Friday, March 30, 2012

Beth’s Retro Reflections: “WarGames”

Beth's Retro ReflectionsIt’s a new feature, y’all, and I LIKE GRITS!

Last night, there wasn’t really much on TV, and we recently finished Season Five of “Dexter” but haven’t yet started on Seasons 1-4 of “Mad Men,” so Ken was looking to see what was on, and he said, “How about ‘WarGames?’ It’s on AMC.” I’m not sure why, but that sounded just about perfect. I haven’t seen it for some time, and I remembered liking it a lot, so that’s what we watched. (Although Ken conked out part of the way through...gee, you’d think the guy was working long hours or something. Pfft.) I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to write about it, and thought it might be fun to create a “retro” feature on occasion, along the lines of Beth’s Music Moment, but about stuff other than, you A big thanks to Cousin Shane for coming up with the title. I was kind of stuck on what to call it, although I wanted “retro” in there, and he came up with several great suggestions. “Retro Reflections” struck me as just right, so a big saaaa-LUTE! to Cousin Shane!

Ken and I were chuckling about quite a few things in this movie, because so much of it is outdated, but we remember much of it. (Believe me, the irony that I’m calling a 1983 movie ‘retro’ isn’t lost on me.) There were floppy disks...the 5¼ inch ones! The modem was a device you set the phone handset on (although I never had one like that...mine was built in, with a blazing fast 28,800 bps, sometimes 14,400 on a bad day). It was the days of DOS, pre-Windows. They were drinking Tab. I loved Tab! It’s kind of an odd thing to see something that is so outdated by today’s standards and realize that you lived it and remember it well. Yikes. My first computer was an Amstrad, and it was before Windows. I still remember how cool it was to be able to type up a document for work and print it out. WOW!

The bureaucrats and military brass in this movie were the cliché bad guys, including the tobacky-chewing, cigar-smoking four-star general. It was also fun to see a very young and very adorable Matthew Broderick. I still think the guy is adorable, but oh my, was he ever young in this movie! But then we once were, too, weren’t we?

The larger message here, though, was an anti-war message, especially against a nuclear war. It struck me that there is a fairly narrow window of those of us who grew up under the shadow of a possible nuclear holocaust. Of course, we still worry about a nation like Iran getting a nuclear weapon, but the immediate threat of nuclear annihilation is gone. I’m not sure I could convey to a young person who did not grow up being afraid of such a possibility how very real and pervasive that fear was. We really thought that we might get nuked by Russia, and that we might not survive as a country and as a people.

In the final scene, when Joshua/WOPR plays out all the possible nuclear strike scenarios, the lights of the computer-generated flashes flicker in the darkened room. The slaughter is relentless as Joshua “plays the game” over and over, and they all watch silently to see what will happen. I found it as powerful a moment as I did years ago, and when Joshua finally stops and says, “A strange game. The only winning move is not to play,” I found myself crying. It is a simple statement, but it is nothing less than the stone cold truth.

The anachronisms in the movie might be worthy of some laughs, but the basic message of the movie is not. I was happy to see that it held up thirty years later as a powerful statement against mutual annihilation and mass destruction. Just like in tic-tac-toe,
no one wins.


  1. Love the new graphic.

    Glad I woke up to see the finish with the lights and the message...

  2. It might be nice if our world leaders took an afternoon off to watch it, and maybe learned something about playing the game.
    Like, everybody loses.

  3. I love the new graphic, too. And I really love WarGames. I have since I first saw it in 1983! Yes, by today's standards, it is a little dated, especially with the technology graphics. But the sentiment and the human interest of the characters is wonderful. I always enjoyed the chemistry of Ali Sheedy and Matthew Broderick. And I loved the Doctor. He was amazing looking and sounding.
    Joshua, what are you up to?
    Wonderful flick. Now I want to see it again.



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