Hey, I’ve seen that movie!

Apparently, it’s going to cost me my credibility as bona fide liberal left-wing moonbat, but yes, I have seen Red Dawn. You know, the movie that that wacky new Washington Post blog touted as a talisman of righteous manliness.

Red Dawn? You must know it—the greatest pro-gun movie ever? I mean, they actually show the jackbooted communist thugs prying the guns from cold dead hands.

Saying it’s the greatest pro-gun movie ever is like saying mucous and sawdust make the best sandwich ever—it either says your taste is something execrable, or you’ve just insulted every other sandwich on earth. It makes me itch to ban guns, even though I don’t really have strong feelings on the topic, because if that’s the best defense they can muster, there must be something deeply wrong with guns.

It really isn’t a very good movie. It caters to the deluded wingnut belief that some American high school kids with hunting rifles could have defeated the Soviet army (which, if you think about it, is another backhanded sneer at the American military that worried about fighting the Soviets throughout the Cold War…if only we’d known then that the answer was the local football team, a couple of .22s and .30-06s, and a rusted pickup truck!) and that macho fantasy was the sole virtue of the story.

I’m hoping that Washington Post guy keeps it up. Maybe tomorrow he can tell us that Budweiser is the best beer ever, and Windows 95 was the best OS ever, mud and tree bark make the best coffee ever, and George W. Bush is the best Republican ever. I think that’s his schtick, anyway.

(via Brad DeLong)


  1. Jeremy says

    For some reason, the title Red Dawn gets mixed up in my mine with the fantastic Enemy Mine with Lou Gossett Jr.

  2. Mark Paris says

    Wasn’t the invading army actually composed mainly of Cubans with Soviet advisors? I might be mistaken about that, but if not, it says even more about how lowly regarded the US military was in the movie. The whole idea was more than just a little bit silly, but it probably did appeal to the sort who later ended up in compounds for the wacky in Idaho.

  3. says

    Apparently, it’s going to cost me my credibility as bona fide liberal left-wing moonbat

    Fortunately, it takes a little while for the information to propagate through the databases–my feminist cred hasn’t yet been yanked for enjoying Flashdance, after all.

  4. speedwell says

    I think it’s a horrible, horrible movie, wrong in just about every respect, and I’m actually pro-gun freedom. If I had wanted to make a sick, cynical effort to pretend to be pro-gun while actually seeking to further the cause of the gun banners, I could hardly have done a better job.

  5. Craig says

    Or you could regard it as a cautionary tale (albiet an inept one) about the feasibility of long-term occupation of a country that hates your guts. Not that that’s relevant to anything the right’s worried about.

  6. Great White Wonder says

    This Ben Domenech guy is a stupider fucking idiot than I thought:

    Nearly twice as many Americans believe in creationism as in evolution (the theory which Derb subscribes to – in my opinion, that positive belief is actually worse than the negative belief on creation). It’s been that way for more than a decade. I don’t necessarily subscribe to all Creationist theories, but I do take Genesis literally. And I believe the commonly taught theory of evolution is a total crock.


  7. says

    Wasn’t this the Jack Abramhoff movie? I can imagine him and Grover spanking in to post reels…

    “Oh man…did…did you see that chick shooting?!! I’m gonna blow!”

    I’m so sorry.

  8. says

    If one plays “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” (and how’s that for something that people of all political strips abohors!), and goes into the gun shop (Ammu-nation), at one point the annoucer on the running soundtrack refers to a screening of the “documentary, _Red Dawn_”.

    Kind funny.

    And, yeah, I’ve seen the movie, and it was pretty execrable. Maybe it’s the best “pro-mindless-gun” movie ever, dunno. All this time, I though it was the best “pro piss in the radiator” movie, though.


  9. PaulC says

    Red Dawn’s clearly not the best movie ever, but is it the best pro-gun movie? I don’t see anyone addressing that point.

