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Here's the thing, Hollywood: If you're making a movie about, say, the plight of homeless veterans, then by all means feel free to insert a political message into that. The audience might not agree with it, but you're fully in your rights to make a movie with a message. You'll probably even win an Oscar for it. But if your movie is about, say, giant robots or ghost police, that's probably not the time to try to cram in some message about how we should vote next November.

So try to learn the lesson from movies like ...

6
The Dark Knight -- Batman Kidnaps Foreign Citizens (Just Like the CIA)

The Scene:

It's a subplot that largely gets forgotten in a movie that winds up being all about the Joker. At the beginning, a guy named Lau, the accountant of all the mobsters in Gotham City, flies to Hong Kong to hide their money. Lt. Gordon really needs to interrogate Lau, but obviously Asia is a little outside his jurisdiction. No problem: His pal the Batman simply flies over to China, grabs the accountant from his highly protected office and escapes back to Gotham by reverse-parachuting up into an airplane. It's kind of awesome.




Above: The audience's expression during this scene.

The Intended Point:

We've mentioned before that The Dark Knight is an allegory for everything about the War on Terror, and this sequence is undoubtedly the most transparent attempt by Christopher Nolan to draw a parallel between Batman and George Bush (OK, maybe it's second after the "We have to tap every citizen's phone for their own safety" thing). Swooping into Hong Kong and dragging Lau back to Gotham to be interrogated is supposed to mimic the CIA's controversial policy of forcibly extraditing citizens from foreign countries and dropping them at Guantanamo, while dressed like bats.

How It Messes Up the Plot:

Some of you are already thinking, "What? Where the hell are you getting this Bush stuff from? Why can't it just be a cool scene?" But stop and think about how the whole sequence sticks out like a sore thumb. First, how often do you even see Batman leaving Gotham, in any film incarnation? This is Batman, not Mission: Impossible. Spectacular globetrotting raid missions isn't what Batman does.


Somebody get CBS on the horn!

But more importantly, taking Batman out of the country creates a bunch of weird inconsistencies. For example, to set up the whole thing, there's a scene where Gordon and Harvey Dent talk about how Batman could retrieve Lau from Hong Kong since he's "under no one's jurisdiction" (and the Joker says pretty much the same thing to the mobsters). But why would they even assume that Batman has the resources to pull that off? They don't know he's a billionaire.

Think about the strings that would have to get pulled, not just to perform that elaborate kidnapping under the noses of all of this guy's armed guards (in his own building, in his home country), but to then get out of the country after. We're talking about escaping who knows how many police waiting on the ground at every nearby airport and/or all of the jet fighters that Hong Kong would use to intercept the slow-flying plane that just took one of their citizens hostage. It's the kind of operation that very few governments could pull off, yet Dent and Gordon are saying, "Yeah, our local costumed vigilante could do it for us."

This also means that you have to think of a very convincing alibi for Bruce Wayne -- by the way, "He absconded with the entire Russian ballet" isn't one, because there's an entire Russian ballet that knows it isn't true.


"Bruce is the old British dude, right?"

And it wouldn't have been hard for somebody to figure it out after the fact. Lau disappeared right after meeting with a Wayne Enterprises employee (Morgan Freeman), who traveled across the world for basically no reason. Did no one think that was weird?

The point to all of this is, why does the movie introduce all of those complications? If you just wanted that cool skyscraper/plane scene, couldn't the accountant have escaped to Denver or Metropolis or something? No, they wanted to insert that whole bit about how justice trumps those petty rules about "jurisdiction" and "the sovereignty of other countries." Besides, cutting it would mean that Nolan would have been left with just the other 19 allusions to the War on Terror in the movie, and we can't have that.

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5
Ghostbusters -- If You Give the Federal Government Too Much Power, Ghosts!

The Scene:

After successfully busting ghosts all over New York City, and while attempting to prevent the summoning of an ancient Sumerian god, the Ghostbusters are visited by Environmental Protection Agency representative Walter Peck (aka "Dickless") who demands that they immediately shut off the nuclear-powered ghost containment unit in their basement.


"And this, random man off the street, is our wildly illegal nuclear battery."

Despite the protests from both the Busters and the mechanic Peck brought along to do his dirty work, the unit is shut down, releasing hundreds of ghosts into the city all at once.

The Intended Point:

So, the plot point was "ghosts escape and wreak havoc." But why did it have to be due to the EPA? Why couldn't it have been due to, say, some wacky accident? Or some super strong ghost breaking containment? Or one of the two possessed characters turning off the machine under the influence of the giant demon dogs? Because this was the Reagan '80s, and so the villain had to be a weasely dickless government bureaucrat, to shoehorn in some point about how, damn it, the EPA just shouldn't stick its nose into private enterprises.

Honestly, how are entrepreneurs expected to prevent the coming of destructive deities with the federal government imposing all of these oppressive regulations on their businesses?


"If you cut me, do I not bleed money?"

How It Messes Up the Plot:

Wait a second. Why is that scene in the movie at all?

