by Shelton Bumgarner
When I was living in South Korea, I once found myself near the DMZ at a English Camp designed to give a young Korean the experience of living in an English speaking nation. While I was there, I saw in a waiting room a video of a kid’s show. What was notable about the cartoon was the name of the villain — Darwin.
This little bit of creatist propaganda has lingered with me over the years. That the show’s writer thought they could get young, impressionable minds to associate Darwin and by extension evolution with villany was both extremely annoying and impressive.
Before I begin, I would also like to note the “explanation” of Top Gun in the movie Sleep With Me.
Anyway, let’s get the point — the deeper political meaning in the otherwise summer popcorn movie Hobbs & Shaw. It has taken me a few days, but I feel as though there is a lot more going on with this movie than initially meets the eye. There’s a lot of sly politics in the movie that is so open to interpretation that it might leave one scratching their heads.
Let’s talk about the general plot. — spoilers ahead.
The plot, as much as there is one, is about a nebulous “deep state” type of company that wants to use its Snowflake programmable virus to kill off the weak and do a very Thanos-type restructuring of society. Two guys who ostensibly hate each other — The Rock (Hobbs) and Jason Statham (Shaw) join forces to defeat the bad guys and save the day. From what I saw of the movie, the only reason why I don’t think this movie’s politics is quite what you might this is comes from the people involved.
Given the fan service the movie does to The Rock’s WWE fandom, I’m led to believe the producers of this movie see its market as center-Right. At the same time, given how liberal-progressive Hollywood is, I am reluctant to believe that there aren’t air quotes around the movie’s superficial politics. I don’t know The Rock’s politics, but I struggle to believe he’s anything more than closer to center-Left than center-Right
Let’s break down some of the plot to see what’s going on.
The McGuffin is a woman — the sister of the Shaw character (22 years younger than he is, natch)– who has shot the virus into her bloodstream. If you REALLY wanted to get deep about the politics of this movie, you could say that it’s supposed to be, in a sense, about the “special relationship” between the United State in post-Brexit, post-Trump geopolitical world. I only say this because The Rock obviously represents America and Statham the UK. They are alone in the world and have to work together to save the day. (That a Russian helps save the day is an interesting twist to all of this.)
Anyway, there are some other things I noticed. That the programmable super virus is called “Snowflake” can be interpreted two ways. Either we’re meant to think of that obviously the Bad Guys are evil liberals (snowflakes) or we’re meant to laugh that the thing that could end the world is a bunch of snowflakes.
The reasoning that the villain gives for ending the world a very conservative-interpretation-of-the-liberal-worldview. Hollywood these days they find themselves having to square the circle. They want to appease a center-Right audience (to make money) but they also have to do so in a way that allows them not to hate themselves. That’s why, I feel, the politics of this movie are extremely muddled, but obviously there.
And, yet, I simply am not prepared to accept that this is Brad Bird Hollywood conservatism. For starters, Bird’s work is much more nuanced than this movie and has a stronger idology. This movie, meanwhile, seems to want it both ways. It wants to appease its center-Right audience, while at the same time looking slant eye at center-Left people in the audience in a way that suggests, “Can you believe what we have to do to appease the Right?”
I liked this movie because it did want it set out to do — entertain you in a cool theatre for a few hours on a hot summer day. I find it interesting, however, that the corrosive politics of the Trump Era has even seeped into what might otherwise be just a dumb summer movie.
Anyway, I probably will never know how close to the truth I am on this subject. I would like to believe I have dug up something interesting, however. There’s no way they would name the super virus “Snowflake” without there being an ulterior motive.
Shelton Bumgarner, a writer living in Virginia, is working on his first novel. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.