Falling Down

Many of you know this film with Michael Douglas was meant to be a social commentary when it came out to mixed reveiws. 30 years have passed and now we are seeing mass shootings and suicide by cop becoming an epidemic in our country. Let’s play a game… Watch this interview with Michael Douglas and pick out all the things that the actor himself said but missed about where the country is headed.


(You can also watch a few clips of the film on YouTube to refresh your memory.)
"It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence. There is hope for a violent man to become non-violent. There is no such hope for the impotent." -Gandhi

Re: Falling Down

Yeah, I’ve always liked that movie as a satire.

The problem is the Trumpers don’t understand art as satire and really do want a “MAGA” return to a mythical era where in the late 50s and early 60s the supposed, white working class enjoyed, benefits of supposed nuclear family values & white supremacy in the factory north and Jim Crow south. Many of the people I know who grew up In That area have childhood trauma. It’s a mirage.

You Can view the movie through the lens of satire as pretty much a precursor to trumpy populism. The main character is supposed to be a tragic hero - more a MacBeth than a Hamlet. He’s a violent, misanthrope with a distorted view of himself and society - just like the trump cultists.

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Re: Falling Down

Well said, INVICTVS.

The movie could be seen as a series of small vignettes as the flawed protagonist walks from neighborhood to neighborhood trying to make it “home”. In the interview Michael Douglas is likened to his father, Kirk Douglas, who portrayed Odysseus in the film adaptation of Homer’s play, of a hero traveling through different strange lands, trying to make it home to his family. In “Falling Down,” strangeness of walking through the disparate neighborhoods of Los Angeles is comparable to being in an Odyssey and is a main feature of this film. In most other countries one could imaging greater homogeneity within a major city, often one dominant culture being expressed throughout the land. The antithesis of this has long been a feature of Los Angeles where I’ve heard the different neighborhoods described as Flash Gordon Worlds, each one rather distinct and no resident really needs to visit or interact with the other neighborhoods/cultures in daily living. Culturally speaking this is neither a good or bad thing in itself but does strongly delineate cultural lines between people living next to each other in the same or similar geographic area. But when financial stress and alienation sets in, this becomes a major issue (or strength) to contend with. During the Great Northridge Earthquake for example we saw people pull together and helpful to each other when the electricity was off (yes, clearly out of fear of descending into chaos than simply having fun playing camping in your own house before the power returned). Yet for those grizzled Boomer Americans who quite literally called themselves “The Greatest Generation,” yes I can imagine the changes that happened in this country since the ‘50s to be alienating.

That’s where we are forced in this film to feel a sort of sad wistfulness for a time past with the protagonist and accept things as it is or go into a rage against the current reality and demand the world around him regress to a safer, more manageable past. The film plainly shows the dire consequences for the protagonist’s rage at the end but clearly, it wasn’t enough of a parable for some people to learn from. Indeed, our American culture has glamorized guns and a kamikaze attitude as appropriate for dealing with egoic threats to our changing identity so that this film could also be seen as a perverse Anthem of sorts to march into hell to rather than ask for help.
"It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence. There is hope for a violent man to become non-violent. There is no such hope for the impotent." -Gandhi

Re: Falling Down

I really need to see this film again. I think I watched it on... (*gasp*) broadcast television. At the time, I remember expecting it to be kind of an exploitive, button-pushing narrative of the archetypal Angry White Male, and feeling like it was that, but a little bit more as well. (My wife hates it, she was my girlfriend when it came on TV, and she didn't want to watch it.)

Bisbee, your account of the Northridge Quake is exactly how I experienced it. I lived in West LA, the neighborhood known as Sawtelle or Japan town, in a studio apartment in an architectural style known as 'dingbat' -- boxy stucco apartments surrounding a central courtyard. Ours had a pool. My friends in LA considered it a bit of a dump, but coming from the upper west side of Manhattan, I thought I'd died and landed in heaven. A pool! My own parking space!

And soon, guns, too. I remember the day my car alarm went off-- it had a pager, and never falsed, incredibly. I grabbed my piece and ran out of my apartment screaming-- and was shocked to find a half a dozen neighbors right behind me, ready to back me! The thief bolted, leaving the passenger door open-- smart move, we were all shouting, and probably sounded like a horde of zombies. Of course, it was stupid-- it's not worth shooting someone over a vehicle, I barely could shoot the gun I had! But I felt a lot safer than I had in New York, where I'd been attacked several times a year in the '80s, and only had my wits and a cheap gravity knife that I never dared pull.

Anyway, when the quake hit, I only had time to think about getting to my feet-- soon, the ground was shaking so hard that standing was out of the question. I lost almost every glass, plate-- anything that could break did except, weirdly, the windows.

And I discovered the neighborhood I lived in for the first time. Latino families lived down the street, and they started camping in their front yards, fearful of aftershocks. The patriarchs or older sons kept watch on the perimeter, often in a folding chair near the sidewalk-- and looked at my with suspicion the first time I walked by, but not after that. We would stop and exchange pleasantries, crack a joke or two. I went to the only local bar for the first time-- a karaoke joint a few blocks away, where I would run to slam a couple of beers before curfew. And I started talking to the guys in the fish market who sold me Sashimi, and stared daggers at me when I asked them to cut it for barbecue. I flirted hopelessly with an older Armenian woman who lived nearby.

But yes-- it was just a heartbeat in time that passed quickly.

Re: Falling Down

I enjoyed the movie back in the 90s. Of course, I lived in LA at the time. I also enjoyed Heathers as black satire before Columbine, and Wag the Dog before Kosovo.

It's increasingly difficult for me to appreciate satire as I get older. Poe's Law applies.

Re: Falling Down

I tend to agree. Satire is entirely contextual and it’s effectiveness really is dependent on the culture of the times. When an angry white man falls from grace and takes out his frustrations on “innocent” bystanders with fetishized power of guns, the absurdity of that in the early 90’s has unfortunately become semi-regular horror in the 2020’s. What was funny then is not so now.

The response to the rude Asian store owner struck me as sadly xenophobic and altogether way too realistic post-Covid to be funny in any way. It frightened me that there will be some Americans re-watching this film who will view this portrayal of Angry White Man as another OK sign the way Turnip normalized hate and xenophobia.
"It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of non-violence to cover impotence. There is hope for a violent man to become non-violent. There is no such hope for the impotent." -Gandhi

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