Once Aryan Skynet Goes Live It Doesn't Matter Who Pulled The Switch
It is always interesting to revisit movies from one’s childhood and determine whether or not they still hold up. Our fondness for these films is often clouded by nostalgia for whatever the state of our lives may have been at the time. For social justice busybodies and tumblristas, revisiting childhood movies is often a traumatic experience, as they discover their favorite films as a kid are tainted by what would today be classified as “problematic” themes and wrongthink. They find themselves suddenly offended by scenes that they didn’t know were offensive until social norms radically changed, and the material no longer conformed. At that point, they just can’t even.
Those of us who reside somewhere on the other side of the PC spectrum, experience a different kind of disappointment when re-familiarizing ourselves with a tv show or movie we remember fondly (aside from it simply being not as good as we remembered.) Often times we are able to recognize subtle pieces of ideological propaganda (whether consciously intended or not) here and there, that we didn’t notice before becoming “aware.”
One example of this is the 1989 movie, The Experts, starring John Travolta and Kelly Preston. It used to be on HBO a lot in 1990-1991 but has unfortunately never had an official DVD release. Filmed at a low point in John Travolta’s career, The Experts seemed dated even at the time it came out, as the fall of the Berlin Wall and a collapsing Soviet Union made the film’s cold war spy plot practically obsolete on arrival. I read somewhere that it was actually filmed in 1987. Had it been released then, it would have been slightly more timely.
The storyline of The Experts centers upon two relatively dumb but stylish New York hipsters (of the late 80s variety) named Travis and Wendell, who end up being drugged and kidnapped by the KGB while being led to believe they are on their way to open their own nightclub in Nebraska. The somewhat absurd and farfetched reason for their kidnapping is that the Russians have a town in the Soviet Union where KGB are sent to train how to blend in as Americans. The problem with the town is that it resembles a cookie cutter 1950s American town, as if it were designed by someone who learned everything they knew about American culture from a Leave it to Beaver episode. So Travis and Wendell are brought in to unwittingly teach the townspeople (who are actually KGB spies) how to talk and act like contemporary 1980s Americans, so that these agents can more easily infiltrate. The diabolical plan hits a snag however, when the townspeople end up having their hearts won over by the charming but idiotic nightclub duo. With the help of a couple of rogue agents and defectors, they all escape the Soviet Union in a plane and move to the United States, to a small town not too dissimilar to the mock 1950s town they came from in the Soviet Union.
What’s great about this movie? Well, not much, besides the fact that Kelly Preston looks bangin’ in it. She and John Travolta apparently met on the set while filming this, and unbelievably they are still married. Admittedly, my love for this movie is based on nostalgia for an era of microwave popcorn and rented Nintendo games, of idle days home from school, and killing time while waiting to go to basketball practice with the other mediocre benchwarmer scrubs on the team.
However, there was and still is a deeper, less sentimental reason for my fondness toward The Experts, which is that the movie dealt with one of my long time obsessions and fantasies: the idea of a collective group of people creating an exotic and autonomous city based on whatever aesthetic they desire, no matter how outlandish (the same “exit” interest that briefly attracted me to neoreaction.) A 1950’s town is not my ideal aesthetic choice to be sure, but the idea that such a place could be custom-built and populated by people determined to live in the environment they found most appealing…was enticing to me, even as a clueless kid. Why do we limit ourselves to having our material surroundings chosen for us by those who live only for immediate practicality and short-term profit? This is not an argument specifically for recreating the past, but rather, an enclavist longing for self-determination combined with a Faustian determination to will it into reality. I’ve always admired Bond villains not for their evil deeds but for their discontent with the status quo and desire to construct a radically different and improved (in their view) world that is compatible with their alternate vision for society. It may be difficult to see how one could watch a forgettable, throwaway movie like The Experts and take away anything of value from it, but ultimately it serves as just one of thousands of similarly minor inspirations that only add up to something when pulled together in my rubber-band ball of a brain.
As I stated at the beginning of the review though, I did uncover some subtly irritating ideological content, relating to the topic of immigration. With the Russian townspeople moving to America, Travis (Travolta’s character) questions how they are going to be able to assimilate into American society, given that they are immigrants which come from a radically different culture and have no real understanding of how contemporary America works. His partner Wendell (who is of a certain parenthetical ethnic persuasion and played by actor Arye Gross) assures him that it will be fine because “all Americans are immigrants.” Travolta, playing the role of the gullible goy then responds in agreement with something like “Oh yeah! I guess you’re right!” I wish that I could post the exchange word for word given how blatantly outrageous and brazen it is, but this movie is so obscure and undocumented that I can’t even find a decent transcript online (or even the scene on youtube to reference.) You’ll just have to take my word for it.
The ideological messaging in this scene is somewhat tempered by the fact that the immigrants in question are Russians that all happen to look and talk like ordinary white Americans, but the fallacious argument in question is one we are all too familiar with. Open borders proponents often fail to distinguish between settlers, explorers and people who are simply moving from one country to another (ie. immigrants.) America as a nation did not exist when settlers and explorers came here. The natives who were already here had not built anything of institutional significance and were largely an obstacle to creating the advanced society we all know and love, the same society in which millions of actual immigrants from all corners of the world now eagerly come to exploit and be exploited by.
There is also the notion that all immigrants are equally capable of assimilating and adjusting to American life, just because different groups of intra-Europeans were able to. One should not automatically assume that since the Irish or Italians were able to eventually kind of integrate into the American system, that we can absorb millions of Arabs or Sub-Saharan Africans in the same fashion (or that it would be desirable.) For one thing, they openly say they don’t want to assimilate to Western values (beyond their superficial embrace of mindless consumerism,) and would prefer instead to assert their own ethnic identity, religious laws and social norms here. That’s a topic for other people to argue to death though, the kind of people that find it worthwhile to respond to the same arguments over and over, rather than just check out and start drawing up plans to build an escape pod while watching old movies no one cares about. I will leave it to the “experts.”