Some people say that it’s silly to read too much into movies because not all movies mean something. Sure, they’ll concede, Alien is clearly a rape metaphor, and Aliens is all about Vietnam, but that doesn’t mean every movie is loaded with secret meaning. Surely, a piece of total shit like Alien 3 doesn’t mean anything.
Oh ho ho, but that’s where you’re wrong, friend. Because it is my belief that every movie has a secret meaning.
“Every movie? That’s preposterous!”
“Every movie,” I reply.
“Prove it!” you say.
“Fine,” I say. And then I say all this:
#5. Alien 3 Is All About The AIDS Epidemic
On paper, there are so many things right with Alien 3 that it seems like a sure bet: It’s directed by David Fincher (who also directed Fight Club). It stars Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dance and Pete Postlethwaite. And, most importantly, it’s a sequel to Aliens, which is a perfect film.
But, instead, it kills off Newt and Hicks (two of the three heroes from the last movie). And we barely get to know any of the new characters before they, quickly and unceremoniously, start getting killed off, too. Then, Ripley ends up killing herself to destroy the alien queen growing inside her, rather than letting it fall into the wrong hands. What the hell?
The Secret Meaning
Alien 3 is secretly about AIDS in the ’80s and early ’90s, and how badly we fucked up trying to deal with this epidemic.
The deaths of Newt and Hicks, as painful as they were, is actually central to this message. The scariest thing about AIDS (in Alien 3) is that it seems to kill almost randomly — it doesn’t matter if you are an innocent like Newt or a fit and healthy young man like Hicks; you might start showing symptoms and quickly die before anyone even knows what’s going on.
Then, there’s the population of “Fury” 161, an almost completely abandoned prison planet. One of the higher-ups realizes they can potentially wrangle this little alien-problem into a profit. So, they show up dressed in hazmat suits — which is what some doctors chose to wear when they treated AIDS patients.
But, the most telling part is the speech given by the character Dillon, who explains his decision to try and kill the monster that’s killing them:
“You’re all gonna die. The only question is how you check out. Do you wanna go on your feet or on your fucking knees, begging? I ain’t much for begging! Nobody ever gave me nothing. So, I say, fuck that thing. Let’s fight it.”
It’s badass, and strikes the exact same tone as Larry Kramer’s speech from when he launched ACT UP in New York in 1987, five years before Alien 3 was released: “If my speech tonight doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble. If what you’re hearing doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men will have no future here on Earth. How long does it take before you get angry and fight back?”
Alien 3 is not a great movie. But, it’s ironic that everyone’s biggest criticism is that the death of Newt and Hicks was senseless and made them feel betrayed, when that reaction was precisely the point. It’s a horror movie, after all.
#4. Signs Is About Demons, Not Aliens
Signs is a movie about a bunch of aliens who, despite having “trouble with pantry doors” and being deathly allergic to the most common substance on the planet, manage to wage a near-successful invasion of planet Earth. In the end, Mel Gibson learns to believe in God again, while Joaquin Phoenix goes full Bear-Jew on the aliens. Frankly, I have no idea why I’m describing this movie when I could just show you this excerpt from the movie’s Rotten Tomatoes page:
Mr. Smith, you are a credit to Bangor.
The Secret Meaning
According to this parody interview with M. Night Shyamalan from 2006 and this reddit theory from 2012, Signs isn’t about aliens at all. It’s about demons.
Notice that the “aliens” don’t have any actual technology, instead launching their invasion by running around naked like drunk dads at a little league game. It’s also weird that the “invasion” first involved a whole bunch of pointless pranks, like making crop circles, climbing around on roofs. and jumping out of the bushes at little kids’ birthday parties. When you really look at what these things get up to, they do seem more like mischievous, trickster demons than technologically superior invaders.
And even though water is, like I said, a ridiculous weakness for the aliens to have, no one ever actually says that water by itself is actually what kills them. All we hear on the radio is that “the battle turned around in the Middle East. Three small cities there found a primitive method to defeat them.” If water really was the turning point, you would think the battle would’ve “turned” somewhere less arid. According to this theory, the water that we see hurting the aliens has been blessed by Bo — a little girl who, for no goddamn reason, is described as “an angel.”
Sure ain’t because she’s cute.
Naturally, this ties in a lot more neatly with Gibson learning to believe in God again. In fact, since this is the first Shyamalan movie to leave out his signature twist, it almost makes me wonder if this revelation was cut (or made a lot more obscure) at the last minute. Either way, the movie is still pretty dumb, but you can’t fix that. No one can fix that. Forget it, Jake. This is Shyamalan.
#3. A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge Is About Repressed Homosexuality
Even going by “slasher movie” film standards, Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge is pretty bad. There’s a reason that it has the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score of any entry in the series — aside from A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child or the remake that we should all pretend never existed.
No! You must not speak its name!