    Actually, it can probably be addressed trivially, since a large portion of Hollywood movies are pro-gun to the extent of presenting guns as one of the most effective means out of all sorts of predicaments. Just grab the nearest convenient hostage, point gun, and start yelling threats. This techniques works well in both comedies and dramas. In comedies, there are some awkward moments and apologies afterward, but few other repercussions; in dramas, you do run the risk of getting shot in the head by a SWAT sniper, but once again it’s guns to the rescue.

    However, I think Domenech really means something like Best movie to appeal to hardcore NRA gun-nuts. The Oscars don’t have this category. It is certainly not my area of expertise. Is there another movie in this category? Is it better than Red Dawn?

  10. says

    Look, it’s a cheesy flick, sure–I put it in my category of MST3K-worthily bad films, the kind that are actually enjoyably cheesy.

    But think about it for a minute. If you re-skinned all the actors, all the sets, all the circumstances, so it was about a plucky group of science-fantasy rebels fighting off a clumsy but massively powerful imperial occupation with their laser blasters and photon swords, it would still be cheesy, but it wouldn’t draw the same kind of reaction from some people.

    I’m not saying those differences are trivial. In a way, they’re everything: hermeneutics is a spectator sport. But it helps a little to step back a bit from how something is located within the Culture War, to cultivate a spot of distance from any given work of popular culture, to be curious about those for whom it resonates before mockery. I mean, aren’t SF geeks tired of these very same criticisms? Have you ever tried to explain to someone why you kind of like the old Dr. Who episodes despite the cheesy special effects, laughable acting and often clumsy scripting and direction? And so on? We like some things because they’re habitus, because we know the inside and outside of the world they come from.

  11. says

    Is there another movie in this category? Is it better than Red Dawn?

    I haven’t seen these movies, but: the Lethal Weapon series?

    Here’s why I say this.


    I’m about to admit something that I probably shouldn’t admit on PZ’s blog comments, because it’s admitting a cardinal sin, but here goes.

    I went to a shooting range once, and fired handguns at targets. There were a couple of machinists on my floors who were big gun-owners (and one of them gave me an NRA cap, which I left sitting near my desk just to annoy some of the other grad students– I’m not an NRA guy myself). They took several of the grad students to a shooting range one day. It was fun, and I was *really* glad that I had ear protection on. And, I sucked at it.

    Anyway, the lobby had a number of posters up. Several were encouraging us all to write in to our congresscritters opposing anti-gun legislation. But there was also a poster for Lethal Weapon.

    So, maybe LW is a pro-gun movie that appeals to the NRA types? Or, maybe, the guys who ran that place just liked the movie. Dunno.

  12. says

    Actually, as someone alluded to earlier, “Red Dawn” actually isn’t a bad movie *if* you figure out the real lesson: not that Commies are eeevil (or that guns are good), but that it’s not a good idea to occupy a country which has a alien culture to yours. Even if you think you are doing them a “favor” by imposing your type of government.

  13. says

    My God. I was about to tell y’all to chill, since Domenech MUST be saying “best pro-gun movie ever” in an at least semi-ironic way, a la VH1’s “Best Week Ever.” Hell, I could see myself calling Red Dawn that. That movie rules in its own retarded, damn-the-torpedos-we’re-bein’-retarded way. (Much like Dude, Where’s My Car or the oeuvre of Uwe Boll.) Then I read the blog.

    Holy mother of F*ck, he’s actually serious. What, does this guy watch the Colbert Report as a primer rather than a satire? Truly mind-boggling.

    In a way it’s almost a reflection of how little the WaPo must think of their conservative readership, that they’d pick a short-bus-riding windowlicker like this guy to appeal to them.

  14. says

    That can’t be a cardinal sin — I’ve gone shooting myself. It’s been a long time, but while I don’t remember much about the handguns other than wasting ammo, I wasn’t a bad shot with the rifle.

    By the way, TIm, as regular readers know, I sometimes catch cheesy movies myself and write them up here. Mocking the movies people watch doesn’t mean I despise the people watching them, or I’d have to be pretty well loaded with self-loathing.

