They Warned Us

a podcast where we talk about films, their motifs, cultural impact, and to what degree these movies represent our values and identities as People of Color.

Episode 7: I'll be back! T2 and the Erasure of Blackness: Part I

In Episode 7 of They Warned Us! we will be reviewing Terminator 2, the 1991 blockbuster starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. This is part 1 of a 2 part podcast, which tackles the movies themes and social context.

Some themes we cover:

  • Humanity: the notion of family
  • Fate and the attempt to escape becoming a statistic
  • Cameron’s attempt to address police brutality by reversing it

Listen to the podcast below or at this link.

But ... I'm Still Good, Right?

Getting Off on Redemptive Violence

By Lerron Wright

Remember in Total Recall (1990) Richter chasing Quaid up a crowded escalator in the subway station? Four of Richter's henchmen wait at the top, guns drawn, then start pelting some poor schlep in front of Quaid (the indomitable Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Is the guy dead from those first few hits? No time to think about d'at, girly-man! Instead, pelted-guy becomes human shield cuz ... he can't possibly mind at this point, right? A few blood-splattering pelts later, human shield becomes human catapult launched at Richter (Michael Ironside), allowing for another happy escape.

Why the hell did I revel in this gluttony of carnage almost 30 years ago?

For a dominator culture such as ours, there always has to be a “bad guy” and violence is always the way to be rid of them, however temporarily awesome (ahem), I mean distasteful, it may turn out. Theologian Walter Wink first coined the term “redemptive violence” for this imperial-culture phenomenon stemming from the Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish. Check out Wink's analysis here. Long story short, violence is inherently divine and must be enacted to create order from chaos. Oh and you, mortal, are here to serve the gods and their earthly representatives since—made from violent origin—you're violent, too, and need to be controlled. According to Wink, the basic tenets of this myth went viral into the religions of Syria, Phoenicia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Germany, Ireland, India, and China since 1250 BCE.

To Wink, redemptive violence is the dominant religion of our society, more so than Christianity or secularism. At first it was a story we came to believe—violence as necessary/natural—but now it's pumped into all cultural pedagogy as mass anesthetizing.

Wink came to this by observing, of all things, his own kids watching cartoons: “Children identify with the good guy so that they can think of themselves as good. This enables them to project out onto the bad guy their own repressed anger, violence, rebelliousness, or lust ... viewers are then able to reassert control over their own inner tendencies, repress them, and re-establish a sense of goodness without coming to any insight about their own inner evil. The villain’s punishment provides catharsis ... in a guilt-free orgy of aggression. Salvation is found through identification with the hero.”

Think about the end of Recall, where Quaid and Melina (the lovely Rachel Ticotin) release an orgy of bullets on Richter's soldiers. They even “change positions” as Quaid fakes using the hologram to kill two while she uses it and two others kill themselves. How Kama of them! And when Richter is amputated horrifically yet oh-so-satisfyingly by the elevator platform?

You think Quaid reflected on how he used a guy for a human shield, let alone any possibility of PTSD from holding Richter's ragged, bloody stumps? Total Recall (1990) remains one of the most violent movies ever made.

Wink isn't saying all media and movies promote this worldview. Both Marvel and D.C. recently wrestled with redemptive violence as a major theme—in Captain America: Civil War and Batman v. Superman—however decently/imperfectly. The problem is, Wink argues, our collective society never outgrows this childish, non-reflective, simplistic notion of “good guys” and “bad guys.”

As kids become young adults, the catharsis just gets transferred from cartoons to thousands of deaths witnessed in violent programming and games; having watched thousands of acts legitimized rape in online porn, etc. In more extreme cases, they veer toward militias and religious, political, or racial extremism; sports obsession; and, of course, more mass shootings.

Again Wink: “Once children have been indoctrinated into the expectations of a dominator society, they may never outgrow the need to locate all evil outside themselves. Even as adults they tend to scapegoat others for all that is wrong in the world.”

I'm not sayin' I'm all grown up. Arnold's Conan the Barbarian remains great mythology I'll probably watch again (despite the black bad-guy trope). But once Raf and I run Recall and T2 through the P.O.C. lens in our podcasts, I'm deleting most of Ah-nold's movies from my digital library.

