Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Where Have All the Firestarters Gone?

IRV THE KIND OLD MAN: You men are tresspassin’. Show me a warrant or get off my land.AGENT: We don't need a warrant.IRV THE KIND OLD MAN: You do unless I woke up in Russia this morning!

(later)
IRV THE KIND OLD MAN: Norma, those men came here without any warrants at all. Tried to take them off our land. One of them shot me. What do you want me to do? Sit here and turn them over to the secret police, if they ever get their peckers up enough to come back? Be a good Nazi?
This might be a controversial, or just flat-out crazy statement, but here goes: “Firestarter” is a seriously underrated movie.

Yes, the 1984 Drew Barrymore movie, her follow-up to “E.T.” Yes, based on a Stephen King novel, even though we have been taught to believe that all movies based on Stephen King books are painfully awkward and flawed. Yes, with a syrupy synthesized soundtrack by Tangerine Dream. Yes, with some questionable special effects.

Dammit, it’s a decent movie. It’s almost even Very Good!

There was a time in our collective American popular culture where our distrust of government was not about how they spent our money. There was a time when we were much more Zen about the undeniable reality that a government the size and scope of ours could never be a perfectly streamlined and efficient beast.

There was a time when we cast a suspicious eye on Washington, D.C., not because we distrusted their fiscal responsibility, but because we distrusted the lengths they would go to exercise control, to gain an advantage over their citizens. We worried about the ethics and morals they were willing to ignore in the name of power, and we shuddered when they used a word like “security” as their explanation.

There were soldiers. They fought wars. They fought in uniforms. They were out there, in the public eye, defending us. There was a time when we didn’t even love these folks unconditionally or collectively. Many thought of them as suspect, as unthinking operatives for conniving power mongers. But even in our distrust and condescension, we never despised or distrusted soldiers like we did The Others. Those who fought in plainclothes. Those who engaged in espionage, who assassinated, who slept with the enemy to gain intelligence. Those who fought with silencers, stiletto knives and sniper rifles.

There was a time when we were far more concerned about whether the government valued any of our individual lives and liberties rather than whether they valued our tax dollars. Movies like “Marathon Man” and “Blow Out,” “Serpico” and “Soylent Green,” “The Conversation” and “Logan’s Run.” These movies called into question the motives of those expected to keep us safe.

King wrote “Firestarter,” it would seem, during the denouement of this vibe, in 1979 and 1980. I guess I’m just wondering what happened to make us trust our government so much when it comes to our safety and well-being? Why are we now so much more worried about them plundering our wallets than trampling our bodies when both are defended/excused by an interest in The Greater Good?

That the government wants my money for The Greater Good, to me, doesn't feel nearly as unsettling as the notion that they aren't particularly concerned about my safety or well-being so long as they can hide behind The Greater Good.

So, thanks Irv Manders, the Kind Old Man, for knowing "what's right with America."

1 comment:

troutking said...

The interesting paradox is that we allow our government to intrude on our privacy more and more while we trust it less and less. Can't remember the movie--haven't seen it since the 80s!