Printers Stationers Mailers Typesetters High Speed Web Offset Publication Press Counseling Designing Copy Writing Editing Trade Computer Sales and Services Complete Computer Data Processing Services *FUTURA PRESS AUSTIN TEXAS 512/442-7836 1714 South Congress P.O. Box 3485 Austin, Texas 78764 Ronnie Dugger: “Heard’s accounts of the Bees in hiding are the pure gold of real history .” Bryan Woolley \(Dallas Times “It ought to be right beside the Alamo books.” “The Miracle of the KILLER BEES: 12 Senators Who Changed Texas Politics” by Robert Heard Honey Hill Publishing Co. 1022 Bonham Terrace, Austin, Texas 78704 $7.95 plus $1.03 tax and shipping survivors who leave the theater with the conviction that someone has made a film about them have simply been fooled. WATCHING The Big Chill, you would never know that the context and content of student radicalism was in fact politics. The marches in Washington were pilgrimages to real buildings where real decisions were being made that were causing real people to die real deaths. The student uprisings of the time, for all their bizarre trappings, addressed actual policies. The speeches of campus radicals were not simple self-advertisement, the marches and rallies not mere substitutes for football and panty-raids. The anger at America stemmed from the conviction that we were living in a corrupt, predatory society that must somehow be reformed. All of this is missing from the film. Someone who had not lived through the era could not gleam from the film the foggiest notion as to why the characters on the screen used to act that way. The implicit suggestion is that their antics were just the usual high-spirited shenanigans of youth, turned into radical politics by the fashion of the times. The possibility that a deranged society might have called forth eccentric behavior is simply not addressed. Instead, the seven principals are left to journey toward their individual and group self-discoveries in a historical vacuum. The crucial scene that illustrates this problem occurs about halfway through the weekend. A local policeman has apprehended Nick, the drug dealer, in a minor traffic violation. Nick’s Porsche and the black-and-white patrol car roll onto the grounds of the hosts, Sara, the doctor, and her husband Harold, the shoe tycoon. Harold, who knows the cop, tries to smooth things over. Much to everyone’s surprise, Nick insists on belligerently baiting the lawman. After the cop is at last mollified and departs, Harold turns on Nick, berating him for endangering the security of his home. Nick is bewildered. “But don’t we hate the pigs?” his eyes seem to ask. He has retained the attitudes of the sixties. Harold has adopted the attitudes of a pillar of the community. Given the relationship between police and students in the 1960s, and given Nick’s profession, his attitude is entirely understandable. But because the film provides its audience with no political grounding, Nick’s behavior becomes inexplicable. He appears to be simply irrational, his outburst a neurotic projection of inner hostility. And in fact, in the absence of any concept of a society that drove the seven characters to radicalism, we would have to conclude that behavior was just a reflection of immaturity. Nick, who still hates the pigs, has just remained immature. The film thus privatizes, and thereby trivializes, the experiences of a generation. If Kasdan’s neglect of politics past is annoying, his denial of politics present is unforgivable. The missing link in the characters’ discussions of their present lives is the complete absence of any reference to contemporary American society. They all plainly opposed the war in Vietnam. What do they think of El Salvador? They must have resented the military-industrial complex. Do they think there is anything to resent now? Surely they believed the United States to be a racist society. Have they changed their opinions? The movie not only doesn’t tell us, it fails to even suggest that there could be such questions. The Big Chill presents itself as a portrait of a generation that defined itself in opposition to the American society of the 1960s. It creates its feeling of pathos by contrasting that generation’s attitudes then and now. Yet it mentions nothing about the previous society and nothing about the present one. What it does do is entertain. But entertainment is not explanation. Still less is it moral education. 22 NOVEMBER 11, 1983
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