Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Relevance of Trumbo

I am sitting in a bath tub with a bottle of Scotch, a ruled pad of paper and a cigarette holder in the ash tray, cutting and gluing sections of a typed script together. The black Underwood typewriter is noisy and slow.  I am trying to capture the muse Dalton Trumbo entertained during his life journey.  If you have not seen the movie "Trumbo" disregard the setting. The process is not the message.

I went to see the movie "Trumbo" last night.  It is set in the repressive times of the Hollywood blacklist and political turmoil of the 1950's.  It is highly reflective of the current political climate and should be a cautionary tale for us all.

Spoiler alert:
The movie has made me start thinking about what the country is going through right now. "Trumbo" is the true story of a very talented and prolific writer. But you don't go see it for the biography. The protagonist is not the message. I am guessing the real Dalton Trumbo was not so lovable. Bryan Cranston can make any retro bate into a screen hero. It's about the story and what that period of history means today.
Writing about how this movie makes me feel seems to be a fait accompli.  I'm not sure how much of your movie experience I will deplete by writing this blog.  Perhaps the best advice I can give is: see the movie then come back to this opinion. We can start from here on equal footing.

The movie is about how a perverted idea of Patriotism attempts to control a nation. It is about how the government generates fear to exercise control.  You are either "one of us" or you are "against us" and the template to determine which one YOU are is very narrow and shallow. The movie points out how the government uses intimidation, extortion, black mailing, career destroying and public shaming in the name of Americanism.  There is even incarceration if you show Contempt of Congress.  Although this was the time of the red scare in the 50's nothing has changed but the enemy, the techniques of fear are the same today.

In "Trumbo" the government goes after the movie industry. In reality the House on UnAmerican Activities Committee went after every industry during that time.  Broadway had it's own black list of actors, writers and designers who could not work.  Careers were ruined and in some cases lives were lost because of what the government was doing.  It was finally a movie that ended the Hollywood blacklist.  So, it's very appropriate a movie tells that story. It is the cautionary tale of corrupted governmental over reach.
More importantly the story points out the reason that movies and all art should exist, unbound. Art is the mirror held up to our faces.  In the third person of an image we see warts and blemishes we may not even realize are there.  More importantly, art is the battery that keeps our national heart beating, but it must be recharged from time to time.
Those who think the arts are not a fundamental aspect of Liberty and Freedom do not understand either word. Those who wish to suppress the artist from expressing his art are tyrants, dictators and fascists. Cutting the arts from our schools so a tax break can be given to a capitalist is not the way a country of Freedom and Liberty survives.
Over sixty years ago we feared the Communists were trying to destroy our country by indoctrinating our people with propaganda. There were sympathizers everywhere who must be identified, watched and marginalized. The Freedom and Liberty of some needed to be suppressed so that Freedom and Liberty could thrive. Replace the word Communist with the enemy of your choice and make the sentence present tense.
The bath water is getting cold.  I don't like Scotch, don't smoke... cigarettes and if I was restricted to writing on a manual typewriter I would take up knitting.  Everyone has their own muse and mine has no answer but this.
Learn from the past or be doomed to repeat it.
As you were,

1 comment:

P. Gecian said...

Trumbo's story has been one of my favorites. I'm looking forward to the film. And yeah...the history repeat isn't lost on us, is it?
As for that other thing: I first was writing for money on a typewriter...I'd hate to think of ever going back to it again...white out, cutting and pasting,finding a copy machine to copy off the patchwork page...using an ink eraser, then, to ease the shadow lines on the paste up edges.
And yeah...those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it...and I'm thinking that, as a people, we have a very, very short memory indeed.