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Most of us are familiar with movie metaphors. We all know that the Narnia movies are full of Christian allegories, that Alien is bursting with rape symbolism, and so on.

But it's easy to forget that almost every movie has some kind of subtext. Writers love that shit, so they work it in wherever they can -- even if they're writing about a cyborg that punches people.

As a result, these half-coded messages turn up in movies you'd never expect.

Spider-Man: Peter Parker's Man Juice

What You Think You're Watching

Another superhero movie. This time, it's about a shy teenager named Peter Parker who discovers that a genetically engineered spider bite has given him superpowers.

The Subtext

We have jokingly alluded to this before, but Spider-Man really is all about semen. Or puberty. Whatever.

We tend to find Spider-Man easier to identify with than other superheroes. He's not an alien, like Superman, or the son of a major Norse god, like Thor, or a Canadian, like Wolverine. But that's not all we have in common with Peter Parker: His superhero birth-trauma story is one with which we're all painfully familiar -- puberty.

Those were dark years.

At the beginning of the 2002 Spider-Man movie, Peter Parker is timid, puny and closer to his aunt and uncle than to girls his age. That is until one day, when Peter is taking a picture of a pretty classmate, Mary Jane Watson. While gazing, enchanted, at her beauty, he's bitten by a spider. Peter reacts to this event by running home and staring at his bare torso in the mirror, confused.

The next day, Peter's body has changed, and he has developed muscles in new places. But that's just the beginning. Peter's body starts producing, uh, sticky white stuff.

This movie defines subtlety.

The audience watches with vague feelings of discomfort as this teenage boy spends a long time trying to figure out exactly how to produce the newly discovered fluid, nervously telling his aunt to go away when she knocks on the door.

If the superpowers-as-puberty message wasn't intentional in the recent movies, it sure was back when they were being developed. For most of Spider-Man's 49-year history, Peter Parker lacked the ability to shoot webs out of his own body (heh), instead relying on a pair of mechanical shooters that he built himself and attached to his wrists.

This new power of Spider-Man's is prominently featured in an unused script written by James Cameron in 1991. If you still have any doubts about the subtext that's going on here, check out this scene from Cameron's version, in which a newly spiderized Peter Parker wakes up in bed:

Something is causing the sheet to stick to him. He lifts it, revealing a sticky, white mass completely covering him, gluing him to his bedding. It is some silky substance webbing him into the covers. He cries out in dismay ... struggling to free himself from the gluey strands. Where did it come from? He notices his wrists. ... They are oozing a pearlescent white fluid from almost invisible slits about a quarter of an inch long.

See, it could have been much, much worse. It's pretty clear that this metaphor was a deliberate one. Either that, or Cameron has a few things that he needs to work through with his therapist.

No shit.

RoboCop: All Praise Be to Robot Jesus

What You Think You're Watching

A fun sci-fi romp through a near-future dystopian Detroit. Peter Weller plays a good cop who is murdered in the line of duty and is therefore the perfect candidate for inaugurating the RoboCop program. As the first RoboCop, RoboCop does many robocoppy things, including single-handedly robocopping the city's crime element, and robocopping corruption within the corporation that robocopped him.

Also, whatever you call this.

The Subtext

RoboCop is actually RoboJesus.

Paul Verhoeven's RoboCop, much like The Matrix, The Day the Earth Stood Still and other movies all strangely connected to Keanu Reeves, uses its hero as a metaphor for Jesus Christ. Let's start with the obvious: The story of Christ is that Jesus is alive, then he's wrongfully killed, then he's resurrected. The story of RoboCop goes like this: Good cop is alive:

Then he's wrongfully killed:

Then he's resurrected as RoboCop:

OK, now let's get into the iconic scene, in which Detroit policeman and RoboCop-to-be Alex Murphy is tortured and killed by a gang of bad guys. First, his arm is spread out in a cruciform position. Next, the gang leader blows off his right hand with a shotgun -- a modern, gore-amplified version of being nailed to a cross. Finally, he receives a deadly gunshot wound to the head (the crown of thorns, durrrr).

Not convinced? Near the end of the movie, in his final showdown with the crime gang that killed him, RoboCop is shown moving across ankle-deep water, almost as if he's walking on top of it.

"Ask and it will be given to you -- in bullets!"

Oh, and if you're still not convinced, director Verhoeven actually confirmed the whole theory in a 2010 interview, saying that he fully intended to portray Murphy as a Jesuslike figure.

"It is about a guy who gets crucified in the first 50 minutes, and then is resurrected in the next 50 minutes, and then is like the supercop of the world."

Verhoeven also pointed out that the character's somewhat un-Christlike violence was deliberate, since RoboCop was meant to be an American Jesus.

And we're sure Verhoeven will tell us what the fuck Basic Instinct was about one of these days.

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Iron Man 2: Tony Stark and Ayn Rand

What You Think You're Watching

A superhero movie based on the comic book character Iron Man. In this sequel, Tony Stark faces an enemy who has built his own version of the Iron Man suit, as well as a douchey rival weapons manufacturer.

