No Country For Young Men
The other day on the subway I was sitting down on a nearly full train. A young mother and her son got on and I had only one empty seat next to me. She told her son to sit down and I offered my seat to her so they could be together.
The woman was very nice and told me that she never expected anyone to do that. “No one under 40 offers their seat anymore. Especially men. It wasn’t until I was in my third trimester that I was getting offers.” She shook her head, smiled and said to her son “See that? This is a man who was raised right by his mother.”
The kid was probably 4 and was wearing a shirt with “Michigan” on it. We got to talking about my birth state and the decimation of the city of Detroit. Detroit, with it’s bankruptcy, corruption and drug problems is the epitome of America’s cultural failures. When they exited the train, that exchange made me contemplate my life, my generation and my favorite movie No Country For Old Men.
I saw it twice in the theaters, just like I do with all my favorite movies. But what made me love the movie more was reading the book AFTER seeing the movie. Granted, I probably would have loved the movie all the same – perhaps less so – but the literary content further enhanced the notions of what I thought about the movie and concurrently reinforced what I thought about everyone else who saw it and didn’t like it: They missed the point.
Most people who enjoyed this film seemed to have gotten the message; however, there was a seemingly large group of people who did NOT enjoy the movie and I felt that they all had the same gripe: the villain gets away and there is no “ending”. Which, in terms of flacid entertainment, I can understand their point. But this movie wasn’t merely entertainment, it is art. And it served a larger purpose than the immediate gratification of ticket holders.
For people who disliked the ending but still enjoyed the characters in the movie their favorite was the antagonist Anton Chigurh – the hired assassin set out to recover a stolen bag of money being held by Llewelyn Moss. Chigurh wasn’t the movies actual biggest villain (that would be Stephen Root, the perchance industrialist also backing a large drug trade who hired Chigurh). And Moss wasn’t the stories hero. That would be Ed Bell, the local Sheriff who is trying to find one of the other two characters before they find one another.
The drama takes place perhaps in the late 70’s, early 80’s but it is never overtly stated which is one of the other aspects about the film that I enjoyed. Unlike other period dramas, it doesn’t smack you in the face with obtuse references that you could not miss. For anyone who loved the movie and the book, they realize that the story wasn’t about the money being stolen, the drugs or even the men and women who were involved in the immediate altercations, thefts and killings. It was about the time of the movie that it was set in.
There was an exchange between Ed Bell and another Sheriff in the book that was left out of the movie. “It seems to me that there is a new kind of evil in the world. One you just don’t understand. I have seen a man kill a child just because he felt that it was what he wanted to do.” The old Sheriff countered “It seems to me that things started going downhill when people stopped saying “sir” and “ma’am” to one another.“ And therein lies the point to the whole piece: Society was falling apart.
At the end of the film, Chigurh gets away. He does in the book as well but to much greater detail. In the end of both versions Ed Bell has an internal dialogue where he feels lost in the world because he doesn’t understand the people that it is producing anymore. Even in the time that the movie was set in people were lacking principles.
And that is why the time period that the movie was set in makes it even more crucial. All of the technology that employed in the movie was minimal at best. People are killed with very simple instruments, there’s a lack of explosions (especially in comparison to movies set today), there are no cell phones and no GPS. Yet people still killed people and society was still becoming an abyss.
People who know me know that I am not a moral person. I am not a bad person either but I am not doing anything that great. I drink too much, call my family too little and am in pursuit of one of the most self absorbed professions in the world. But I’d like to think I am pincipled.
I don’t care what race, religion, sexual preference you have or family background is but if you can’t muster the decency to say “please” and “thank you” then you yield no respect from me. And if someone as terrible as me will offer his seat to a woman and her child while everyone else is updating their Facebook statuses with their good merits than what does that say about the future of our society? People like to posture that they are good because they buy into Politically Correct dogma and wear rainbows on some days and pink on another, yet their every day actions seemingly contradict that they are “good people”.
This is indeed not a country for old men anymore. And at the rate we are going, there will not be one for young men either.