I work with a guy named Ellis. He’s a nice man but I’d rather staple myself to a toilet than listen to stories about his daughter and his boat. Yet, each morning, despite my best efforts, I always run into him at the coffee machine, which is odd since I arrive at different times. Once, when I asked him how this could be possible, he replied, “I sleep here… right in the fridge!” I’m pretty sure he was joking, but I haven’t entirely ruled it out, either.
I thought about Ellis during a screening of James Cameron’s The Terminator, a science fiction classic about a cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and a soldier (Michael Biehn) who are each sent from the future to find Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the mother of a future revolutionary. The future is bleak for humanity – it’s almost lost to a race of superhuman robots (and there’s no network television), but if the soldier can protect (and bed) her, we just might have a chance.
There is a universal appeal to these time travel movies in which the fate of humanity rests in the hands of a select few. I think it’s because it allows us to imagine that our lives are endowed with a greater purpose that we cannot yet understand. I don’t have to endure Ellis’ boring stories; I need to in order to fulfill some yet-to-be-determined destiny; and, if a Terminator appears in the break room, at least I can use Ellis as a human shield. Hey, sometimes people have to suffer or die so that I may achieve my destiny. Who am I to argue?
I love this film but I would gently suggest that in saving the life of Sarah Connor, they have ruined the lives of countless others, which might have just as profound an effect on the future.
So I’m putting Terminator through this week’s version of Fiction vs. Reality. Just how would this movie play out in real life? Let’s find out together.
Scenario # 1
What Happens: In pursuit of a time-traveling Terminator robot, Kyle Reese, Sarah’s protector, shows up. He steals pants from a homeless man and draws the attention (and ire) of the police.
Hollywood Version: The police call for backup. In a matter of minutes every available officer is conducting a hard-target search of the area.
Reality: “We have different threat levels that correlate to our measured responses,” asserts Kansas City Police Chief Ellie White. “Our infrastructure cannot support a full-blown man hunt for a pair of stolen slacks. Considering the over-time and hazard pay, it would be more cost-effective to simply purchase another pair of pants for this homeless man.”
Scenario # 2
What Happens: Sarah Connor is revealed to be a waitress (and a loser).
Hollywood Version: During one shift, she brings patrons wrong meals, spills coffee onto customers and asks a plastic statue of a burger bun to watch over her (and us all). Later, after being stood up, she thanks her pet iguana for remaining a source of love and strength.
The other characters (and the audience)… feel empathy for her. At one point, her co-worker/roommate declares, “In a 100 years, who’s gonna care?”
Reality # 1: “This woman is a mess,” asserts Francine Maxwein, clinical psychologist and author of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Your Mental Problems! “We have a woman who can neither sustain romantic interest from a man (and instead resorts to seducing a lesser species) nor can she handle the basic responsibilities of food service. This is the only instance in which a nuclear holocaust actually benefits someone. How sad.”
Reality # 2: “Actually, we very much care about our customers’ satisfaction,” asserts Frank Carlson, manager of the Burly Beef Burger. “I can assure you that in 100 years, our customers, which may include terminators – we welcome all walks of life! -- will be our first priority.”
Scenario # 3
What Happens: The Terminator methodically kills Sarah Connors listed in the phone book. One of his victims is a 35-year old mother of two.
Hollywood Version: The audience is… relieved! It’s a good thing those other, lesser Sarah Connors sacrificed their lives to help buy time for our favorite waitress/iguana duo.
Reality: After dealing with the untimely death of his mother, Chris Connor slides into a deep depression and no longer pursues acting. As a result, the role of Ed Young, the Rapist from Next Door, in the 2006 television series Close to Home is miscast. The series is immediately cancelled. As a result, unemployed boom operator Frank Marcus is so bereft he murders all of the executives at Warner Brothers including Mark Shehein, the exec who would later greenlight Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing. Future America, stripped of Tim Allen’s unique brand of wit, slips into a deep malaise. What Terminator will be sent back to set this right?
Scenario # 4
What Happens: A brave, young man risks his life to protect Sarah Connor from the weird, trenchcoat-wearing guy who just unloaded shotgun rounds into a crowded nightclub. Just as he is about to wrestle away the firearm, the Terminator kills this young man.
Hollywood Version: Audiences rejoice! Didn’t this kid ever consider that a guy who shoots up strangers in a nightclub might be here only to protect Sarah (and the world) from futuristic robots?
