Thursday, March 25, 2010

Has Our Nation Turned Into the ‘the Burbs’

Has Our Nation Turned Into the ‘the Burbs’

One of my favorite movies to watch over and over again is the Burbs.  There are so many silly things to quote, “What’s your name? Hans. Hans?  That’s a fine Christian name, Han’s Christian Anderson. “  “Oh-ho. Got somebody tied up in the ol' cellar, have yah, Rube?.”  The movie deals with the paranoia that can arise from suburbanites that live in a cul-du-sac who spend too much time cutting their grass and obsessing over the activities of their neighbors.  When a reclusive family moves in next to the Petersen home, father Ray (tom hanks) finds himself embroiled in the paranoid antics of his neighbors Art (Rick Duccommon) and retired Vietnam vet Mark Rumsfeld.   Art is convinced that the Klopek’s have murdered Ray’s old neighbors.  Ray is unconvinced and uninterested until his other neighbor’s dog shows up on his lawn.  Ray, Art, and Mark go to the neighbor’s home to return the dog, but find that their neighbor is missing.  Art works to convince Ray that the Klopeks have now murdered their neighbor Walter. 

Art Wiengartner: I'm telling you these people are Satanists. As I sit here, they are satanists. Look, look, the world is full of these kind of things - black masses, mutilations. Mutilations. The incubus, the succubus - I'm tellin' you, Walter was a human sacrifice.

Art explains that the burbs is the perfect breeding ground for killers, saying that “people who mow their lawn for the 800th time, and then SNAP?”.  Ray even has a nightmare thinking the Klopek’s worship Satan. 

Ray Peterson: [chanting] I'm not going to listen to this, I'm not going to here this now.
Art: Ray! Ray! Your chanting!
[points to book]
Art: Ray, unconscious chanting... your chanting!
Ray Peterson: [continues Chanting with fingers in ears]
Art: [chants] I want to kill everyone. Satan is good. Satan is our pal.
Art: Hey, once they get in here,
[points to Ray's head]
Art: its over pal.

The climax comes when Ray and Art break into the Klopek’s home, with the surveillance of Rumsfeld, when the Klopek’s leave for the day.  The goal is to dig up the Klopek’s basement to find Walter’s body that art is convinced was buried there.  As the Klopek’s arrive home early, Ray strikes a gas line and the house blows up with him inside. 
Ray emerges from the burnt out home of the Klopek’s badly injured.  Ray now sees the error of his ways and while Art is still beating the drum of conspiracy, Ray snaps at art and says:

Ray Peterson: Remember what you were saying about people in the 'burbs, Art, people like Skip, people who mow their lawn for the 800th time, and then SNAP? WELL, THAT'S US. IT'S NOT THEM, THAT'S US. WE'RE the ones who are vaulting over the fences, and peeking in through people's windows. We're the ones who are THROWING GARBAGE IN THE STREET, AND LIGHTING FIRES. WE'RE THE ONES WHO ARE ACTING SUSPICIOUS AND PARANOID, ART. WE'RE THE LUNATICS. US. IT'S NOT THEM. It's us.
Art Wiengartner: [after a pause] I don't know what to say... What, do you want me to move?

Dejected, Ray only wants to be taken to a hospital.  He puts himself into the back of an ambulance and tells his wife he will meet her there.  While resting in the ambulance, Dr. Klopek appears.  Ray is remorseful about what has happened and promises to repay Mr. Klopek, but Klopek unveils his true self.

Dr. Werner Klopek: Come now, Mr. Peterson, you were in my basement. Surely, you looked in the furnace.
Ray Peterson: Well I-I-I-I saw your furnace, Doctor. I figured a man's furnace is his business.  (this is hilarious since he just burned down the Klopek’s home.)
Dr. Werner Klopek: You saw one of my skulls, didn't you? Oh yes, I know you did. It belonged to a neighbor of yours. The name was Knapp. We took the house from them. I offered to buy it but you know how old people are, they grow so attached to things.
Ray Peterson: Uh, you know, Dr. Kopek, I think I forgot my wallet...
[Tries to get up but is held down]
Dr. Werner Klopek: I let you keep the femur, but now, now I want my skull. Or perhaps, I might just take yours. Hans!

The ambulance takes off and Ray and Dr. Klopek struggle.  The ambulance crashes into art’s home and the back doors open so that the gurney containing a struggling Ray and Klopek wheels down the street and crashes into the back of Dr. Klopek’s car.  The trunk pops open and reveals a whole assortment of human remains.  So the irony of the movie was that despite the absolute conspiratorial nature of the incident, Art ended up being correct all along.

How does this movie translate to current events?  Simple.  Let’s look at this metaphorically.  The nation is Ray Petersen, we just want to mind our own business and do what is right.  Despite what we see happening around us, we hang on to the hope that it isn’t bad.  Right wing bloggers are Art.  For years, we tell our neighbor’s stories of various conspiracies.  During the 2008 election and especially since then, we have been sounding the alarm about the real motives of Obama, about how this man really does want to transform our nation.   Obama is Dr. Klopek.  On the outside, he is intelligent, gentle, and well spoken.  No way could this guy be capable of doing everything the “art” bloggers accuse him of.  Health care legislation is the pile of bones in Dr. Klopek’s trunk.  The whole health care debate was the crazy process Ray and Art went through to expose the truth.    The moral of the lesson is that this suburban nation has wanted to believe that they didn’t let a monster move into the white house next door, but the reality is that he has given us a trunk full of bones for health care.  Hopefully, we will be vindicate as Art ended up being.

Art: I think the message to, uh, psychos, fanatics, murderers, nutcases all over the world is, uh, "do not mess with suburbanites". Because, uh, frankly we're just not gonna take it anymore. Ya know, we're not gonna be content to look after our lawns and wax our cars, paint out houses. We're out to get them, Don, we are out to get them.

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