Lots of movies try to send messages. Some are obvious, some are subtle, and some are so ham-handed you end up hating the movie even though you agree with the sentiment. On the other hand, we've pointed out before that a few messages can be so nuanced, pretty much every viewer misses them. Feel free to disagree with us, but we think we've found compelling cases that ...
5 Star Trek Into Darkness Is 9/11 Conspiracy Theory Propaganda
What You Think It's About:
Star Trek Into Darkness is basically a remake of Wrath of Khan, except its subtitle sounds like the title of an Evanescence album and its grammar looks like it came from the MySpace page of a 13-year-old Evanescence fan. It's basically a nonsense action movie full of awesome space battles fought entirely by hot people.
What It's Really About:
Because Star Trek fans aren't known for their casual enthusiasm, it didn't take long for the Internet to point out that Into Darkness looks an awful lot like an allegory for the worldview of 9/11 "Truthers," who believe that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by the American government to justify an invasion of the Middle East, and whose brains may be full of spider webs. That obviously makes Khan space Osama bin Laden -- literally the first thing we see him do is convince a desperate man to become a suicide bomber.
Although we don't think anyone has ever masturbated to bin Laden.
Before we get into the details, keep this in mind: this movie -- which is about a space terrorist being used as an excuse to further a secret space military agenda (in space) -- was co-written by Roberto Orci, who's espoused Truther sentiments on Twitter, the official platform for legitimate political debate, as well as on Star Trek message boards, the second-most-official platform for legitimate political debate. How these conspiracy theory ramblings managed to manifest themselves as a Star Trek motion picture and not just a convoluted blog post, well ... that's the magic of Hollywood. Did we mention that in the credits, the film was dedicated to "Post-9/11 Veterans?" A nice sentiment, but a little out of left field, right?
Now look at the plot: after Khan attacks a meeting of Starfleet big shots in a conspicuously Pentagon-like location, he transports to the Klingon home world faster than anyone can say, "Hey, that guy looks way too white to be named Khan." Kirk is ordered by Admiral Guy Who Played RoboCop to pursue Khan with an armament of 72 experimental torpedoes, but Kirk eventually learns the truth: Admiral RoboCop had been forcing Khan to develop weapons to secretly give Starfleet a military overhaul and jumpstart a war with the Klingons, which he considered inevitable. That's basically the Truther narrative: that bin Laden was nothing but a patsy used by American warmongers to justify the Middle East invasion they wanted anyway.
It's not like there were already dozens of previous terrorist attacks that could have been used as a flimsy pretext to invade.
If funding the enemy of an enemy only to later have that first enemy attack sounds familiar, that's because it's basically the gritty origin story of the Taliban, who originally fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with weapons and training from the US. Hey, did we mention that Kahn's origin story is that he was a genetically engineered soldier designed to fight an old war?
The Soviets didn't stand a chance.
Also, 72 torpedoes may seem like a totally random number, but it's different from the totally random number the original Star Trek series came up with. The torpedoes in Into Darkness contain Khan's cryogenically frozen crew, but his crew complement was originally 84. It seems like either an arbitrary change or a fact-checking error, but 72 also happens to be the number of virgins that people who don't understand Islam very well believe are promised to suicide bombers in the afterlife. Coincidence? That's your call.
4 The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Wants You to Reconsider Eating Meat
What You Think It's About:
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is an iconic horror movie about a van full of teenagers breaking down in the middle of backwater ... Idaho, we think. They find themselves the victims of the Sawyer family, an inbred cadre of hillbillies who nourish themselves exclusively on sweet, tender, teenage flesh. They dismember their victims through the alternative use of power tools, although we can't remember precisely what kind (it's been a while since we've seen this).
What It's Really About:
The Sawyer family may be killers, but the real murderer is you (if you eat meat). This famous flick is aggressively pro-vegetarianism, and if you think about it, it's not even very subtle. The teens pick up a hitchhiker who tells them about how his family used to work at the local slaughterhouse, which film experts consider to be a case of "foreshadowing." They also talk about how gruesome it is to kill animals with sledgehammers and prepare them for consumption, to which one of the girls responds, "That's horrible. People shouldn't kill animals for food."
It turns out the real animal is man.
A while after that, the first victim is dispatched with the exact cattle-killing method that was described. The next victim is impaled on a meat hook and stuffed in a meat locker, while the third is butchered with a chainsaw in the same way that animals are sliced into different delicious cuts. We believe this is known as "symbolism."
Tasty, tasty symbolism.
As pointed out by film theorist Rob Ager, the house where the Sawyer family lives is basically a slaughterhouse run by animals for humans. The half-feral Leatherface wears a mask made from human skin, and he even dons a butcher's apron (and a surprisingly well-coordinated tie) as he goes about cutting up some succulent humans.
One of the film's most iconic scenes is when the Sawyer family sits down for a dinner of teenager tartar and taunts their surviving captive with animal noises. It's an allegory for the horrendous conditions of meat processing, with the fear of the victim mimicking the fear of animals who are getting slaughtered.
There's also some symbolism in their house, but we can't quite put our finger on it.
If you think we're reaching, keep in mind that PETA endorses the movie, and director Tobe Hooper flat-out said that the film is about meat, although he also thinks the 2003 remake was pretty good and the best part was the focus on Jessica Biel's ass, so he may not quite be an auteur. Still, he gave up meat while making the movie, and it's not hard to imagine why. To our knowledge, animals aren't slaughtered by psychopathic Texans, but they aren't dispatched with rainbows either. As to why more people haven't picked up on what seems like an obvious theme in retrospect, well ... as Slate points out, that early conversation on slaughterhouses ends with the line "I like meat, please change the subject!"
Admittedly, this is a pretty good topic to change to.