There should be a name for that very specific genre of movie that accidentally satirizes a news story before it even happens. People tend to think The China Syndrome was playing off of the fears of nuclear power in the wake of the Three Mile Island incident, but the movie actually came out two weeks before. We previous pointed out how Starship Troopers plays like a parody of the War on Terror, even though it came out four years before 9/11. Which brings us to Wag the Dog.
Which came out three weeks before Dustin Hoffman was invented.
In Wag the Dog, the president of the United States gets caught trying to sleep with a Girl Scout, so in order to distract the public and the media from the scandal, a political publicist (Robert De Niro) hires a Hollywood producer to stage a fake war with Albania. Thus the term "wag the dog" -- instead of a dog wagging its tail, the tail wags the dog (or, instead of the news media covering politicians, politicians tell the news media what to say).
You might remember him from several episodes of Saturday Night Live.
See, the film was released in December of 1997, right smack in the middle of Bill Clinton's two-term presidency, and already you know exactly where this is headed. Just a month after the film came out, Bill Clinton tripped and spilled some of his ejaculate on an intern's dress, inciting a massive sex scandal that would eventually lead to his impeachment. But that's just a sex scandal; politicians are constantly caught humping stuff, that doesn't mean the creators of Wag the Dog were psychic, right? It's not like he started a war just to get it out of the headlines ...
"It's not war, it's a hurried-up peace solution."
Well, it was August 17, 1998 when Clinton admitted to the world what he had done. Then, three days later, he announced the bombings of six terrorist compounds in Afghanistan, along with a factory in Sudan that was believed to be housing chemical weapons. The out-of-nowhere military action pushed the sex scandal out of the news, in the way that only a war can. This is why so many pundits screamed that this was a Wag the Dog action.
Please note that we're going with "coincidence" here rather than the much scarier "He got the idea from the movie."
He saved all his inspiration that year from Deep Impact.
The acclaimed 1974 neo-noir film Chinatown starred Jack Nicholson as a private investigator in Los Angeles who divides his time between getting tangled up in a murder plot with the Department of Water and Power and getting tangled up in some linens with Faye Dunaway.
"Forget it, Jake, it's 'ginatown."
One of the biggest reveals of the story is that Dunaway's character was raped by her father and gave birth to a daughter, and then the child was raised as her sister. Screenwriter Robert Towne originally wanted the film to end with Dunaway killing her father, but the director insisted on a much darker conclusion where Dunaway is killed and then the creepy old child molester takes possession of his inbred offspring. If you're wondering why a studio would intentionally release a film in which a pedophile comes out the victor in the end, remember who directed it ...
"It's me, Roman Nopantski."
Shortly after Chinatown's release, Time magazine was planning to do a cover story on Nicholson, but while researching his family, the reporter made some surprising discoveries. Namely, that the man and woman Nicholson had always called dad and mom were actually his grandparents, and the woman he thought was his older sister was his biological mother (not due to incest in this case, she just got knocked up by a random dude as a teenager).
So, maybe Nicholson was attracted to the Chinatown role because it mirrored his own messed-up family dynamic? Nope -- at the time, he didn't even know. He only found out because, while Time never ran the story, they did call him up just to give him a heads up that his whole life had been a lie.
"Aaaaand our readers want to know what your favorite color is."
To give some context, Nicholson was born in 1937, a time when it was more socially acceptable for an unmarried woman to walk around in public with the plague than with a baby. So when the family's 16-year-old daughter got pregnant with Jack, they covered the whole thing up after he was born by claiming the baby belonged to the girl's mother. They kept this up for the rest of their lives.
Everyone involved in the cover-up passed away before Nicholson ever learned the truth, so even in their dying breaths they didn't feel it necessary to tell him that his sister/mother had gotten pregnant by some guy, and thus his biological dad was probably still out there somewhere, presumably wandering the streets in a purple felt suit and shouting about how this town needs an enema. Still, Nicholson claims to hold no resentment toward his family, saying "I'd like to meet two broads today who knew how to keep a secret to that degree." Because Jack Nicholson is one of the only people who can insult every woman in the world and have it sound endearing.
"Pick up those amazing pins, woman, and get me some Corn Flakes."
The 1993 sci-fi action film Demolition Man opens with a cop named John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) capturing a psychotic criminal named Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes). Phoenix is sentenced to a term in "CryoPrison," where criminals are frozen and placed in cryogenic storage. Then Stallone also winds up frozen for some reason and they both wake up in the future so they can have action movie things happen.
But sharp-eyed viewers will catch something when they see the roster of other murderers on ice along with Snipes and Stallone. It appears briefly on a screen early in the movie:
Ha, Scott Peterson. Future names are dumb.
In case you're not familiar with that name (i.e., you managed to do a complete blackout of every form of media in 2003-04), Scott Peterson was the center of a sensational murder trial in which he was eventually convicted of the first-degree murder of his pregnant wife, Laci. A cheesy made-for-TV movie was even made about his life.
The Superman Curse strikes again.
Hell, Demolition Man even has him winding up in the right facility -- the movie's CryoPrison was created to house the worst of the worst in California (the movie takes place in "San Angeles"), and the real Peterson is in San Quentin, California's only death row facility.
All because some unknown crew member picked the name at random to help fill out that computer screen. But that's not the creepiest accidental Easter egg of its kind -- that prize goes to some unknown stranger in The Matrix prop department.
The one who constructed "action Keanu" for the films.
This one is even weirder within the context of the movie. Technically, The Matrix takes place in the future and the present at the same time, sort of like Keanu Reeve's other sci-fi action hit, The Lake House. Inside the Matrix, the year is 1999, and in the real world it's about 2199. That means that the robots already know and have programmed in every event in human history that will take place in that time frame. That includes all the weird, inconsequential stuff like a new puppy shitting on your rug, but also all the floods and fires and other atrocities people have to contend with.
Now, knowing that the machines are already aware of the big events in the future of humanity, watch this scene:
While Agent Smith goes through Neo's file folder, we catch a glimpse of the photocopied picture of his passport. The picture is upside down and only appears on screen for a second, but thanks to the miracle of "freeze-framing," and the technological advancement of "turning our monitor upside-down," we can read it clearly. Check the expiration date:
Robin Warder is the co-owner of the pop culture website The Back Row.
For more fiction that gave us an alarming pause, check out 6 Eerily Specific World Events Predicted by Comics and 8 Absurd Jokes That Predicted Real Life Events.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The Most Unintentionally Disturbing McDonald's Ad
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn how Superman predicted the Wikileaks scandal.
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