If the “American Werewolf In” series were American Presidents as represented by our leader’s Climate Change Policy, they would line up like this:
1981’s American Werewolf in London (AAWIL): Obama
1997’s American Werewolf in Paris (AAWIP): Trump
- AAWIL is about love and sacrifice for the greater good.
- AAWIP is a rapey, bro-sesh of self-preservation and self-importance.
- AAWIL is a collaboration between allies.
- AAWIP is Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.
Politically, about the time John Landis was writing AAWIL, Jimmy Carter was President, and diplomacy was the default posture for America. China and the US had entered into full diplomatic relations, Egypt and Israel came to the White House to sign a peace treaty, unemployment was at 5.6%, and college kids were packing their backpacks and heading for Europe to traipse around, in some cases,
the moors. (For my own enjoyment, I’ve convinced myself that Carter being attacked by the “Swamp Rabbit” was Landis’ inspiration for AAWIL).
There were 32 solar panels installed on the White House, and though environmentally insignificant (energy generated by the panels was enough to basically do some laundry), they were a reaction to a failed Foreign Oil policy that put a target on our perverted relationship with the black stuff. It was also the coldest winter in every U.S. state since 1895, save Maine which is always fucking cold. Climate Change was rearing its Lovecraftian head.
These are listed here not to make a Party Politic statement (though they do), they are signs of the culture – diplomacy, an oil fetish, a real life rabbit of Caerbannog, weather patterns pushing on the margins of normal, and college kids with backpacks (in contrast to American’s claiming to be Canadians as they travel abroad today). As Landis was writing, these signals were being sent via setting a cultural tone.
In this reading, Obama is David Naughton as David Kessler dancing like a Pepper around the streets of London falling in love with Nurse Alex Price (Jenny Agutter). He is affable, not at all stupid, and he is funny. Just like Landis drew him. His physical transformations into a werewolf are the stuff of legends for practical effects. Rick Baker would win the 1982 Academy Award for Best Makeup.
In contrast, AAWIP stars Tom Everett Scott as Andy. Andy, and his frat-brothers (Vince Vieluf as Brad, Phil Buckman as Chris) are traveling through France performing Jack-Ass inspired stunts – exporting Americansim, importing nothing but contempt. Andy is Trump, insulating himself with like-minded robots. He is willing to let each one get picked off to preserve his own skin. The movies is only “inspired by” the original in so much that it is a werewolf movie, and barely that. It could say the same about Wolf Guy, the 1975 Japanese film about a werewolf super detective.
AAWIP is a movie trying to act like its namesake, but with a late 90s sensibility. It’s a shitty simulation. Politically at its conception, Bill Clinton was President and his White House brand of misogyny was real, Domestic Terrorism was on the rise (World Trade Center, Oklahoma City, Unibomber and so on), Congress was on its war path to control women’s bodies, we were in a shit-ton of wars, capitalism was spreading, tax cuts were going to corporations, the dow was at an all time high, and stock brokers were riding high on cocaine and power. ENRON was about to happen. It’s part of what Trump imagines when he thinks of of “Great Again.” The movie, like all of them, is a product of its time.
AAWIL starts with two American college students (David and Jack) hitchhiking in England. They hitch a ride in the back of a farmer’s truck with his sheep, encounter a touch of the occult, and as they are chased into the dark moors, their reaction is to make a literary reference to Sir Author Conan Doyle’s, Hound of the Baskerville. The movie, though already goofy, starts on a high-brow note. It sets our expectations that this will be a smart movie. That’s Obama in mom jeans setting tone of collaboration and tolerance with Muslims in his Inaugural speech – sentiments that today are unAmerican. Goofy, but smart.
In contrast, AAWIP starts with the three frat boys eye-raping a woman on a train (Julie Delpy as Serafine – the werewolf child of one of Landis’ originals), and engaging in what Trump would call “locker room talk” – perhaps his most famous Inauguration speech as he bragged to Billy Bush about non-consensual groping. Let it be known that the man who feels a need to brag to Billy Bush has low self esteem. It’s science.
I can go on comparing the movies to their assigned Presidents. Trust me.
For example, the practical effects of AAWIP are often ranked among the worst special effects in movie history. It’s like the animators had never seen a wolf nose before. The Trump-show fails in similar ways – its tricks are visible to all and serve to distract from any possible or redeeming quality surrounding them. And, An American President in Paris is Trump walking away from a massive global collaboration to address Climate Change. It is as stark in its contrast to the Obama approach as AAWIP is to AAWIL. When Trump announced he was pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord, I felt a little like Jack did at the start of AAWIL as he climbed out of the back of the sheep truck.
“Those sheep shit on my pack.” – Jack
Let’s wrap this up by looking at the endings of each film to round out the underlying ideology of Trump’s approach to Climate Change and Humanism.
AAWIL ends with suicide by cop. David knows he has to end the werewolf bloodline. Dead Jack, told him so. He sacrifices his own life to save his girlfriend and the rest of civilization. From an ideological point of view, the movie is about power and the sacrifice of that power. It’s about responsibility, or simply doing the right thing. In the classic double nightmare jump scare, David’s home is overtaken by Nazi animals. His entire family is murdered. For Landis, Nazi’s represent our best warning of power left unchecked. For Trump, some good guys are also Nazis.
At the start of AAWIP Andy saves Serafine from committing suicide by jumping off the Eiffel Tower. Serafine was trying to follow the tradition of werewolves-with-a-conscious committing suicide so that they will not kill again. But by the time she is seduced by American Andy, it’s too late. He is a werewolf too and has convinced her keep the bloodline going. One alternate ending has Andy rushing to the hospital for the birth of their child. Andy hops from a cab, pays the cabbie, and says “keep the change.” The cabbie looks at the cash and calls back, “there is no change.” It’s like a foreshadowing of a Trump stump speech.
In the closing scene in the theatrical release, Andy and Serafine are bungie jumping of a structure after exchanging wedding vows (bookending the opening). The wedding ring falls to the ground, and the two chase after it as it rolls off the structure. The image of “chasing gold”, of economy-first, growth at all cost is Trumpwellian – just before the collapse of ENRON. The two leap from the building, and as they fall we see that it is not the Eiffel Tower, it is the Statue of Liberty.
The werewolves have made it to America.
For some this is a moment of hope. For those that understand the science of Climate Change, it is our nightmare. And, as in AAWIP and AAWIL, we all know that there is a double nightmare jump scare coming. We’re not done yet.