With the Fourth of July just a few days away, I’d like to share an uplifting observation about the 1996 film Independence Day. Today’s riots and feelings of animosity between people who disagree on political issues make me want to hearken back to a time when political rivalries weren’t a reason to abandon friends or provoke intense hatred. I don’t know if I’d call Independence Day a guilty pleasure, but it certainly is an enjoyable throwback that invites us to see the best in each other. In fact, it paradoxically contains messages everyone can get behind.
I’d like to share a few of them and then offer the film’s most hopeful message at the end.
Eradicating Cultural Differences
The big one that I’m sure no one could miss is the fact that this film eradicates all of the emblems that define every major country around the world. The Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, White House, and Capitol are all incinerated with great fanfare. And many other famous sites, like the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, etc., are presumed destroyed by the aliens, wiping away important cultural touchstones. In the end, Independence Day becomes more than an American holiday, but one that represents the moment in time when the whole world came together to fight a common enemy. This is a progressive’s dream come true. A world without borders where everyone is united.
Destroying Liberal Cities
At the same time, the destruction of every major city around the world can be seen as a big boon to conservatives. The aliens (and the president with a nuclear bomb dropped on Houston) have effectively destroyed the bastions of liberalism, allowing people from small towns to rebuild from the ashes and make new cities that reflect their values. The world that emerges from this wreckage could prove to be one that conservatives would rule over now that all of the impediments have been swept away.
An Environmentalist Saves the Planet
Environmentalists get to feel good about themselves when they see an ardent recycler and cyclist named David save the planet from annihilation. He comes up with a bold plan to disable the alien spaceships by infecting them with a computer virus. I suppose software engineers and Jews can also bask in this same glory when one of their own uses his technological prowess to become the savior of the world.
Conspiracy Theories Discredited and Verified
Everyone loves a good conspiracy theory. I’m sure we all have our own personal favorite. At the beginning of Independence Day, it looks like it’s going to be a slap in the face to anyone who believes men never walked on the moon. It shows the plaque, American flag, and boot prints left by the first astronauts to visit the moon. But later the film entirely vindicates another conspiracy theory when it reveals that Area 51 really has been harboring aliens all these years. Oh yeah, the Flat-Earthers probably aren’t happy about the way the way the spaceships and satellites work in this movie. I guess you can’t please everyone.
Down with the Deep State
I can never remember the name of the hawkish presidential advisor, so I’ll just call him Angry Guy. He reveals the truth about Area 51 to the president at a critical moment, but he apparently hadn’t planned on ever doing so. Angry Guy is full of secrets, and he doesn’t care to disclose them to elected officials, probably because they are just temporary workers in his eyes while he’s a permanent fixture of government. He represents the Deep State. That’s why it’s so satisfying to see him get unceremoniously fired and be forced to eat a little humble pie at the end.
Celebrating the Military and the Little Guy
Independence Day shows the big, bad U.S. military at first being outmatched by aliens, but ultimately triumphing because of the efforts of the little guy. Captain Hiller is part of a large squadron at the start, but he is the only survivor of their first attack on the aliens. We get to see him as both a representative of cocky military power and as the little guy who dreams of being an astronaut. His two halves fuse perfectly when he gets to fly an enemy spaceship on a dangerous mission to the Mother Ship in orbit around Earth to deliver the virus and a nuclear bomb.
It’s the ultimate have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too situation because, in the person of Hiller, anyone in the Armed Forces gets to feel like they are being honored while everyday civilians with dreams of greatness also feel like they can step in his shoes for a moment. I should mention that Russell, too, is a good representative of both the military and the little guy making a difference.
Coming Together in a Moment of Crisis
Now I’ll share the moment in the film that makes me nostalgic and hopeful. I remember a time when political disagreements didn’t always get heated and when most people had a live-and-let-live attitude. The interaction between Hiller’s girlfriend and President Whitmore’s wife captures that feeling. Hiller’s girlfriend says that she’s a dancer. The First Lady praises her for being in the ballet, but she’s a little surprised when she learns that the girlfriend is actually an exotic dancer. She politely apologizes for the faux pas. The girlfriend doesn’t take offense, however, and says she does what she has to do to raise her young son. Then, for the first time, she acknowledges that she knows she’s talking to the First Lady. And then comes the best moment when she says she didn’t want to say anything about it because “I voted for the other guy.” The First Lady just smiles in response.
Watching the film today, I see that as a beautiful exchange. These two women don’t see each other as enemies, even though they are likely on opposite sides of the political and social spectrum. They see each other as fellow mothers, Americans, and survivors. They may not like everything about each other, but they have a level of respect for each other that speaks to their own dignity. I miss that feeling of mutual respect when I see all of the bitterness, violence, and vitriol being spewed on a daily basis from people who seem to think their opponents are irredeemable monsters.
May we all celebrate our Independence Day as a reminder that the United States was founded on the principle of fighting against tyranny, not fellow countrymen.
This is the Deja Reviewer wishing you a happy Fourth of July.
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