  15. Sean Larabee says

    It caters to the deluded wingnut belief that some American high school kids with hunting rifles could have defeated the Soviet army (which, if you think about it, is another backhanded sneer at the American military

    My recollection of the movie is that kids starting with hunting rifles operated a minor guerilla campaign and served as the antagonists for one small town garrison commander. Hunting rifles comprised the Wolverines initial armament, however they quickly upgraded with captured munitions. The filmmakers made references to, but showed very little of, the full scale military conflict that was taking place off screen. In *that* action, the American military did defeat the Soviet proxy forces.

    Please accurately remember and reference one of my favorite pieces of Eighties cheese.

    My suggestion for best pro-gun movie? Split Second. “We need bigger guns.”

  16. Geoffrey Brent says

    Or you could regard it as a cautionary tale (albiet an inept one) about the feasibility of long-term occupation of a country that hates your guts.

    The ‘counterinsurgency’ operation that captured Saddam was named ‘Red Dawn’; two of the sites searched in that operation were codenamed Wolverine 1 and 2. Apparently someone has a very strongly-developed sense of irony.

  17. says

    A really good Philadelphia style Italian bread, the kind with the crackly crust, slightly chewy, and rich with that really good flavor.

    (There is no good bread in Minnesota. It’s all pale and tasteless, kind of like a puffy sponge.)

  18. says

    I’ve gone shooting myself. It’s been a long time, but while I don’t remember much about the handguns other than wasting ammo, I wasn’t a bad shot with the rifle.

    I also went shooting once up in the hinterlands of California, using a 0.22 rifle. That was more fun, because instead of targets, we were shooting at aluminum cans filled with water….

    But I’m still not very good at it.

    I do better at shooting when it’s part of a video game :)


  19. says

    Red Dawn was so bad that it was actually pretty entertaining in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way.

  20. says

    I saw the film not long ago. I was disappointed that it was so low-budget – I was expecting to see Soviet tanks rumbling down Pennsylvania Avenue and such…

  21. says

    Windows 95 was the best OS ever

    I think Windows 95 was fairly benign compared to some of the models that came after it.

  22. says

    The best gun movie ever is Tremors, the “monster attacks a small town”movie to end all such movies. None of the characters in this movie makes any of the classic “victim in a monster attacks a small town monster movie” flick, and the character with the guns (Bert, played hilariously against type by Michael Gross, who at the time was playing the Father in Family Ties), while a bit nutty about why he owns guns, still treats them with respect.

    There’s a great scene towards the end where a teenage boy is refusing to run for his life and Bert hands him a Big F*ckin’ Gun and says, “If I give you this, will you run?” “Hell yeah!” the kid says and off they run. As the monster comes running for them, the kid points the gun and it goes click! click! click! When they do get to high ground the kid shouts “Bert! There are no bullets in this gun!”

    And Bert says, “Yeah, but you ran, didn’t you?” And then Bert checks the magazine anyway before putting it away. That is what makes it a great gun movie. Gale Ann Hurd was the producer, and she’s committed to “getting guns right” in her movies.

  23. Sean Foley says

    Wasn’t the invading army actually composed mainly of Cubans with Soviet advisors?

    As I recall, their initial skirmishes are with Cuban forces. After the Wolverines run rings around them, the Communists bring in Col. Strelnikov (who I believe is supposed to be a Spetsnaz officer).

    You can take away my liberal card now.

  24. Grumpy Physicist says

    So when is the version of Red Dawn dubbed in Arabic slated to be released?

    Yeah, I know, it’s so hard to get good arabic voice actors. But I bet the redubbing of the Russian/Cuban actors with texan/arkie voices is already in the can.

  25. skyview satellite says

    I’ve always felt that Pulp Fiction was the best pro-gun movie ever. I mean, that’s love, baby. By the way, if you are wondering which comment here is mine, it’s the one that says Bad Motherfucker on it.

