: The desire to control the lives of other people is part of the human personality. It has existed in all people, at all times, and in all places. It has always been with us, and it will always be with us. It is strong evidence in favor of the fallen nature of humanity (something conservatives recognize) and against the idea that humanity, hence the world, can be perfected (something liberals or progressives believe with all of their hearts). Global warming has been irretrievably lost to science. It has become thoroughly politicized, and because of that, there will be no going back. Instead it is being used and will continue to be used as an attempt at control and, as with all progressive causes, as a reaching towards Utopia. As we know, all attempts at Utopia arrive at Dystopia. It's unfortunate that global warming has been lost to politics. As you say, global warming presents legitimate scientific questions. It should have remained a matter for science. But it's too late for that now.


    2. Terence,
      One thing that I have observed and pointed out repeatedly is the fact that popular entertainment is a reflection of the time and culture within which it is created. Therefor, upon reflection it becomes obvious that all fiction is to some degree political in nature. Even pieces that seemed totally non-political or intentionally apolitical in their day can later be seen to have elements -- either supportive of or in opposition to -- the socio-political climate of their time and place. It is unavoidable; and in many ways, the surviving pop culture is a more honest window into the past than even the best history books will ever be. So the combined interest in fiction and political history more than makes sense; each truly enriches the other.

      I don't agree with the perception that liberals think that humanity and the world can be perfected. But thing can always be improved; hence the term "Progressives." Change is inevitable, and we have the ability, some would say a duty to the future, to select the best changes that we can during our stewardship of this era.
      Whether the choices are truly the best, is, of course, open to debate...and should be. And everyone makes mistakes. But they are just that, mistakes. As individuals and as a collective, we can and must learn from our mistakes and move forward.
      Despite what the pundits would have us believe, neither the conservatives nor the liberals are out to destroy this country. We all want pretty much the same things, have the same overall goals. There are just differing opinions and theories on the best way to get there.

      I can't be as pessimistic as you about global warming. While it is true that it has, unfortunately, been overly politicized, I have faith that there is still hope for a rational treatment of the issue. There has to be...though it may not come in our lifetime.