It’s always been interesting to me how an older film’s genre can change when a newer generation views it. Most examples can be found in cult classic films from the 80’s or 90’s that are meant to be serious, but end up looking completely ridiculous and goofy by today’s standards. However, the opposite can happen too, and that’s what I felt watching “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (yes, that’s the full title). I had never seen this movie before, but when I went to watch it with my grandparents they told me it was very a funny comedy of its time. Afterwards, they admitted that it wasn’t as funny as it used to be. This probably had to do with the fact that the point of the movie was to bring out the fears of the Cold War and make a satire out of it, and we just aren’t as affected by it anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the movie had a lot of great points to it and funny one-liners, but the reason I didn’t find it as funny as it was supposed to be is because I found it relatable to real-life situations today.
In the movie, there was this plan that was referred to as Plan R, and this was supposed to be the unstoppable last resort plan. The movie begins with a general enacting the plan and giving the Air Force the go-ahead to bomb Russia as a retaliatory strike, only for us to discover that not only was there no attack on either side, but that the general had gone crazy with conspiracy theories. One particular scene that struck me was when the president was sitting in the war room in the Pentagon with all of the other generals to try and figure out how to stop to bomb strike. The president asks why they can’t just call them back and is answered that Plan R, which he himself signed, had very detailed countermeasures for fear of enemy forces intercepting their radios to do just that. It called for a very specific radio frequency and code prefix, which only the crazy general had access to, and, as part of Plan R, this very general had locked himself inside his own base and instructed his men to fire at anyone coming including the U.S. Army. All at once it hit me, this is what we deal with every day.
We have a very complex, but working, system of security and legality in the U.S., and it affects every problem that we handle. Whether it is foreign policy, the war on terror or just negotiations on peace, we have a structured system in place for every possible outcome. The scary thing is, what if it all comes crashing down? In “Dr. Strangelove” all it took was one man with the key in his pocket who became unhinged at the slightest threat to his American way of life (in this case it was a real fluoridation conspiracy) and the constant mistrust that we have for each other and foreign nations to create a plan that completely backfired on everyone. Not to spoil anything, but at the movie’s end, their plan was to basically give up and start over by hiding a portion of the population in a secure bunker for a full century! I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not try out that solution today.
Now, I’m not going to pretend I know much about politics. In fact, if anything, I know very little about politics to begin with and tend to avoid the subject entirely. I couldn’t even argue with anyone about their political views, even if I tried. What I do know is the message that this movie gave is still real today. Director Stanley Kubrick wasn’t just making a joke out of a war which wasn’t really a war, but he was outlining the real fear of the system and how it can come crashing down by one person who jumps the gun, whether it be the president, a senator, or even a citizen. As long as someone in the system is in charge of a choice and they make the wrong one, the results could be catastrophic. It’s like when you’re in traffic because one guy parked his car on the shoulder of the road. All traffic slows to a crawl to look at this one guy before moving on again, completely screwing up traffic for the day and wasting everyone’s time. Again, I’m not trying to influence anyone’s political views, but all I’m saying is as we approach an important event where we have to make a choice that will last for four years, our choices can have drastic consequences. We put so much faith and trust into this system, we don’t even realize the lack of trust we have for one another and what a single person’s choice can do to everyone.