  26. says

    “Rambozo The Clown”

    Got a deadly toy
    To brainwash your boy

    An egocentric muscle thug
    Kicks butt on screen like a brat outa hell
    Bullshitter in the Indochina shop
    Pull the string in his back, we win the war

    That we never should have started at all

    A cabbage patch terrorist to call our own
    Who rewrites history with a machine gun
    Don’t think about it-KILL IT
    That’s what we teach your child

    RAMBOZO the Clown
    To draft age kids
    It sure looks like fun-
    “Kill ’em all
    And let God sort ’em out.”
    Like video games-no mess
    Just fuel for a mass lapse of common sense
    You can be Don Quixote
    We’ll dice you with our windmill blades

    Brawn over brain
    Means a happy ending
    G.I. Joe in the cereal bowl
    Grey shrapnel-flavored chewing gum
    Mass murder ain’t just painless
    Now we’ve made it cute

    RAMBOZO the Clown
    War is sexy
    War is fun
    Iron Ego
    Red Dawn
    Be a wolverine. You’ll rule the hills
    Just get some guns and Cheerios
    Any kid can conquer Libya
    Just steal a fighter plane

    Look who came home in a wheelchair
    V.A. Hospital, they don’t care
    “We’re the machine
    You’re just a tool.”
    Who fell for the myth of Rambozo the Clown

    – Dead Kennedys

  27. says

    I thought Bert said something like “like hell am I going to give you a loaded gun”. Maybe that was before the running.

    Elf meant none of the characters make the classic mistakes. But yes, damn good — rec.arts.sf.written told me so, and rasfw turned out to be right. The obligatory scientist is written like a real scientist — a field geologist caught up in the action who objects to being asked to be an oracle. “I’m a geologist, not a biologist!” Which doesn’t stop her from speculating to herself, complete with disgusted look at herself at her wilder ideas…

  28. miko says

    you guys are crazy. Red Dawn is the best fucking movie of the 80s hands down, a virile american answer to a wussypants congress trying to emasculate the military and militias that keep us free. Although St Elmo’s Fire is a close second cuz of that rad scene where Rob Lowe jumps on stage with a saxophone and shouts “Let’s rock!”

  29. Phoenician in a time of Romans says

    Myself, I *love* Red Dawn.

    You can make wingnuts splutter from sheer cognitive dissonance by drawing similes between it and the Iraqi insurgents…

  30. neil says

    “Red Dawn” is to the Second Ammendment as

    “Left Behind” is to the New Testament..,

    (Ugh, did I just say that?)

  31. Francis says

    wow, elf sternberg comments here! you’ve written some great sexy stuff.

    [umm, pz, just ignore me tonight. it’s been a v. long day and i’ve had one too many burbons.]

    [yes, reddawn is great cheezy fun. but if you wanted to introduce yourself to a whole new readership, would THAT be the movie you choose?]

  32. dgbellak says

    Having seen Red Dawn couldn’t possibly cost you your credibility, could it? I mean, hasn’t EVERYONE seen it?

    As this thread has shown, the prophecies of art as interpreted by its admirers are often short-sighted, and can only be properly analyzed in hindsight years down the road. If anything, the Post’s new Mr. Red State has proven not only his inability to do this, but his failure to come up with any new views in the more than 20 years since that film’s release.

    And ditto on Tremors. I’m not pro-gun (not anti-gun, either), but I love that flick for, among other things, being properly so.

  33. EdoBosnar says

    I’ll de-lurk here just for a moment to note that the first and only time I saw “Red Dawn” was in the mid-1980s in rural Oregon on a dull Saturday night spent watching video rentals with a few high-school buddies; as the film drew to a close, someone commented: “That shit can happen, man…”

  34. ajay says

    Tremors is a work of art.
    The actual line is “I wouldn’t give *you* a gun if it was World War Three!”

    It’s a good left-wing film, too. It’s all about working together. The survivalists hole up in their basement, but it won’t save them…

  35. says

    “It caters to the deluded wingnut belief that some American high school kids with hunting rifles could have defeated the Soviet army….”