Remember all those ghosts we just mentioned being released, causing havoc across the city? If you do, then congratulations on having a better memory than the writers of this movie, because no one ever busts these ghosts. After the authorities let the Ghostbusters free, they charge off to rescue Sigourney Weaver from the aforementioned Sumerian god, Gozer. They succeed, cover the EPA douchebag with ectoplasmic marshmallow goo ...


Boiling to death in molten sugar is a fair penalty for diligence.

... and call it a day, driving off while dramatic music plays, leaving the city in the grips of a rampaging army of pissed-off supernatural beings.



"Thus solving the problem forever!"

Once you realize that they never deal with the ghosts, it's painfully obvious that this scene has no real purpose in the movie. Its only connection to the plot are the two seconds where we see the possessed Rick Moranis sort of staying behind -- the Ghostbusters lose track of him and he goes off and releases Gozer, but that could have easily happened without forcing the EPA into the story to make a point, especially since they weren't exactly keeping a tight leash on Moranis on the first place.

Also, why would a machine designed to contain ghosts use nuclear power? Remember, that's what brings the EPA to the Ghostbusters' doorstep: They were operating a nuclear device in the middle of New York City and apparently didn't even bother to get the necessary permits. But hey, at least we got some great one-liners out of the whole situation.

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4
Saw VI -- Jigsaw Pushes for Health Insurance Reform

The Scene:

The Saw series focuses on a serial killer called Jigsaw who tortures people in intricate ways, but only to "test their will to live" (the makers of these films probably use the same excuse). In the sixth movie, a flashback sequence shows Jigsaw arguing with his insurance provider about their refusal to pay for his experimental cancer treatment.


"I'm sorry, sir, we just can't justify $30 million for a 1:100 dilution of aspirin."

After some unconvincing displays of sympathy from the sleazy insurance guy, Jigsaw calls him out on his bullshit and says:

These politicians keep saying that decisions should be made by doctors and their patients, not by the government, but now I know that decisions aren't made by doctors or patients, or the government. They're made by the fucking insurance companies.

While he says this, we see a TV with Hillary Clinton on it.


Because subtlety can suck it.

The Intended Point:

Jigsaw is saying that other parties (such as insurance companies) shouldn't make decisions about your personal health. Jigsaw may be the one who kills people, but the real villain in this movie is the greedy businessman -- in fact, he literally keeps a tank of piranhas in his office.


"Do you like my pets, Mr. Bon- Kramer, I mean Kramer."

How It Messes Up the Plot:

Wait, no, the serial killer is definitely the villain here, and a hypocrite to boot: We're pretty sure tying people to torture devices, chopping off their limbs and bleeding them to death counts as "making decisions about their personal health." Bear in mind that Jigsaw's philosophy throughout the seven movies is "Those who do not appreciate life do not deserve life" -- he keeps insisting that he only tortures people to make them stronger.


"Just think how much faster you'll run without that extra arm weighing you down!"

And yet, by that logic, the insurance guy was only "helping" Jigsaw (and who knows how many more people) by denying him coverage for his cancer treatment. Jigsaw's speech makes absolutely no sense in the context of these movies. Any point those words were trying to make is immediately obscured by the fact that, a few scenes earlier, the person saying them was forcing a guy to cut open his own stomach while screws were drilled into his temples.


"This hurts me more than it hurts you."

That's the problem with moralizing in a franchise where your only consistent character is a serial torture-murderer. Insurance companies can be shady as shit, but it's hard to make anyone look like the bad guy when they're standing next to someone whose signature is cutting jigsaw pieces out of his victims' skin after he kills them. Even Halliburton looks good compared to that.

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3
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen -- The Government Is Dumb (And America Is the World)

The Scene:

About halfway through the second Transformers movie, Optimus Prime's buddies at the U.S. military are having an argument with professional dick and National Security Adviser Galloway about whether the Autobots are doing more harm than good: Galloway argues that the Decepticons are only attacking the planet because the Autobots are here, and asks Optimus if he will leave Earth peacefully if the president denies him further asylum. Optimus agrees, but tells him to ask the president, "What if we leave ... and you're wrong?"


"Your face will be SO red."

But, ominous one-liners aside, the answer is "Yes, we'll absolutely leave the planet if your presidents tells us to." Ultimately, Galloway is proven wrong, since it turns out the Decepticons are actually looking for some bullshit buried in Egypt -- meaning that if the Autobots had left Earth like the NSA wanted, the whole planet would be doomed. Thanks a lot, Obama!

The Intended Point:

All through the movie, any member of the government who isn't in the military is portrayed as a bumbling, idiotic bureaucrat who only exists to hinder the job of the real heroes. Michael Bay is telling us what he really thinks of the executive branch, and he's being about as subtle as a pair of giant steel gonads.


In cinema, this is called a "motif."

At one point, Galloway even implies that the president is considering turning over Shia LeBeouf to the robot aliens who want to cut open his brain as a "diplomatic solution."

