Monday, June 4, 2012
Independence Day and Projection Alienation
It is well established that the Hollywood story-telling mechanism embodies and often crystallizes a collective angst, manifesting in the real (i.e. fiction come to life) the unconscious concern of the shared psyche (Burbadge, 1979). A tension imbued with the animus of the people represents (Tross et al, 1961) and acts as catharsis (Honeywether, 1962) for the contemporary concerns which both drive and are driven by what Muns (1979) called “the spirit guide with his spirit leash” (emphasis mine). Explorations of consequence follow a Mitty-esque range of potentials and allow for the expression of the forbidden to become symbolically possible, cleansing and providing voice under the guise of Heigelshtein’s famed unwirklich.
Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day confronts the audience with a presentation of the ultimate fanaticism and fantasy, taking the primary weapon of encroachment on the Western ideal, that of Islamoradicalfascism, and, through both a lens of the minority and the impetus of anti-establishment struggle, recontextualizing communal celebration and, in fact, the notion of community as an exclusion of the other, paradoxically, by the adopting of the modes which define the other as such. Invoking such modern parables as Them and The Bad News Bears (clearly, of the 1979 TV series which parodied the expectations of comedy qua humor and the national pasttime as exploitation of an underclass defined both socio-economically and through gender roles within the scope of the public educational system), Emmerich’s masterpiece shows how a world united against a creeping threat can defeat an infestant evil only by coopting the evil and creating the inversive-duality (Muns, 1979) with evil as a cultural masque and not a transcendent norm.
The text establishes Will Smith as both everyman hero and reluctant anti-hero who, by embracing the unaccepted „exotic dancer“ as mate and being held down by the white man’s NASA is thrust into a position of conflict, having to choose between the alien force which provides a role model for him in his quest to become an astronaut, and rebel against the dominant white paradigm, and the military-industrial complex and the task master president in his defense of the status quo and the ultimate condemning of his own son (through the church’s constraints of marriage) to as bleak a future. Further populated by such fringe characters as the Jew, the ambitious woman, the-white-crooner-who-impersonates-a-black-man-for-the-amusement-of-the-other-white-men, and, ultimately, Harvey Firestein, the text’s imagery presents a subtle interplay between all who are aliens to themselves as well as to each other, but who, at least are not, as Randy Quaid’s alcoholic crop duster calls them in the expurgated text, “alien animals.” References to Vietnam both verbally and visually mixed with fear of nuclear annihilation, coupled with product placement recalling the commodification (or even commoditization) of the struggle for equality demand that the viewer conflate history and milieu to create a singularity of the moment (to which Dranse and Dranse allude in their seminal 1943 work on the topic,”History’s End”). The post 9-11 world of the film extracts the evil of that moment and projects it onto the alien destruction of a New York landmark (prescient and devilishly clever in that the film was released 5 years earlier) creating a new age Sharon-Stone-esque lesbian destruction of the phallic leading to what the New York Times called “a confused applause” as the White House is blown up and the First Lady, as a symbol of the traitorous woman who accepts the hegemony of the male, dies and her daughter, called Munchkin as an allusion both to the commercialization of pastry, and the film industry’s own populist drama of 1939, does not cry.
It is important to note that the Islamoradicalfascism of the film does not find favor in the more moderate even of the same faith. The scenes of militaries around the world uniting behind the military muscle (and, of course mind, of the only extant superpower) show not only the cowering Russians with their cigarettes burning down to their own political demise, or the Chinese, hidden in shadow as their numbers pale under the harsh light of Western Capitalisms „truth-serum“ but the joining forces of Israeli and Arab pilots under the leadership of the British as an antidote to the British partition of the region. The Arab pilots recognize the threat of this fanatic devotion and the Israeli’s recognize that the level of religious idealism is incompatible with an acceptance of neighboring people’s and philosophies. Thus the film operates as a blueprint for regional peace, as long as that peace is sealed with a Westernized imprimatur. Other images play into this notion of radicalizing the radical and establishing a mean which can exclude within the bounds of the acceptable. Goldblum’s driving on an empty road against the flow of traffic creates the image of the counter-intuitive and counter-cultural force which is ultimately still within the dotted line of the highway, following rules while thumbing its nose at convention. His subtle recycling of „Must go faster“ (popularized by himself in Jurassic Park, the neo-burlesque rendering of a Wilde-ian comedy of manners and errors as the ego runs rampant and the cages fence in the tame instead of the untamed) skewers the filmic tendency to reuse and re-exploit while demanding payment for old goods in the covering of something innovative, much in the same way that his character’s unnecessary presence on the space ship exploits the conventional notion of the white, male hero on the backs of the black-man’s actual skill-driven flying. [this, of course, ignores a scathing critique of a Driving Miss Daisy scenario, an angle with indications to be discussed in a forthcoming paper to be presented in Zurich] Brent Spiner’s charaterization of „Brackish Okun“ as a scientist with no sense of the application of his craft after portraying Data the Android who wanted to be more human and less science on Star Trek TNG, and Adam Baldwin as a major who shoots one of the aliens (as it connects with the president purely on the level of the intellect!) when he, himself, played the role an invading alien on The X-Files force the viewer to confront what might or might not be called the outsider and who must be embraced despite difference when attempting to defend an ultimate right vis-a-vis existence.
But it is the climactic moment of Randy Quaid’s destruction of the alien ship which creates a separation of the future-real with the present tension between life and suffering and which drives home the irrationality of a structurally sound hierarchy of morality in the face of counterpointed surrealism typified by the initial shadowing of the American flag on the moon, and later underscored by the shooting of a soda can (itself a condemnation of environmentalism which Goldblum’s character makes explicit earlier). Quaid’s sober behavior, called by the unitiate „self-sacrifice“ is, in fact, an act of suicide bombing, imitiating the Islamoradicalfascist use fo the self as a tool of destruction. But, in a chiastic approach, this subversive attack is coopted and turned into a method of resolving the conflict presented by the other. The mimetic behavior transplaces the expected moralistic hueing and replaces it with an indeosyncratic and transient action which unties the Gordian Knot with a readily available Sword of Damocles which the audience, though it thirsts for, is afraid to adopt for fear of slipping into the ethical morass and become that which they abhor, though they are convinced that they have done right, a la Costner’s Ness.
Independence Day is a text rife with conflict – in its imagery, its characterization, its story and its message. It is struggling with a tension between a potential which is desirable though morally suspect and a reality which is threatening but, in its own way, safe and satisfying. Can we allow ourselves to be pawns and victims (a state which Repliner famously called „the misery of the unmysterious“) to avoid a means which we find to be questionable, or do we embrace and thus disempower historical notions of the standard good/evil binary in order to create a possibility of a future which espouses a new anarchy but that, within that anarchy, holds the promise of civic responsibility?