Friday, September 25, 2015

The Day After

These are actual images from a movie that was shown
in prime time so all the kiddies could watch.
The other day I posted about the 2012 apocalypse that wasn't, and a friend reminded me on Facebook about how we weren't supposed to make it out of the 80s.

(BTW, the friend in question has a book coming out soon. Go forth and pre-order A Year of Drinking Adventurously for all your beverage and gift giving needs.)

But yeah, we of Generation X were told repeatedly that nuclear weapons would kill us all. I get that the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers grew up with the fear mongering too. Worse, they had drills where they had to duck under their desks like that would make a difference. But by the 80s, they'd found a way to carry on and shrug off the whole Cold War. We were stuck to process all this anew, all while surrounded by adults who had long ago decided that there was nothing they could do about it.

Apparently, the predominant no nukes strategy of the early 1980s was to terrify school children. I guess we were supposed to convince our parents to oppose nuclear proliferation and let their elected representatives know so that they would actually do something about it. Trickle up theory.

I had history textbooks that went all the way up to the 80s, yet my classes never got past WW2. But apparently we had time to watch a movie about nuclear weapons that began with kids our age talking about how there was no point in having kids because they wouldn't live to adulthood. Because of nuclear war. That wasn't going to happen before we were old enough to consider having kids on purpose. But was going to happen soon after.

I dunno. That's a lot of nihilism for Catholic school.

Of course, network TV milked that shit for all it was worth. Remember The Day After? If you don't, you're in luck. It's on You Tube! SyFy showed a few years ago and I tried to watch it, but I just couldn't. Not that it was too disturbing. But I couldn't get myself worked up over it all over again.

In The Day After, the Soviet Union drops a bunch of nukes on the US. We see people get vaporized. Including a small wedding party in a park who must have decided to go ahead with their plans instead of cowering in front of the TV worrying about nukes like everyone else. After we're done with that, nothing with batteries works anymore because of the electromagnetic pulse sent out by the explosion. So cars don't work anymore, but the streets are clogged with empty cars anyway. 

(The movie bombs were the type that left buildings, etc. still standing because they spent most of the budget on famous actors and special effects. There was nothing left over for creating an actual wasteland.)

Then people cowered in their basements while a bride-to-be kept insisting that everything was fine, and her wedding could totally go ahead as planned. To prove it, she runs out into the nuclear winter and gets a soon-to-be-fatal dose of radiation. As does her father who ran after her to drag her back inside.

The real takeaway from The Day After is that you wedding stress is bigger than end of the world stress.

At the very end, her fiancĂ© finally finds her and it turns out that he's dying from the radiation too. And it was played as sweet and touching. Which it kind of is, considering all the surrounding grimness.

The absolute worst part was the tag at the end. It said that the movie had portrayed what it would be like if only 1/10 of the world's nukes were used, and that a much more likely scenario would have all the bombs dropping and everyone being vaporized. 

So there really wasn't any hope of even surviving to experience an irradiated Hellscape. They had to scale back the destruction because the truth would've been too enormous for anyone to process. 

Good times.

This was on ABC in primetime. ABC promoted the hell out of it. At no point, did anyone say that children shouldn't be watching it. We were told not to let any kids watch it alone. My friend's brother actually watched it with us because the rest of his family was out doing something way less traumatic.

I remember back when Austin Powers was a thing, there were 2 versions of the talking doll. The adult version said such shocking things as, "Do I make you horny?" The adult dolls got into a children's toy store and it was on the news. There was a mom bitching that her kid had asked her what "horny" meant. "What am I supposed to tell her?" the mom said.

In my day, parents had to explain nuclear fucking war to their kiddies. You can handle coming up with a kid friendly (possibly fake) definition of "horny."

God, people are soft these days.

Maybe our playgrounds were so dangerous because adults figured we might as well die from falling off a jungle gym instead of sticking around for the bombs to start dropping. Maybe we were all such slackers in the 90s because we hadn't really planned that far ahead.

On the bright side, Ronald Reagan watched The Day After and it may have factored into his decision to pursue all those arms treaties with the Soviet Union. 

I guess it's a decent trade off. Who wouldn't traumatize millions of children if it managed to save their lives?

1 comment:

  1. To be fair, fear of imminent nuclear war didn't stop parents from a significant amount of pearl clutching back in the 80s. Remember the Garbage Pail Kids? Or Dungeons & Dragons? I can just picture the conniptions that a talking Austin Powers figure would have sent Reagan-era parents into...

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