    Not so much; the movie said no such thing; they never came remotely close to “defeating” the occupiers, and there was no hint that they could; it merely suggested that guerillas could be very annoying, and sometimes deadly, which is true enough, as we see in the news every day. The movie doesn’t explain precisely how the war eventually ended, although presumably by the regular U.S. Army and Air Force that we see fighting it.

    Nor did Dommenech, whom I think is an ass, suggest that the movie presented an argument about guns, let alone “the best defense they can muster”; merely that it included an iconic image for pro-gun people, which it does (the prying the hands of the gun from the guy’s corpse with camera then tilting up to the bumper-sticker on his car with said slogan; plus the mandatory playing out of the Commies going to the hardware store for the registration forms, bwahahaha; those are, of course, iconic for the “they’re coming to take my guns away” crowd; I don’t have to agree with them about gun laws to note that this is a statement of fact).

    But I already said what I have to say about Red Dawn at Jim Henley’s blog, at the V For Vendetta thread, save for my last comment which it wouldn’t let me post for the usual inexplicable reasons of his unique commenting system/language/restrictions.

    I’m actually rather fond of the movie, not because I think it had any more to do with political reality than, say, Batman Begins does, but because it’s a good comic book/ludicrous fantasy. And as I said on Jim’s blog, I share few of Milius’s political views, but so far as I’m concerned, the guy with the co-screenplay credit for Apocolypse Now, who wrote and directed The Wind And The Lion, has justified his existence on the planet so far as I’m concerned, no matter that I don’t share his political/cultural take on much.

  36. says

    I might add that I don’t look to Conan The Barbarian for political insights and realism, either, but also found that movie (Milius’s screenplay) mildly amusing.

  37. PaulC says

    I’ve always felt that Pulp Fiction was the best pro-gun movie ever.

    I was going to mention Pulp Fiction, but then I thought it was probably just the best pro-samurai-sword move ever. It is without doubt the best pro-ditching-your-girlfriends’s-honda-and-taking-a-dead-guy’s-chopper movie.

  38. says

    Well, I think Dirty Harry is a much better pro-gun movie than Red Dawn.

    I’ll admit I liked Red Dawn…as a little kid. But I saw it recently after it was referenced on South Park a year or two ago (in the episode with the attack of the senior citizens), and it did not hold up well at all (other than ironically). If we’re going to take it seriously, then I agree with the commenter above that its probably more apropos of the debate over the difficulties inherent in occupying a hostile land than gun control.

  39. Pvt. S Baldrick says

    “Maybe tomorrow he can tell us that… mud and tree bark make the best coffee ever”

    They do! And it goes very well with a nice rat au van.

  40. No Nym says

    I don’t think you can rate the movie as showing the HS kids victorious. They shiver and cower in the mountains, frag a few Cubans, and mostly don’t do very much good at all for the USA. In the end, 3 or 4 of them are dead, and their little war is reduced to a stone monument. It’s not exactly inspiring.

    What’s more interesting (dare I try to be all lit crit for a minute?) is that we now see an equivalent situation in Iraq, with Sunni HS students resisting the US invasion. But since Patrick Swayze is Christian, I guess his resistance is more sympathetic, if no less futile.

    But don’t tell the warbloggers that they could learn why the insurgency enjoys such broad support from Red Dawn. No. There’s no parallel between the Soviet prison camp in the town and anything we’re doing over there. None at all. Move along.

  41. PaulC says

    The Commissar:


    Eh, an audience’s suspension of disbelief requires some cooperation from the other side of the screen.

    Demands for willing suspension of disbelief are invalid in much the same way that ignorance of the law is no excuse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignorantia_juris_non_excusat It’s not that the defense is completely irrelevant, but that it is so generally applicable that if allowed, everyone will use it. If you want me to suspend my disbelief, it’s your job as author to make me.

  42. Col Bat Guano says

    Why was there no “Red Dawn II: The Reinvasion”? The original was pure art, starting with the Cubans parachuting into nowhere Colorado and shooting the high school teacher to setting up reeducation camps on day 2. It was every Ronald Reagen wet dream wrapped up in one cheesy package.

