TV Land is showing the greatest made for television movies this week. I have been watching “The Day After.” For those of you too young to remember, this movie is about a nuclear attack on the United States after an escalation in the Cold War over East and West Germany.
In 1983 I was only 12 at the time, and my bed time was nine o’clock back then, so this was my first time seeing the ending of the film. While I was rather young, I still recall that most schools had large discussions groups about the movie, the Secretary of State answered questions on television that week, children were sent home with pamphlets for families to talk about the movie, and of course the biggest news – half of the US population watched the event.
That last little fact, half the US population watched one movie at the same time, is still an amazing point. Before cable had saturated the public or news bounced off the satellites in real time coverage, “The Day After” scared the crap out of everybody. For years we were certain that the emanate engagement of the Cold War would end by the fiery streaks left from Minute Man Missiles.
This last Sunday the final installment on a social experiment took place. It was hosted by Matt Lauer. Since last January a group has been crossing this great nation trying to decide who the greatest American was. If you had not heard, President Lincoln was second, and President Reagan was named first. Several complained, others were shocked, but most didn’t even know it had taken place.
Movies during the 70’s and up through the 80’s were so depressing and anti heroic. Crystal balls predicted a future that was dark, full of disease, and the average citizen made very poor fashion choices out of an assortment of garbage bags and camouflage. And as goofy as it sounds, when Reagan claimed it was morning in America, I believed him. When people speak of how he restored faith in our country and made it alright to be patriotic again, I’ve got to agree. He earned that first place position.
The Day After was a worst case dramatization of America; but I don’t like to think about the worst in America, I’d rather focus on the best we have to offer. For example, rather then focus on how sad “The Day After” was, I like to think about what a great movie “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn” is, both written and directed by the same man, Nicholas Meyer. Whether your hero is Kirk or Reagan we can agree to stay optimistic about The United States of America. Our best days are ahead of us, our worst behind.