The passage of time makes the whole trilogy seem wise and humble, in ways it never could seem in the eighties or nineties or aughts, because the entire thing is really and truly a time capsule—not of any temporal-physical reality, but of a particular strain of American cultural posturing circa 1985-1990. All movies, particularly time-travel movies, have a touch of this. But the “Future” films are different because, unlike the vast majority of time travel stories, they are anchored very strongly in the “present.” The present is not merely a framing device or a launching pad for adventures, as is the case in most time travel films. All visits to the past or future are related to the present – and the stakes are not just personal (Marty’s existence, his parents’ happiness), they are cultural. Marty doesn’t just change his family, he changes the town, and by implication, American life.
The villain is the slaveholder Calvin Candy. He is evil, and as loquacious as anyone in Spielberg’s film; he is suave, and he dispatches his slaves casually and horrifically. At the center point of the movie, he delivers a long, intimidating speech on phrenology. The difference between the races, he explains, is physiological: the construction of the African American skull reveals the construction of their brains, and it is this construction that makes them inferior. […] Here, we are at the epicenter of Tarantino’s vision: the villain is exactly as cool and violent as the hero. Given this tenuous balance, morality becomes a matter of keeping, and defending, a code. This is American history as a story in which the qualities of greatness are also the qualities of terror; it is a vision that understands the double-edged nature of our proclivity for violence and our existential belief in the individual.
Pretty cool. Cf. the Arctic 1000 traverse from a few years back, which crossed through the most remote part of Alaska. Also reminds me of some of the issues and ironies that William Cronon brings up in The Trouble with Wilderness.
The hillbilly figure allows middle-class white people to offload the venality and sin of the nation onto some other constituency, people who live somewhere—anywhere—else. The hillbilly’s backwardness highlights the progress more upstanding Americans in the cities or the suburbs have made. These fools haven’t crawled out of the muck, the story goes, because they don’t want to.
To make it into the richest 1 percent globally, all you need is an income of around $34,00.
Places to live in which the people around you have no problems that need cooperative solutions tend to be sterile. America outside the enclaves of the new upper class is still a wonderful place, filled with smart, interesting, entertaining people. If you’re not part of that America, you’ve stripped yourself of much of what makes being American special.
Richard Florida follows up on The Geography of Stuck that I tumbled a few days ago, talking about religion, poverty, human capital, diversity, health, and most interesting to me, the Big Five personality traits:
States with higher levels of agreeable, extroverted and neurotic personality types are much more likely to have a higher percentage of residents born in that state (with correlations of .46, .49 and .4 respectively). Conversely, the percentage of residents born in a state is negatively associated with openness-to-experience personality types (-.32).
I should add: considering all of the above, it seems statistically unlikely that I will remain in Atlanta.
The Geography of Stuck – The Atlantic Cities. Glad to verify my childhood hunch that no one ever leaves Louisiana, or if they do, they go back. 78.9% native, that one.
“The Magazine’s recent piece on Americanisms entering the language in the UK prompted thousands of you to e-mail examples.” Picky picky.
What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking… All of this is really American.