The Subtext

Iron Man is the ultimate objectivist hero, fighting for private property rights against the vulturelike thieves known as "the government." In other words, Ayn Rand's wet dream.

We're legitimately sorry for that mental image.

In Rand's 1,200-page love letter to capitalism, Atlas Shrugged, you have a protagonist named Francisco d'Anconia, a brilliant businessman who runs his inherited family business. D'Anconia deliberately maintains an image as a worthless playboy in order to avoid the growing culture of government theft depicted in Rand's novel.

The protagonist of the Iron Man series is Tony Stark, a brilliant businessman who has also inherited his father's business. Until the end of the first Iron Man film, Stark deliberately maintains an image as a worthless playboy in order to hide his superhero identity.

Man, no one could have called that.

Then in Rand's novel we have Hank Rearden, another protagonist who got super-rich by inventing a valuable metal alloy whose formula he continues to keep secret. The government, sensing the metal's usefulness, tries to forcibly take the rights to Rearden's alloy away from him.

Stark also gains massive amounts power by inventing, among other things, a gold-titanium alloy for use in the Iron Man suit, whose design he continues to keep a secret. The government, sensing its usefulness, tries to take the rights to Stark's suit.

"My God, Stevens. Think of how many rednecks we could trick into believing in aliens with that thing."

In Atlas Shrugged, Rearden is hauled into court for breaking government regulations relating to his steel company. He gives a wildly popular speech in court about his property rights, telling his accusers: "I am fighting for my property!" He humiliates his opponents by winning over the crowd and concludes by telling them: "I work for nothing but my own profit."

In Iron Man 2, Stark is hauled into a Senate hearing, during which a senator demands he hand over his designs.

Stark responds by giving a wildly popular speech about his property rights, telling his accusers: "You want my property? You can't have it!" He humiliates his opponents by winning over the crowd and concludes by telling them: "I will serve this great nation at the pleasure of myself."

The bad guys, too, are uncannily similar. Atlas Shrugged's government lobbyist cozies up to the government in lieu of actual talent. Iron Man 2's main antagonist keeps trying to steal Stark's work with the help of substantial government contracts. There's also Iron Man's other nemesis in the film, Ivan Vanko, who is Russian. You know what else comes from Russia? Communism, that's what.

Plus, in a documentary on the DVD for the first film, Iron Man co-creator Stan Lee flat out says that he created a capitalist, commie-fighting, industrialist, weapon-manufacturing superhero as a way to deliberately antagonize hippie-leaning comic book fans. Anti-military sentiment was high back in the 60s, and Lee wanted to challenge himself by creating a character he could force them to like.

So many good things have come from fucking with comic book nerds.

The result is that Iron Man 2 would be identical to Atlas Shrugged, if only it contained no humor and concluded with the bad guys unanimously standing down after Stark gave a 25 minute speech.

"Your fancy orating touched my ticker."

The Shining: Jack Nicholson Doesn't Care About Indian People

What You Think You're Watching

A horror film about a frustrated writer who loses his marbles while working at an isolated hotel in Colorado. Said writer tries to kill his family as he cackles a catchphrase from a popular American talk show.

This one.

The Subtext

The caretaker's wife and son come to represent Native Americans, and murderous Jack Torrance is whitey.

According to some theorists, Stanley Kubrick's 1980 film The Shining is brimming with messages about violence against Native Americans. Right from the beginning, the manager of the Overlook Hotel lets us know, yeah, the hotel was totally built over the massacred bodies of indigenous people. In fact, we're told that builders actually had to fight off Indians while it was being constructed in 1907, despite the fact that the likelihood of anyone having to battle Indians in Colorado in 1907 would have been about as high as the likelihood of having to fight off Sasquatch.

Unless there was some sort of territorial spat with a nearby casino.

So there's that. But then as you watch the movie, you can't help but notice that the entire place is decorated with a Native American motif, including a Navajo wall hanging that has a decapitated bison head right next to it. And Jack Nicholson's character has a fun time repeatedly throwing a ball at the hanging, just in case you didn't get the hint that he's there to symbolically fuck Indians over.

"Fuck you, indigenous peoples!"

But maybe that's just a coincidence. That stuff was probably just there in the hotel they shot the movie in. But we're not done.

In the first half of the film, when Torrance is still relatively free of Hotel Ghost Syndrome, both his wife and son dress in a series of outfits that all prominently feature patriotic shades of red and blue.

But once Torance starts going loco, his wardrobe becomes red and blue ...

When they remake it, Torrance will dress up as a cavalryman and his wife will catch smallpox.

... while his wife's suddenly morphs into more earthy colors, with the exception of her screaming-yellow TEEPEE JACKET:


The wife and child, who entered as Americans, have been transformed by the hotel's epic vengeance issues into victims. Meanwhile, crazified Torrance wanders into a (ghost) party, where he randomly repeats the words "white man's burden" to the bartender before going into the red-and-white striped bathroom ...