The big problem is that it completely deviates from the Nightmare formula: Instead of attacking the protagonist, Jesse, through his nightmares, Freddy Krueger is now possessing Jesse and forcing him to commit murders in the real world.
Why? Well, that’s because …
The Secret Meaning
The whole thing is secretly about being gay. And by “secretly gay,” I mean “check out this fucking scene where Jesse dance-cleans his bedroom.”
Turns out the “Freddy possesses Jesse’s body” plot was mainly an excuse to have the character explain that “there’s something inside” of him that he has to hide and that it won’t let him have sex with his girlfriend.
Gay people have dick-tongues, right?
Then, there’s his coach, who wears S&M gear and gets spanked to death in the gym showers.
According to the Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy documentary, both the screenwriter (David Chaskin) and the actor who played Jesse (Mark Patton) picked up on the gayness, while the director (Jack Sholder) apparently had no idea. It’s tough to say what percent of the production was in on this whole thing, but the prop department put a game called “Probe” in Jesse’s closet.
Once the movie was released, people started to pick up on the overall gayness, and Mark Patton (who is gay) started getting hate mail that said shit like “faggot, faggot” and “Jesse’s a homo” and “I can’t wait until they invent reddit so I have some way to meet other people as lonely and hateful as me,” which was oddly prescient. Which is when writer Chaskin decided to blame Patton for gaying-up his his movie. Which, I feel compelled to remind you, features a scene in a leather bar. Patton quit the industry shortly after, sick of what he described as “bullshit conversation.”
Chaskin eventually came clean in that Never Sleep Again documentary, but, seriously, dude? Weak.
#2. The End Of How I Met Your Mother Is About Endings
Pretty much everybody agrees that the end of How I Met Your Mother blew. After nine years of being promised a satisfying romantic conclusion to Ted Mosby’s mopey singlehood, we were finally introduced to the mother — only to have her die just minutes (of screen time) later. Then, he decides to go fuck Robin, his on-again, off-again love interest from the first season.
What about love, Ted? Where’s the happy ending we were promised?
The Secret Meaning
Most people identify the problem with the ending of HIMYM as the fact that the mother dies and we barely get to know her, but the alternative is a lot worse. If they had concluded Ted’s arc and wrapped up all the show’s loose ends just by having a new, attractive woman show up — well, jeez, that would’ve been super weird and completely contrary to a) everything that real-life relationships are and b) what the show was.
“Hey, uh, are you the solution to all my issues?”
Instead, the show doubled-down on its weird thesis that endings don’t ruin things. We got a whole season about The Arcadian being torn down to make room for a shitty bank and several seasons about Marshall giving up his dream to be an environmental lawyer and Lily giving up her dream to be a painter. Robin and Barney’s marriage, which was the entire point of the last season and built almost exclusively on big set pieces where characters promised to change, ended up dissolving.
In the end, the show was about what it was always about: Things end, and it’s OK to move on. Besides, whine about the ending all you want, it doesn’t matter. Show creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas own your nine years now, and they’ve already harvested your life-essence to power their time-engines.
#1. Pacific Rim Has A Very Confused Message About Nuclear Power
The Secret Meaning
In the opening of Pacific Rim, the Becket Brothers, piloting their jaeger (“giant robot”), fight to rescue a fishing ship that’s being attacked by a kaiju (“giant space monster”). Here’s the scene:
This is a reference to, naturally, the opening scene of the original Japanese Godzilla movie, released in 1954. In that scene, we get the fishermen, but there’s no robot to save them: They’re killed by a monster we never get to see. There’s just a loud noise and a bright light, and they’re dead.
But, in 1954 and in Japan, that wasn’t just fantasy — it was an overt reference to the Japanese fishing ship Daigo Fukuryu Maru. Earlier that same year, the U.S. had been testing a thermonuclear bomb on Bikini Atoll that turned out to be three times bigger than they expected, and Daigo Fukuryu Maru was caught in the fallout. (So was the rest of the world. It was a big goddamn bomb. We should not have blown it up like that.)
This was, after all, the original meaning of Godzilla: In that first movie, he’s meant to represent the dangers of irresponsible weapon use. And he is the first cinematic kaiju, which is why Pacific Rim pays homage to him. Only in this version, it’s an American robot rescuing American fishermen from the monster — and they succeed. On top of that, the fact that the jaeger is nuclear gives it an advantage: It makes it immune to the kaiju’s EMP blasts, somehow, and also allows it to be the world-saving nuclear explosion at the end.
So that’s weird, right? Godzilla started as a critique of America’s reckless use of nuclear weapons and then, 60 years later, a movie recreates the scene and casts an American nuclear weapon as the good guy? This message makes no sense, based on what I know about Del Toro as a filmmaker and, frankly, the rest of the movie, but it’s hard to interpret the scene as anything other than rude. Like, sorta dickish. Pacific Rim is kind of a bully.
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