Time passes us by. When aliens/robots become self-aware and target humanity for destruction, these articles will be of little comfort to the survivors. Perhaps they can be of use to our future conquerors – a time capsule that betrays our greatest weaknesses (men with a penchant for exclamation points) and strengths (those lovely National Treasure movies). What follows is a letter to our future metal/alien friends. If you are still alive after the invasion, Dear Reader, I’ll see you at the salt mines.
Thank you for colonizing us – you must be exhausted. I hope this letter finds you in good health and cheer. Allow me to provide you with a primer on the country that was formerly known as America. You probably have many questions. Relax. While I do this, feel free to remove the spine of a human and play it like a xylophone.
Since its inception, America has always been a prideful nation; however, during the first part of the 21st century, the reasons for our pride seemed to diminish. In fact, at one point, our chief exports were reduced to vampire films and obesity. Yet, we remained boastful. There was much speculation about the reasons behind our decline, but no one was able to accurately pinpoint the moment when we lost our way. Until now.
Rather than bore you with the details that led to our eventual demise, I would ask that you simply watch the Gremlins DVD I’ve included with this time capsule. Ostensibly, this horror film is a send-up of movie clichés that is fun for the entire family. In reality, it’s a terrifying glimpse into the deep-rooted flaws of American culture that led to our destruction (and seven Police Academy movies). Seven.
The story involves a failed inventor/father who lives in a small town with his naive wife, son (Zach Galligan) and his sort of girlfriend (Phoebe Cates). The townspeople are poor and prejudiced but live in ignorant bliss until the father unwittingly unleashes a new species into their ecosystem. As these new “gremlins” take over, the townspeople remain largely incompetent and impotent but increasingly prideful. If ever there were a story that revealed the buried reasons behind the decline of America, this is it.
So, aliens and survivors, I’m putting Gremlins into the Fiction Vs. Reality chamber this week. Just how would this movie play out in real life?
Scenario # 1
What Happens: Failed inventor and deadbeat dad Rand Peltzer tries (and fails) to unload his latest product, the unfortunately named Bathroom Buddy, onto a reserved (and therefore foolish) Chinese shop owner. What’s the Bathroom Buddy? It’s a giant Swiss Army Knife-like box equipped with canons that shoot toothpaste.
Hollywood Version: After seeing Mogwai, a cute creature that exists outside the laws of nature, Rand abandons his sale mid-pitch and tosses hundreds of dollars at the old man insisting that he and his son “must have it!” Despite the shop owner’s protestations, Rand takes the creature home, anyway. The audience… loves it!
Reality: According to Edward Salaz, author of Selling for Dummies, “The goal of a salesman is to sell goods; not buy them. And he blows his mortgage on another mouth that he cannot afford to feed. This is essentially a sequel to Death of a Salesman. Rand is a grown-up Biff Loman, only with less promise.”
Scenario # 2
What Happens: Mrs. Deagle, a successful businesswoman, is confronted by the poor townspeople.
Hollywood Version: A mother and her sons (with runny noses!) implore Mrs. Deagle to grant their family yet another extension on a mortgage they cannot afford. Mrs. Deagle uses logic to explain why this cannot happen. Angered, the mother shouts, “But it’s Christmas!” The audience seethes in their hatred for Mrs. Deagle.
Reality: According to Harold Kemis, Executive Vice President at Citigroup, “This attitude is partly why the housing market collapsed. We have strict regulations that must be followed. Financial institutions cannot forgive debt simply because of holidays or even a case -- no matter how bad -- of the sniffles. Perhaps instead of spending her time accosting bank managers, this young woman could find another job.”
Scenario # 3
What Happens: We are subjected to a typical day in the Peltzer household.
Hollywood Version: Within two minutes, four things happen:
After misinterpreting It’s a Wonderful Life as a “sad movie,” the mother confides in Billy that they can’t afford their mortgage payments but cautions against “ruining the holidays” by alerting the father.
We are introduced to a sea of Rand’s useless yet horrifying inventions that make the Bathroom Buddy look like an iPad in comparison.
Rand arrives, singing Christmas carols to himself, and brags about solid “offers” he’s receiving for the Bathroom Buddy. Then, he presents his son with an alien, but Billy mistakes it for… a birdcage. A few rules: the birdcage/alien must not get wet or be fed after midnight or be in contact with direct sunlight. Later, the father says the alien’s name is something Chinese, so he just calls him Gizmo. After watching this scene unfold, the family and the audience are… delighted!
I aim a loaded shotgun at the television and scream, “It’s always after midnight!”
Reality: According to Francois Marcozy, former UN ambassador to France, “Americans are always asking for reasons why other nations hate them. This scene exemplifies every single one. It’s a perfect storm of incompetence, denial, racism, and a lack of critical thinking skills. Terrorists use this film as propaganda. By the end, everyone is cheering for the brave gremlins.”
Scenario # 4
What Happens: Billy’s romantic rival, Gerald, tries to show him up in front of Kate, the object of their affections.
Hollywood Version: Gerald brags about his future at the hometown bank saying, “I’m junior vice president at 23, I’ll have my boss’ job at 25, and by 30 I’ll be a millionaire.” Billy looks dejected.
