Sunday, February 10, 2008

No Country For Old Liberals - a Reagan-Era Parable
by: Living Liberally
Fri Feb 08, 2008 at 13:49

Screening Liberally Big Picture
by Ben Weyl

A sheer callousness toward human life pervades No Country for Old Men, an Academy Award nominee for Best Picture. That the film takes place in 1980 is perhaps no coincidence; the moral void of the Reagan Administration provides a perfect backdrop for this kind of inhumanity and begs an analysis of the film through the filter of the Reagan years.

Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), the film's sort-of-hero, is a fine example of the rugged individual. Off hunting in the Texas desert, he stumbles onto a drug deal gone horribly wrong (where was Nancy?!). Half a dozen men and their dogs lie dead on the ground or in cars. But Moss is looking for the loot. He finds one man nearly dead, pleading for water, but ignores him, finds the money ($2 million) and makes his getaway.

Elsewhere, Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is killing. That's what he does in this movie. With an eerie calm, he aims his air-gun - normally used on cattle - and slaughters people like, well, cattle. Hotel clerks, businessmen, chicken farmers, bounty hunters, they all get the same treatment. He is after the money and will kill whoever gets in his way. At the risk of mixing my 1980s movie metaphors, it's clear that for these characters, greed is good.

But the money is not Chigurh's only motivating factor; he clearly enjoys toying with his prey. In a memorable scene at a gas station, Chigurh asks the lonely and unsuspecting owner what the most was that he had ever lost in a coin toss. Chigurh denigrates the man's very worth as a human being to his face, and we await the demise of another innocent victim. But the coin toss comes up in the owner's favor and Chigurh spares his life. Life under the Reagan Administration was similarly chancy for the most vulnerable Americans. In 1981, Reagan cut in half the budget dedicated to public housing and Section 8 housing vouchers for low-income people, sending hundreds of thousands into homelessness. During the Reagan years, the number of people living in poverty grew by 25 percent in comparison to the previous administration.

Early on, (spoiler alert)...[Open in new window]


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