How It Messes Up the Plot:

It's an alien invasion. That's something that kind of has effects worldwide, and apparently nobody told Optimus that the president of the United States isn't also the King of the World. If the U.S. "denies them further asylum," what's stopping the Autobots from moving over to Canada? Or Pakistan? Or Russia? Ireland? Anywhere else? What difference would it make to a race of robots fighting an intergalactic war?


"We've had a lot of offers from some place called 'North Korea.'"

This might make sense if the Autobots conceded that Galloway had a point and maybe they really were putting the Earth in danger with their presence, but Optimus makes it pretty clear that he thinks that's bullshit: He knows the Decepticons are after something else (which isn't even in the U.S.). And yet he still agrees to obey the president, because if America doesn't want their help, then the other billions of people on the planet can just go fuck themselves.

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2
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) -- Even Aliens Love Jesus

The Scene:

In the non-Keanu version of The Day the Earth Stood Still, an alien named Klaatu comes to warn the human race that our addiction to violence is gonna get us murdered by space robots. At the end of the movie, Klaatu is shot to death by soldiers and his body is collected by his terrifying robot buddy Gort, who takes it inside their highly advanced alien spaceship.


And yet not one anal probe in sight.

In the ship, Gort uses a special machine to bring Klaatu back to life -- his human friend Ellen is shocked to see Klaatu alive again, but he immediately tells her that his resurrection is only temporary, since only "the Almighty Spirit" has power over life and death. Klaatu then delivers one last speech about how we seriously need to get our shit together or (and he can't stress this enough) we'll all be murdered by robots, and then flies off into space.


"Remember: An army of robots is always watching you. Good luck with peace!"

The Intended Point:

Intergalactic peace is great and all, but you know what's even better? Jesus. These powerful aliens may come from a completely different culture that doesn't understand our ways and see us as a primitive and warring species, but even they follow traditional Christian values. Never mind the fact that we're pretty sure the mere existence of aliens is incompatible with the Bible.

How It Messes Up the Plot:

If the whole "Almighty Spirit" bit seems a little pointless and out of place in this movie, that's because it originally wasn't there -- the writers were forced to add it. When the studio submitted the movie to the Production Code Administration, Klaatu's reanimation was permanent, making his final message even more potent. However, the Code objected to this scene because "only God can do that." The writers still needed Klaatu alive to deliver the last speech, so they were forced to rewrite the ending in a way that conformed to 1950s American politics.


"The whole universe must live in peace! Except for commies, they can suck it."

What the Code people completely missed is that the movie already had Christian themes in it, but in a more subliminal way that didn't clash with the science fiction plot. According to the writers themselves, Klaatu is an allegory for Jesus -- he descends from on high, delivers a message, is betrayed and killed, comes back to confirm he's the real deal and then leaves. He even takes the name "Mr. Carpenter" at one point.


Meanwhile, Gort is clearly an allegory for Jesus' robot.

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1
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace -- Superman Fixes the World (By Ruling It)

The Scene:

The plot of Superman IV involves Superman becoming worried about the prospect of a nuclear war and deciding to do something about it -- he crashes a U.N. meeting and informs the nations of the world that he's disarming every nuclear power and throwing all their missiles into the sun. All the representatives stand up and cheer.


"Yay! Please don't kill us with your eye lasers, oh alien God-King."

Lex Luthor tried to ruin everything by creating a retarded nuclear clone of Superman, but soon enough they were both defeated and the world forever lived in peace (presumably).

The Intended Point:

Nukes are dangerous and we should throw them into the sun, because if nothing else that'd just be really cool. Also, fuck the sun.


"Aw, look at you humans, trying to figure out fusion. That's so adorable."

How It Messes Up the Plot:

Superman IV is universally recognized as one of the worst superhero movies ever, but there was a time when fans were actually stoked about it. This was mainly because the producers had pulled off the impossible: They'd managed to convince Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve to reprise their classic roles despite all three having practically quit the Superman franchise at that point. Reeve in particular had sworn never to put on the red underpants again after Superman III.


"Damn, Gene, you've really been working out."

With the original cast back in place, it was just a matter of coming up with a good plot to suit the occasion. However, the producers had promised that Reeve could have input over the storyline, and since he was becoming more politically active in those years, he decided that Superman should do the same thing ... even if it made no sense.

For example, we seriously doubt that the nations of the world would have been so thrilled about a nearly omnipotent alien invading their countries and forcibly removing their nuclear armaments, especially in the middle of the Cold War. This only makes sense if Superman were trying to unite everyone against a common enemy, like in Watchmen.


"Just a flying man amassing a ball of nukes in Earth's orbit. Nothing to worry about."

By making decisions for the nations of the world without consulting them (he merely tells them what he's gonna do, then does it), Superman has set a precedent where he is allowed to do whatever he wants on the geopolitical scene, pretty much establishing himself as a de facto emperor of everything. So much for "not interfering with human history."

J.F. Sargent blogs, tweets and is the managing editor of PCulpa.com.

For more on politics, check out The 8 Most Successful Politicians (Who Weren't Human) and 5 Blatantly Corrupt Politicians America Reelected Anyways.

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