Reality: According to Merle Gearhat, economics professor at Georgetown University, “Based upon the salary for a small-time banker in a depressed town, Gerald would probably be earning roughly $45,000 per year. If he were to overtake his boss in a few years, he might be given a twenty percent raise. Unless inflation increases by 1000 percent over the next five years, the only way Gerald would earn a million dollars is if he won the lottery.”
Scenario # 5
What Happens: Billy brings a gremlin/mogwai to his high school science teacher.
Hollywood Version: The science teacher runs tests on this new species that he stores… in a birdcage… in the middle of his classroom. Billy and the audience feel safe.
Reality: According to taxonomist Dr. Richard Levy, “When a new species is discovered, there is scientific protocol. Local, state, and federal authorities must be notified within 72 hours and the subject must be contained in a sterile environment. Failure to comply with these regulations would land him a $20,000 fine and three months of jail time.”
Scenario # 6
What Happens: Oops. Billy spills water on the gremlins and feeds them after midnight. After they turn into monsters, Billy asks, “Hey… what’s going on here?” I lock and load my shotgun.
Hollywood Version: The terrifying creatures string up the family dog with Christmas lights but the family refuses to place blame on the murderous creatures they’ve created saying, “It could be anyone!”
Reality: According to Marvin Harrison, assistant district attorney for San Francisco, “Innocent until proven guilty is an edict that applies to all men and women; not to gremlins. I would issue a warrant for their arrest immediately.”
Scenario # 7
What Happens: The Gremlins wreak havoc on the small town.
Hollywood Version: These creatures use ingenious and ironic methods of murder, which include the following:
After researching Mrs. Deagle’s hatred of carolers, the gremlins dress up as singers (replete with sheet music) to draw her out. Then, they rocket her to space/death via electric stair climber.
Attacking (yet weirdly upholding) Mr. Anderson’s xenophobia, the foreign creatures run him over with his tractor, the source of his American pride.
A few gremlins place a phone call to local radio legend Rockn’ Ricky as a distraction while others attack him.
Reality # 1: According to Rex Markle, zoologist, “When a new species is placed into a functional ecosystem, it’s natural for in-fighting -- that may result in death – to occur; however, it’s been my experience that when given the chance to kill its prey or lavish irony upon it, a new species always chooses to kill.”
Reality # 2: “We have a careful vetting process,” says Becky Newton, intern at 98.5 WRKO. “During pre-screening, we look for prank or inappropriate calls; it’s safe to assume threats from aliens would not be allowed on the air… unless they had a specific song request.”
Scenario # 8
What Happens: Gremlins sit inside of a mailbox and stalk their prey.
Hollywood Version: After spotting gremlins in the mailbox, a priest allows one of his flock, who is mailing a letter, to be eaten by one. The audience is enthralled.
Reality: “Tampering with the mail is a federal offense,” states former postmaster general Gerard Milken. “It carries with it an automatic 15-year jail sentence. And I would nab the priest for conspiracy to commit mail tampering – he aided and abetted those gremlins.”
Scenario # 9
What Happens: After the gremlins eat popcorn and drink beers at the local pub, they attend a screening of Snow White.
Hollywood Version: The gremlins mangle the film reel, yet figure out how to run it through the projector. Humanity’s future rests in the hands of Billy, the kid who created the monsters and confused them for birdcages. Either to kill the gremlins or just for fun, he decides to blow up a movie theater. Luckily, some gremlins happened to be there at the time.
Reality# 1: “No,” says Merv Lighthall, owner of the Corner Pub, “we have strict policies about serving alcohol. One, you have to be over 21. Two, you have to provide payment after being served. Most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, you have to be human.”
Reality # 2: According to assistant district attorney Malcolm Beasite, “This is arson, plain and simple. Billy would be placed under arrest and held without bail. Most likely he would have to incur the cost to refurbish the theater, which would be about $300,000 or, in Billy’s terms, 800 million Bathroom Buddies.”
Scenario # 10
What Happens: The gremlins and Billy have a final showdown.
Hollywood Version: Dispensing with ironic gestures, the head gremlin throws darts and hurls chainsaws at Billy. Billy is so useless I begin to wonder if he is one of Rand’s inventions. Powerless to defeat the tiny organism, Mogwai shows up via Barbie Dream Convertible and saves the day. The audience cheers.
Later, after that foolish Chinese man returns to take Mogwai away, Rand offers false apologies, which leads to a narration in which he looks back on the death and destruction of his town with wistfulness and nostalgia. The audience chants “USA” as they sign up for sub-prime mortgages.
Reality: Kate runs away with Mogwai, who has saved the day with his grace and courage. Emasculated, Billy commits suicide using his father’s Bathroom Buddy. Excited that an invention of his actually works, Rand rebrands it the Suicide Buddy and makes millions 20 years later when all of his neighbors purchase one after the bank forecloses on their homes.
Final Thought: Dear aliens/robots, I hope you have enjoyed this education film and will learn from our mistakes. The reality is that a cowboy attitude, even in a small-town setting, does not lead to success, ironic punishment (although clever) will not further your cause, and if you want to ensure that Americans are not allowed to return to their former glory, please also don’t allow them access to sunlight, water, or food. Except for me. I don’t become a gremlin; I become delightful.
(Your only human friend) Joe