Reality: This brave young man was Dr. Walter R. Murrow, III. In the year 2019 he was fated to discover a cure for cancer, which would have saved millions of lives. Unfortunately, without Walter’s keen scientific eye, the world must endure more cancer diagnoses and walkathons.
Scenario # 5
What Happens: Kyle tells Sarah that a terminator robot has arrived from the future to murder her. Only he can save her.
Hollywood Version: After a few heated discussions, Sarah trusts him implicitly.
Reality: According to Lt. Alan Thirkland, “Unfortunately, this is all an elaborate scheme to sleep with Sarah Connor. We’ve seen it before. Kyle Reese and this ‘Terminator’ travel the country trying to bed naïve waitresses. We haven’t had anything concrete on them until now; he shouldn’t have stolen those pants from that homeless man.”
Scenario # 6
What Happens: In an effort to keep Sarah Connor safe from the implacable killer, the police chief keeps her in protective custody… on the couch in his office. Then, he covers her with a blanket and tells her to get some sleep.
Hollywood Version: Sarah and the audience feel safe.
Reality: According to Captain Santonio Miller, Miami Metro, “No. It’s standard procedure to place a material witness into protective custody at an undisclosed location. In lieu of a blanket, we would cover her with a bulletproof vest. In my opinion, it’s the police chief, not the Terminator, who is responsible for the death of the officers in that precinct.”
Scenario # 7
What Happens: After listening to Kyle Reese’s story, the clinical psychologist brands him “paranoid” and “delusional.”
Hollywood Version: Audiences of all races, colors, and creeds put aside their differences and unite in their hatred for the doctor and unalloyed support for this homeless man who steals pants.
Reality: According to Stan Michaels, a convicted murderer whose verdict was overturned after nearly 40 years, “I was convicted on circumstantial evidence alone. I wasn’t even in town during the murder and no one, not one juror, DA, police officer or reporter believed me. But when Kyle Reese tells the police he’s from the future, they ALL believe him! I will murder them all.”
Scenario # 8
What Happens: During a brief respite, Kyle professes his love for Sarah stating that he “traveled across time for her.” Then, he reveals that he’s a virgin.
Hollywood Version: Aroused by his pain and inexperience, Sarah engages in passionate sex with Kyle.
Reality: At first, Sarah laughs in Kyle’s face. Later, she takes pity on him and offers up her body. Kyle, nervous and overcome with pressure – he has to produce the leader of the human revolution – suffers from erectile dysfunction. Sarah tells Kyle that he is a great guy but instead leaves him for the Terminator because of their “chemistry.” Humanity dies.
Scenario # 9
What Happens: After an altercation with the Terminator, Kyle is left with broken bones, 3rd degree burns, and gunshot wounds.
Hollywood Version: Sarah yells, “On your feet, solider!” Then, Kyle immediately hops up and saves the day.
Reality: According to Dr. Barney Holowitz, of Saint Andrews Hospital, “It’s been my experience that a human body suffering from those would might respond to a course of antibiotics or immediate surgical intervention; however, it would not respond to harsh words.”
Scenario # 10
What Happens: After defeating the Terminator (almost accidentally), Sarah ditches her waitress job and pet iguana for a road trip to Mexico. A local boy snaps her photo and tells her that if he doesn’t receive five dollars, his father will beat him.
Hollywood Version: Sarah smiles smugly at the kid and says, “Pretty good hustle. I’ll give you four dollars.” Audiences smile at Sarah’s transformation. It only took the death of a few strangers, an entire police department, and her baby-daddy for her to figure out life.
Reality # 1: It’s not a hustle. The child is a forced, by his father, to beg people for money. He returns home only to receive a massive beating. That kid, George Gonzalez, grows up to create Skynet – a military defense system designed to protect those that cannot protect themselves. If only that woman had given him five dollars…
Reality # 2: Kyle Reese lied. In the future, John Connor is really a dictator responsible for a genocide that results in the death of millions of people. The Terminator was sent back in time to make sure this terrifying leader was never born. It was a mission of peace. Humanity is now doomed.
Final Thought: No one can predict the future, but just like religion, science fiction movies afford us the hope for a future that rewards us for our present struggles. The reality is that clinical psychologists are (and should be) trusted more often than naked strangers who steal homeless people’s pants, one life is probably not worth forty others (unless they are members of the Blue Man Group), and if you’re a Terminator and you’re reading this, Ellis is 5’10’’, 250 pounds, and hangs out in the lounge between 8 and 10 AM.