Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The All-American Drive-In Theater

Okay Google. I'll bite.

Today is June 6, and for students of history such as myself, it is the anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy, an event that gave the Allies a nice little foothold into Europe. Germany surrendered less than a year later.

Yet Google has instead chosen to observe the founding of the first drive-in movie theater.

I do understand though. Google has never been just what everyone expected, and everyone expects a moving tribute to the men who fell from the sky and the ones who stormed the beaches. Possibly a flag should wave somewhere. Google is on a quest for uniqueness.

I swear I can link the two. Watch me make logical magic.

The drive-in theater is an icon in American culture, the latter of which would not be the same thing it is now without a decisive victory for the Allies in WWII.

So I shall now observe the All-American drive-in movie theater, examined psuedo-closely in three films.

Many a film, in an interesting meta-ish practice, depicts teenagers going to the drive-in on the weekends. Ususally these are older films, so the nostalgia is there.

In 1978's Grease, the drive-in watches over the students of Rydell High School and acts as sort of a parental figure. The cool parent. The one good with everything, just there to make sure you're okay, but hey man. It's cool. Whatever. It's the sympathetic shoulder to cry on because that scene in particular is where Sandy and Danny break up. It's back there all "Hey, it'll be okay. Life will get better, I promise."

A tragic, but ultimately uplifting appearance of the humble drive-in theater is in 1984's Red Dawn. In this film, the small town of Calumet Colorado (which is both real and fictional*) is invaded by Soviet troops. The drive-in theater is fenced in and converted to a reeducation camp. We see it twice, once when two brothers and a friend sneak there and find that their dad is imprisoned, and where they effectively say goodbye to him for the last time. In the background is the drive-in theater, blasted with Soviet propaganda. And it just stands there, ever the picture of the slow burn that is the American temper. It will get its revenge, says the screen. You wait. Eventually, that happens when the kids do assault the camp and attempt to free everyone inside, and the projector ends up with graffiti on it, defiantly displaying Wolverines in big letters. The drive-in prevails.

And last but never least is the drive-in's appearance in 1996's Twister. The film's not-quite climax features a huge tornado tearing into the screen while The Shining plays on. Parts of the screen are ripped away as Jack Nicholson hacks wildly at the door his wife hides behind. And the screen just takes it. Like a champ. Truly American.

And so friends, I believe that Google's tribute to the drive-in on this particular date is appropriate, because without the Invasion of Normandy, maybe we wouldn't still have the American tradition of the drive-in.


*It's a ghost town that was abandoned sometime in the 70s. Basically, the makers of the film used the name and setting for a middle America feel, but filmed the actual scenes in Las Vegas, New Mexico. My brother at at the McDonald's that appears in the film. Apparently they're fans of salsa verde on burgers.

**Also, one of my available tags is "disasterssarcasm." It's a great new word and all, but I really don't know how it happened.

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