A hello to arms

Who, exactly, is the target audience for Red Dawn?

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'Red Dawn''s civilian militia fights back.
PHOTO COURTESY OPEN ROAD FILMS

arts@sfbg.com

FILM The results of the wee election that happened a couple weeks ago were generally a good thing, needless to say, but just as light also causes shadow, so the light bulb that went off for a majority of voters cast into deeper darkness a certain minority. Oh, you've heard the wailings and lamentations: the death of "traditional" America (read: white people, "they" are coming to take your women and steal your home entertainment center), brutal new taxations designed to funnel your hard-earned money to whole communities of professional freeloaders, the national anthem to be translated into Communist (it's a language, like speaking in demonic tongues), etc.

Some patriots, no longer loving it, are leaving it — mostly to inexpensive warmer retirement magnets whose natives aren't too uppity yet to avoid calling you "Sir" or "Boss." Others are planning to secede, one state at a time. (Yes, definitely including the ones you were already hoping would somehow cut ties. Can they take Fox News with them?) Mentally and politically, they seceded a while ago. But now it is on — Elvis is leaving the building, because he didn't get his way so fuck y'all.

What's bad about this is that, as with any psychotic break, bystanders may suffer for not sharing or getting in the way of the sufferer's particular symptoms — in this case likely to primarily consist of depression, violent outbursts, substance abuse, weapons stockpiling, paranoid delusions, paranoid delusions, and reckless home schooling. How many basement man caves have been fertilizing plans for what we might term "assassination," "domestic terrorism" or "going postal" since November 6, imaging personal heroism and national salvation their eventual reward? It's like a significant section of the populace has turned into our crazy uncle, off his meds, muttering apocalyptically in the corner and sure to remember where we live sooner or later.

So it is with mixed emotions, to say the least, that one greets the alarmingly timely arrival of Red Dawn. A remake of a 1984 movie that seemed a pretty nutty ideological throwback even during the Reagan Era's revived Cold War air conditioning (and even alongside such crazy Satan-is-Soviet competition as 1985's Rambo: First Blood Part II and Rocky IV), it is a movie that should have come out a couple years ago, having been shot late 2009. But in the meantime MGM was undergoing yet another seismic financial rupture, and as the film sat around for lack of the means needed for distribution and marketing, it occurred that perhaps it already had a fatal, internal flaw. You see, this update re-cast our invaders from Russkies to People's Republicans, tapping into the modern fear of China as debtor and international bully. But: China is also a huge fledgling market for Hollywood product, despite censorship, import quotas, and whatnot. China heard about Red Dawn and was not happy, endangering the foreign profit margins for future MGM product.

So a tortured makeover of the remake ensued; scenes were added, re-shot, and digitally altered to impose a drastic narrative change. China now goes unmentioned, replaced as villain by the country which is nobody's film market, even if that choice is so absurd it gets acknowledged as such by dialogue: "North Korea? It doesn't make any sense!" someone says here. It's a query that goes unanswered.

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