Red Dawn is in the Eye of the Beholder

Tim Bean



In five days (November 21) the rebooted version of the 1984 film Red Dawn will be released.  I remember the original rather well, as I was an impressionable youth at the time, and as I was also a young American growing up during the Cold War.  Though we didn’t really know that we were living in the later stages of the Cold War at the time, the pall of nuclear annihilation hung over the world, as did the fear of the aggressive nature of the Soviet Union.

We lived in an uneasy peace and a tranquil fear back then.  We knew who the enemy was, and we knew that their style of things, like the right of the state over the right of the people, and not only their threats of force, but the fact that they have demonstrated their willingness to use said force to spread their ideals – often in the name of national security – by invading sovereign nations, such as Hungary on November 4, 1956; Afghanistan in 1979; as well as their willingness to support communist revolutions in Korea, China, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Viet Nam to name but a few; we knew they were the antithesis of what the American ideals were.  We were about freedom, the right of the individual over the right of the state; we were the land of the free, and the home of the brave; and they were commie pinko scum.  So when the original Red Dawn was released it was a dark vision of the potential of Soviet aggression against our country.  It was also a story of hope and one of warning as to what the results would be should the Soviets, or anyone for that matter, ever entertain an actual invasion of America.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the original Red Dawn, the story is basically this.  World War III breaks out, the Soviets, with help from their allies, the Cubans, and the Nicaraguans send in paratroopers and occupy parts of America.  The story centers on a small town in the Midwest that falls under occupation and many of the citizens in that town are put in internment camps, and executed.  A small band of high school students combine forces and harass the communist occupiers using guerilla warfare tactics, calling themselves Wolverines, after their high school mascot.  Eventually, as noted in the movie’s epilogue, America repels the communist aggressors, and presumably remains free.

Fast forward to today’s version, which I obviously haven’t seen, because it is not yet released, but what can be said is that today, things are certainly different.  The Soviet Union formally dissolved in 1991, the Chinese and the United States have an at times contentious, but symbiotic relationship – they buy our debt, we buy their goods.  The threats of communism, and the Cold War, are but a faint memory for those who grew up during that era, and are simply unknown to those who have not.  Today’s biggest threats to our American way of life (as we are being told) are terrorism, a nuclear Iran, and North Korea.  Nonetheless in this modern iteration of Red Dawn, it is the Chinese who are the invaders, and a band of young Americans, still calling themselves the Wolverines, fight to repel them.

Both films are of course works of fiction, and however improbable of something like a foreign invasion of America is, it is not an impossibility.  What is also very probable, if not certain, that should such a highly unlikely invasion happen, that there would be multiple bands of American citizens who would do exactly as portrayed in these two films, using guerilla style assaults to harass and hopefully repel the invaders.

In the trailer for the newer version I was struck by a line by Chris Hemsworth that goes something like this, “To them this is just some place.  To us it is our home.”  Yes, that is exactly what many Americans would be saying and thinking, as they fought to rid invaders from our country.  Now the thing that really struck me about that line though is that line of thought would pertain to a citizen of ANY country, that wishes to expel ANY foreign country that sends its military into their country – regardless of why, or what the reasons given by the country that is sending its military over there.

Along those lines I started thinking what the Soviets, in the original, or the Chinese, in the reboot, would call the Wolverines and others of their ilk.  Would they call them freedom fighters?  Would they think of them as patriots for their homeland?  Or would they call them rebels?  Or insurgents?  Or terrorists?

In a scenario as portrayed in both versions of Red Dawn we here, in America, would of course see those who would fight foreign invaders as patriots, and freedom fighters.  However, when we turn our eyes’ towards other countries where our government has sent our military, with live ammo being spent, and people (on both sides) are dying; we somehow get appalled, incensed, and angry whenever those people in any of those countries dares to use guerrilla tactics against our soldiers.  Those people over there who would be so bold as to be upset at our military presence in their country can be nothing but terrorists, and they must be dealt with accordingly.  You know by today’s definition, those who fought for the founding of our country would most certainly be called terrorists too, not just by the British, but they would even fit the bill of terrorists by our Department of Homeland Security; however we see them as true patriots.  It is simply a situation of what’s in the eye of the beholder.

Now, please do not take this as some sort of endorsement for the ideals that some of these rebels/insurgents/terrorists are fighting for.  I cannot say that they are all freedom fighters, because in many instances the ideal that they are fighting for is anything but freedom.  I give you the Taliban in particular.  Their cause is most definitely NOT freedom, and to call them patriots would be a misnomer too, because they aren’t really fighting for a country, they are fighting for the installation of their view of their faith.  While I cannot, and will not endorse what it is the Taliban wants, however not all attacks on U.S. personnel are strictly the domain of the Taliban, or al Qaeda either.  Some of those attacks do involve actual citizens of those countries.  They are citizens who see our presence there not as the protection of U.S. national security interests, or as being there to help, but as a foreign military occupation, not just of some place, but their home.  They are doing what is portrayed in Red Dawn.

I don’t know if I will go see the new Red Dawn movie or not.  Not because of my thoughts expressed here, and not for any fear of losing the nostalgia and remembrance of the original movie either.  It isn’t even because I don’t think the new version could be entertaining; because it does look pretty action packed.  I think my indifference towards the movie has more to do with me being older, and wiser now; though some might argue against my actually being wiser; and I have lost that thread of violence and vengeance that often beats in a young man’s heart.  That being said though, don’t think for an instant that if another country ever decided to invade and occupy America, my home, that I would simply ignore it and comply to foreign rule, because I would not.  I am a believer in one of the mottos of the American Revolution and the state of New Hampshire, which is “Live Free or Die.”


What is a rebel?  A man who says no.  (Albert Camus)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *