Patrick Swayze as Osama with Charlie Sheen as Ayman Al Zawahiri
I remember it fondly, it was Ron Flemings eleventh birthday party. We had spent the day bowling and retreated back to his house for cake and loot bags. His parents had rented the movie Red Dawn on BETA. At the time, the movie was the first to get a PG-13 rating and earned a spot in the Guinness Book Of World Records as the movie containing the most amount of violence. It was 1985 and at the height of the Cold War, nuclear proliferation was constantly in the news and the threat of nuclear war seemed closer to reality then it does today. Red Dawn was the first movie to bring the terror of a Russian invasion close to home. It's set somewhere in middle America, Russia has invaded North America and gained control over most of the US. A group of teenagers manage to retreat to the backwoods amidst the invasion which started when paratroopers touch down in the football field of their high school. After seeing their teacher executed, the students scramble to safety. Patrick Swayze pulls up in his truck and takes his brother, played by Charlie Sheen, and a few other b-list actors including Thomas Howell into the badlands of rural America.
The group of kids meet in the woods and begin to hatch a plan to overthrow the Russian take over with weapons they got from Howell's fathers hardware store. Their parents are either dead or in a prison camp and soon we see the execution of the brothers father. The group give themselves the moniker of The Wolverines, after their high school football team and begin to conduct a full on insurgency on the stereotypical Russian soldiers.
Now, this movie scared the living shit out of me. For months I was petrified of the threat of a Russian invasion and having to fight the onslaught with my chubby frame and my star wars lightsabre. The fear was imaginary, my naivete got the best of me and was soon quelled by accumulating more knowledge (including a Grade 4 science project on nuclear war). Tonight, the movie aired on Spike TV (Casino Cinema where some Sopranos cast off and an eighth rate Pamela Anderson host the movie while playing poker with a X list celeb, tonight's being Cory Feldman)and it made me realize that eleven year olds in Iraq are actually living my fear.
I'm not going to get all sympathizer on the Iraq situation nor am I in a position to be an antagonist of US foreign policy but the similarities between Red Dawn and Gulf War The Sequel are plainly obvious.
The Russians are the Americans, storming the country, overthrowing the leadership and instilling their way of life on the American people. There's even the Russian/American friendship center where the glories of communism are preached to the captive Americans. The Russians in Red Dawn, are bestowing their way of life onto the Americans and are executing those who don't get in line. The insurgent group are hiding out in the woods, have sympathizers in the occupied territories and are launching attacks on the Russians at checkpoints. Replace religious zealousness with American pride and the Wolverines could be Al Qaida (except that they have Jennifer Gray and Lea Thompson as fellow insurgents, Al Qaida would be more prone to get someone like the girl who played Joe Polnicheck on Facts Of Life). Okay, her name was Nancy McKeon and she once dated Luc Robitaille. I have a knack for useless knowledge, sue me. As the movie progresses, the Wolverines incite a revolution and are able to push the Russians out and reclaim their land with the help of the army who were somewhat absent during the first hour of the attack and occupation.
So, the movie that scared the shit of me and then made me realize that the threat was a distant possibility, is now a reality across the world. Except now, the good guys fighting for their freedom are the perceived enemy in the western world. The US mocks their devotion to Islam yet Pat Robertson, doesn't do much for Christianity by calling for the assassination of the Venezuelan president (never mind suggesting that the US State Department needs to be blown up or that feminism leads to woman killing their babies and becoming lesbians).
The line between what and who is good and bad has never been more foggy. A certain peace came over me when the Wolverines triumphed in Red Dawn. And now, in drawing comparisons between the Iraqi insurgents and the next cast of the Surreal Life (who wouldn't love to see C. Thomas Howell and Lea Thompson arguing over who ate the last piece of pizza?) who knows who's good or bad? Aside from the religious over and undertones of this war by both sides, the fact that someone has come in, taken over your land and are bestowing their way of life upon you has to be scary shit for an eleven year old Iraqi kid.