... and making racist comments with the former (ghost) caretaker. After that, it doesn't take long until Torrance is running after his family with an ax and murdering the movie's only nonwhite character:

His family, having learned a valuable lesson about violence and clothing-based patriotism, escapes. Meanwhile, according to the film's final scene, Torrance is living on in his hotel ball. Forever.

Oh, and one more patriotic touch for the psychotic Torrance. Note the date:

July 4th.

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The Dark Knight: George W. Bush is the Batman

What You Think You're Watching

Christopher Nolan's super-dark sequel to Batman Begins. This time Batman teams up with Gotham lawmen, including district attorney Harvey Dent, to fight his new nemesis, the Joker.

Pictured here.

The Subtext

Batman's actions during the film mirror the actions of President Bush after 9/11.

Back in 2008, when The Dark Knight was released, America was still on the tail end of the Bush presidency. So it wasn't hard for a few people to see a superhero parable of our own commander in chief in the story. The first clue is Batman's adversary, the Joker. While most comic-based villains are given to grandiose plans involving firing lasers at the moon, the Joker blows up civilian buildings ...

... tricks his minions into suicide missions and even threatens a suicide bombing himself. The guy even uses a cell phone-operated IED.

We're just getting started.

To combat this terrorism, the Batman kidnaps a crime lord using a procedure that strongly resembles extraordinary rendition, in which suspected terrorists are abducted and transported from one nation to another in a not-quite-legal way. Bruce Wayne develops a "government contract" that uses sonar images from civilians' cell phones to fight crime -- HELLO wiretapping privileges granted by the PATRIOT ACT.

And then there's the whole observation that Wayne is perceived as a perpetual party boy screwup who kind of inherited, and then squandered, everything he's got.

And even if you're not buying the Bruce Wayne = George Bush bit, one writer made a pretty compelling argument that the Dark Knight is actually Dick Cheney. Consider this quote Cheney made immediately after 9/11:

"We also have to work through, sort of, the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful."

Sounds pretty Batmanny if you ask us.

Bat signals fuck with his pace-maker, though.

Drag Me to Hell: Eating Disorders Are Not Awesome

What You Think You're Watching

A horror movie about a young, ambitious woman cursed by an old gypsy lady. The curse, apparently, is all about getting the young lady (Christine) into Hell, but not before she gets to endure levels of torture previously experienced only by Bruce Campbell.

This guy has all the fun.

The Subtext

Oh, Christine is cursed, all right. Cursed with a fat ass! Just kidding; she's got an eating disorder.

At first glance, the plot of the 2009 horror film Drag Me to Hell seems straightforward. The pretty blonde protagonist tries to impress her boss by refusing to grant a bank loan extension to an ethnic stereotype. Ethnic stereotype curses the girl with a goat-legged demon called a Lamia, which haunts her for three days before pulling her down into the netherworld's eternal embrace, as ethnic stereotypes are apt to do.

But some people see a whole other layer to this story. Christine bakes and brings food to others, drinking coffee and water while other characters eat lunch.

She lies about her eating habits (telling her boyfriend that she is lactose-intolerant and then eating ice cream without getting sick). The movie also informs us several times that Christine used to weigh a lot more: There's a picture of her as an overweight child next to a sign reading "Pork Queen ..."

... and a woman tells Christine that she can tell just by looking at her that she used to be fat.

The shoulders give her away.

See where this is going? If not, then note that almost all of Christine's demon-curse problems involve either eating, stuff being forced down her throat or vomiting. Various hell-creatures throw up on her ...

... an old lady twice attempts to eat her face ...

... a possessed scarf tries to force its way down her throat ...

... and a piece of cake starts oozing bodily fluids when she finally tries to eat something.

The main villain, Mrs. Ganush, has horribly damaged teeth and nails which Christine is constantly seeing visions of. Hair loss and teeth and nail damage are all symptoms of eating disorders, bulimia in particular. And, uh, this happens:

Watch carefully, and you'll notice that the movie treats Christine's demon problems like they aren't actually real. When she suffers a violent nosebleed that sends blood spurting all over her workplace, her co-workers don't scream "DID YOU PUNCTURE A NOSE ARTERY?" but act like it's no big deal. In a scene at a funeral, a corpse comes to life and sprays embalming fluid all over her ... only for us to cut to the next shot, showing Christine standing up, perfectly clean, while the other guests react to a goddamn corpse coming to life like it's a mildly interesting daily occurrence.

Which might suggest the whole demon/gypsy curse scenario is either a series hallucination brought on by extreme hunger or a dramatized representation of what is happening to Christine on a nondemonic level. Sort of like how authors often used vampirism as a metaphor for drug addiction back in the pre-sparkly days.

Although we sure could go for some heroin right about now.

Read more by C. Coville at bloodslides.livejournal.com.

Pick up our new book because it doesn't have hidden subtext. Hidden subtext is for pussies.

And get yourself educated on other instances of misunderstanding, in 6 Famous Songs That Don't Mean What You Think and 6 Books Everyone (Including Your English Teacher) Got Wrong.

And stop by Linkstorm to discover the hidden subtext of the Internet. (It's just more dongs.)

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