I have to finish this post quickly, before the world ends. At the very least, I have to wrap it up before 2013, when it will not only be irrelevant but even more embarrassing for the paranoid among us to read.
As you are no doubt aware, the blockbuster movie 2012 is currently assaulting filmgoers across the country. The film, which grossed more than $65 million on its opening weekend, is a disaster flick about the end of the world. The plot revolves around the ancient Mayan "prophecy" that we will all be obliterated on December 21, 2012. This is the date on which the Mayan calendar ends. Ergo, we're toast.
This supposed prophecy was also referenced in the series finale of The X-Files, only then it was the launch date for the ultimate alien invasion or something (seriously, does anybody remember what that show was about at the end?).
In any case, I hesitated to even write about this movie, as I certainly don't relish dishing out free publicity to moronic Hollywood flicks. I do have to admit, however, that the visuals look pretty cool. Apparently, my new hometown of Los Angeles gets obliterated in spectacular fashion:
My problem with Roland Emmerich's film isn't its absurdity or farfetched plot or cardboard characters - none of which I can actually verify because I haven't seen the movie (call my impression an educated guess). And it's not that I'm oh-so-above these big-budget popcorn flicks and watch only obscure Hungarian dramas about beet farmers. Check out my DVD collection for proof of my affinity for car crashes, huge explosions, and zombie attacks.
No, my issue is that 2012 pillages an ancient culture, deliberately misrepresents its traditions, and then claims its all true. More important, it taps into the serious vein of crazy that we have in this country.
We would like to believe that the 2012 stew of new-age hokum and cynical commercialism appeals solely to undiscriminating viewers and guys who hope their dates will jump onto their laps during the scary parts. However, the film's central premise has already found a huge online following of people who are convinced it's rational.
Perhaps this is not surprising in a culture where the theory of evolution appears to be open to debate, and a new September 11 conspiracy arises every month. But this latest strain of paranoia can have repercussions.
David Morrison, a senior scientist with the NASA Astrobiology Institute, says in a National Geographic article that he's received emails from people who "were contemplating killing their children and themselves so they wouldn't have to suffer through the end of the world."
Of course, that's an extreme reaction. Or perhaps it's just the most effective way to avoid seeing another movie from the director of Godzilla.
The point is that it's fine when a film tells us that Martians are coming or computers have became sentient or a synthetic virus has turned everybody into cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers. But don't insult people and get the nuts riled up by insisting that these wild scenarios are based on fact.
That the filmmakers are distorting Hispanic culture to give the movie some kind of old-school legitimacy is vexing. In actuality, the Mayan calendar's exact meaning is open to debate. But its status as a doomsday clock is purely an American invention.
As the Onion points out, the real Mayan prophecy is that this movie will end any respect we have for John Cusack's acting career. That prediction is far more plausible.