It's not funny to me anymore to watch Spanish-speaking soldiers stumbling into his bullets in Commando or bufooned Arabs in True Lies, and not seeing any enviable black male character in any of his films. They're either traitors, “bad guys,” or are “good,” but all die in Arnold films ... every time. I don't need reminders of how far P.O.C. representation has come (however grudgingly) since the Reagan-Bush years.

Episode 6: Have you Forgotten? Total Recall!

In Episode 6 of They Warned Us! we are talking about the 1990 film Total Recall. In its early reception it pushed the envelope on special effects and CGI. However, what about the values it was trying to portray throughout the film? Did it break ground in accordance to the POC perspective? Come and listen to our podcast as we discuss this and more.

Plot: Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a bored construction worker in the year 2084 who dreams of visiting the colonized Mars. He visits “Rekall,” a company that plants false memories into people's brains, in order to experience the thrill of Mars without having to travel there. But something goes wrong during the procedure; Quaid discovers that his entire life is actually a false memory and that the people who implanted it in his head now want him dead.

In our podcast we discuss: – Importance of Adventure (Following Alfred North Whitehead's work in his Adventure of Ideas) – Corporate Control over Knowledge and Bodies (Foucault) – Nature of Reality – Sexual Politics – Redemptive Violence – Anti-Pedagogy: We Don't Pay you to Think! – Redemptive Violence

Trailer: Click here to watch

Listen to the Podcast below or at this link.

The Not-So-Comfortable Future of ... Last Year

by Lerron Wright

In our latest podcast, Raf and I revisit 1987's The Running Man, a dystopian tale loosely based on the far-superior Richard Bachman/Stephen King short story of a collapsed world economy, food shortages and riots, police state control, shanty-towns of unemployment and poverty, and violent reality-T.V. obsession under-girded by corpo/political/media propaganda, set in the then-30-year-future of 2017. Any of this sounding familiar 30 years later?

Yes and no. A tour of Southern California will include growing numbers of homeless in tent camps. Since '87 we've had two major stock market crashes sprinkled with other recessions here and there, and no indication that economic forces have changed their gambling, corporate-welfare, tax-evading ways so that another global economic catastrophe isn't inevitable. And near-past protests (Occupy, Ferguson, etc.) revealed how our militarized police forces will respond if when the shit really hits the fan.

Still, food shortages? Many people are food insecure, but we're not at the riot stage just yet. Televised death? No, but damn ... those cats in MMA fuck each other up, not to mention NFL football. Police state? Now on that one ... we're only a fill-in-the-blank catastrophe away from martial law, especially if this calamity happens under wanna-be Cheeto Mussolini's watch. The “legal” mechanisms have been in place since 9/11. The world of The Running Man is way closer in that regard than anybody wants to think about.

One thing that has remained the constant though, is how we the people can be so easily distracted—and ultimately influenced—by tools of mass distraction, even as our outer world grows increasingly uncomfortable for an increasing number of people. The movie's antagonist, Damon Killian—hammed-up perfectly by the late Richard Dawson—sums up Bachman/King's subtext explicitly near the end of the film as he tries in desperate vain to evade Ah-nold's impending ass-whuppin':

“This is television ... that's all it is. It has nothing to do with people. It has to do with the ratings. For 50 years we've told them what to eat, what to drink, what to wear ... Americans love television. They wean their kids on it. They love game shows. They love wrestling. They love sports and violence. So what do we do? We give them what they want.”

We lap-it-up like pigs at the trough. There's something (apparently) cathartic about (the gag-inducing) This Is Us, for popular example; a reflection of Obama's leftover “liberal” hope, as much as 2018's most watched television show, Roseanne (before her self-inflicted wounds of ignorance deleted her from her own show), who ... would you argue (?) ... reflects much of Red-country's distain for thought, accuracy, and imagination. Both spectrums deny reality, perhaps one less so than the other.

So even if we do get what we want, is that somehow better? Apparently not, according to this study that links prolonged television exposure to overall discontent and challenged mental/emotional/physical health. It's all feel-good in the moment, until we wake up and low-and-behold, reality still bites and we're still pissed and uncomfortable and want to see that catharsis played out on the violent football field or in the uber-violent octagon on others' bodies, or in the uber-violent video games that essentially train people to be killers. And let's not even get into Reality T.V. humiliation catharsis, porn, on-and-on. Indeed, you can't ever get enough of what you don't want.

The day we see someone burned alive on national television for sport (protesting Vietnamese monks aside) or eviscerated by chainsaw? Well ... we'll know we've lost and writing and reading about this kind of stuff will be moot, or at least very dangerous. Until then, go out and do something out of your comfort zone. First-time salsa dancing, for example, can be very uncomfortable at first but ultimately far more enjoyable than screen sedatives. And who knows? You might even get some real-life dystopian-relieving comfort!

For black/brown insurgents? Yeah, the end will more than likely be very uncomfortable for many. Ask Laughlin in the photo (and Weiss, off-screen, while Ah-nold—even before impending doom—is actually relatively cozy in his rocket-chair). Maybe we don't “win,” but let's at least not do it to ourselves with too much media consumption, yet with more real-life activity with others, regardless of what that looks like and as long as it feels mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and/or creatively healthy. That's really the best way to “fight back”; to be you and me together, however flawed and f'd up that is. Whatever the case, better to be that and not-that-shit on the screen.

Episode 5: Put on Your Running Shoes, It's Time for the Running Man!

link to podcast

In this episode of They Warned Us! we look at Arnold Schwarzenegger's The Running Man! In 2017, after a worldwide economic collapse, the United States has become a totalitarian police state, censoring all cultural activity. The U.S. government pacifies the populace by broadcasting game shows where convicted criminals fight for their lives, including the gladiator-style The Running Man, hosted by the ruthless Damon Killian, where “runners” attempt to evade “stalkers”, armed mercenaries, around a large arena, and near-certain death for a chance to be pardoned by the state.

In our podcast we will look at the following themes:

  • media consumption and its effects
  • the problem of truth
  • the manipulation of society, or the whimsical nature of freedom

We hope you enjoy listening to our podcast!

Episode 4: Put On Your Helmets Everyone, It's Rollerball!

To listen to our recent podcast, click on link or play below:

The year is 2018 in a futuristic society where corporations have replaced countries. A violent futuristic game known as Rollerball is the recreational sport of the world, with teams representing various areas. One player, Jonathan E., fights for his personal freedom and threatens the corporate control.

What is discussed:

  • Corporate takeover
  • Information Control
  • Loss of Critical Thinking
  • Limits of Freedom
  • The Role People of Color Play in Society
  • Causal Effects of Narcissism
  • Sports/Media Consumption

Rollerball (1975) trailer:

Rollerball (2002) trailer:

“We Like To Take One With Us Wherever We Go”: 1975 Rollerball Weird Scene:

“United Fruit” It should have been United Citizens! Here is the link:

George Steiner – Real Presences and Loss of Critical Thinking:

Ivone Gebara – Longing for Running Water and Autonomy:

Rollerball flyer

In this episode of They Warned Us! we look at the 1973 post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller Soylent Green, which will wrap up our Heston Trifecta. What makes this film so compelling are the themes the film touches upon:

  • gender issues
  • economic crisis
  • lack of trust in government
  • environmental issues
  • food shortages
  • lack of employment

There are more, but this covers what is being lifted in the film. And what does it says to People of Color? Well, listen in and find out on this podcast of They Warned Us!

Trailer for Soylent Green – click here to go to youtube

Listen to the podcast here

Soylent Green Billboard

In this podcast we discuss The Omega Man! a film that speaks about what happens when the earth has gone through, not only nuclear disaster, but chemical warfare. It struggles with the desires of maintaining the autonomous individual with his culture, and pits it against the extreme fundamentalist notion of the “brotherhood,” a unity wound up with mental cleansing so that they have no culture. In building the new society, what should we take with us?

But the more important question is, how do POC fair in this dystopian future? Do we have a hope? Listen to our podcast to find out.

You can go to the podcast and listen online by going here.


Listen below!

Omega Man poster


Listen to this episode of the podcast, They Warned Us!, Episode 1: Introduction and Planet of the Apes!