WarGames Reflections

The past two weeks we’ve been in “Testing” mode at my school, which means we’ve gone from our normal 40-minute periods to 2-hour block scheduling. As much as I enjoy my students (well, some of my students), 2-hours is a really long haul, so for the second hour I tend to put in a video and let ’em “chill” a bit more than usual. One of the videos I played was an 80’s classic with a very young Ally Sheedy & Matthew Broderick, “WarGames.” There’s a technology theme in the film and there’s a boy/girl “B” story, so I thought that’d appeal to my seventh graders. They could care less. This isn’t the first time I’ve noticed that movies that might really scare or grip the heart of someone, like myself, who grew up with the fear of nuclear war, seem to just desensitize younger eyes.

When I first saw the film during it’s original 1983 release I was spending a week in a hotel in downtown LA for evening training with the phone company and caught an afternoon showing of the movie. I remember sitting in the theater totally moved as we all “rode out” the nuclear attack, watching on the map as city after city lit up with white flashes depicting the nuclear hits. Then, of course, it proved to have been a computer simulation and everyone celebrated. Of course, several rows from me sat a family with small boys who were bored to tears and spent the whole time talking and fighting and didn’t give a shit that we’d just survived World War III. I left the theater in a reflective mood about the importance of life and the stupidity of our political threats that might kill us all off. The boys loudly wanted to know where they were going to have dinner.

I wonder, it now being twenty-years later, whether those boys ever got to the point where they were moved by something they experienced in the movies or whether it’s all about a momentary joy ride and then “what’s next?” And if they did care about something, are they now having to deal with their own kids who could care less about stupid things like nuclear war or the other “big themes” often portrayed in the movies? Maybe that’s one of the things most missing in a lot of movies lately, they’re all flashing lights and CG-animation, but there’s no story, there’s no one in the movie that we give a shit about. Oh, the marketing department makes us aware of the big themes, but they’re paper-thin and there’s no soul behind the big names and big budgets. Thus, we’ve all been reduced to being like the bored boys losing interest on what’s on the big screen and wondering “what’s next?” JBB