  43. DJ says

    It appears that in the late 1970’s somebody in the U.S. government leaked a very sensitive document to the Red Dawn screenwriters.

    Newly declassified information from US strategic war planning at the time shows that in our hypothetical invasion of the USSR, an A-1 top priority for the success of the mission was for paratroopers to very quickly subdue and secure a small secondary school in the mountains outside of Omsk. The varsity Curling team would have to be effectively neutralized to ensure the success of this crucial mission.


  44. David Margolies says

    To echo Gary Farber and No Nym: the kids are nothing more than a military annoyance to the occupiers, just as resistance movements are in general (e.g. the French Resistance in WWII). When the annoyance became too much, serious people came in and put an end to it. (Resistance can be a more serious political issue, as in Iraq, but in Red Dawn, the occupiers seem to be there as part of the strategy in the larger war, not because they care about or want to permanently occupy the territory.)

    I quite liked the movie because it attempted to deal with certain facts of war: when you are occupied, many aspects of normal life (who is popular or a football star, who your parents are, what is allowed and how dependable authorities are, etc.) go out the window, and quite possibly your choices are how and when to die rather than how to live.

    In comments on another blog, someone said they argued with an Iraq war supporter about whether the insurgents were necessarily terrorist/jihadist or might they be (possible deluded) Iraqi patriots: when the war supporter was given the analogy of wolverines (the kids in Red Dawn), he said, “oh, yeah, maybe”. The lives of many Iraqis have been changed just as the lives of the characters in Red Dawn, and with the same lack of personal control.

    (As to whether the initial situation, that is occupation of large parts of the US, was realistic or possible, I do not care: it was necessary as the premise of the movie and the plot worked out from there with that premise. The plot was reasonable given that premise.)

  45. Guav says

    It caters to the deluded wingnut belief that some American high school kids with hunting rifles could have defeated the Soviet army

    The purpose of guerilla warfare is not to defeat the enemy, it’s just to constantly harass them and lower their morale, and it’s quite effective. Since the Nazi’s crushed the Jewish rebellion in WWII–which took them months–no superpower has won against a guerilla insurgency (Algeria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Iraq to name a few).

    –A pro-gun liberal who thinks the movie is cheesy as hell but enjoys it nonetheless.

  46. Z-dawg says

    I loved Red Dawn. Why? Because it taught me that you can put urine in a radiator if you have no water to put in.
    **** That my friend is valuable information.*****
    Now the thing about Budweiser being the best beer, and tree bark making good coffee, these things are TRUE, in the alternative republican universe where W rains supreme. Anything is possible in W world. In W world the air inside does not come from the air outside.

  47. says

    Damn…if just seeing Red Dawn ruins your liberal credibility, what does it do if you actually liked the movie? I really didn’t read much into as a 12 year old, and I guess it didn’t ruin my liberal development with the supposed pro-gun message. The only thing it made me want to be is a commie-invader fighting teenager running around in the woods.

  48. vandalhooch says

    The fact that Red Dawn was a reference used in actual military planning is seriously hilarious. (Not in actual tactics but simply in naming.) It just goes to show how quickly the Baby-boomers are being usurped from their seat of power. Gen-X is now firmly running the show. They are just not running it from the visible seats.

    This might make a few Boomers nervous, but it gives me hope. My own biased view is that Gen-X tends to focus on results rather than ideals.

    Oh yeah, and all that hate burning me up . . . keeps me warm.

  49. says

    “I don’t think you can rate the movie as showing the HS kids victorious…”

    What? I can’t remember all the details but didn’t they kill like a hundred trained soldiers and blow up a multi-million dollar helicopter? At the price of 3 or 4 dead and being kept warm by the hate burning them up inside? I think that would make them the most successful resistance fighters in history. An incredible success story. If you expect HS students to do better than that you’re being pretty picky. And although they are pretty much all dead by the end of the movie, that’s a natural result when people start shooting at each other. Happens all the time in wars. Which is something I think we should all keep in mind.