Richard Cohen Discovers Hitchcock’s Birds

I think the following comment over the weekend by Richard Cohen in The Washington Post is profound:

Donald Trump has taught me to fear my fellow American. I don’t mean the occasional yahoo who turns a Trump rally into a hate fest. I mean the ones who do nothing. Who are silent. Who look the other way….When I see these Trump supporters on television — the commentators, the Politician’s Puttanesca (a dish to poison the body politic) — I have to wonder where they would draw the line. The answer seems to be: nowhere.

It’s the birds. The movie for this election is Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). In 2016, the movie’s birds seem to be an apt trope for Trump’s voters. What the characters in the film take at first to be an isolated and controllable phenomenon blooms into an infestation, calling to mind Camus’ The Plague (1947). The blonde elitist woman in The Birds (played by Tippi Hedren) can be seen as Hillary Clinton, and her very presence in the blue collar world of Bodega Bay has set the order of nature on its head. What was sedate, predictable, and tame is now unsettled, untamed.

So first there is the shock of the isolated incidents of a few birds here and there behaving erratically, then, by the end of the film, you realize that the birds have morphed into a mass phenomenon, stretching to the horizon. They appear to have achieved full take-over of America. The goal of vanquishing them has been replaced by the lesser goal of simply outlasting them (or finding a place, anyplace, where they are not). In the concluding scene, the birds are tip-toed around by the surviving characters as they move quietly from their house to an automobile, no longer resisted. They have learned not to stir them. The birds, at the ready to whip into a frenzy on the least provocation, have become the new normal.

In 2016, liberals and moderates like myself think we know our more conservative neighbors, our fellow citizens, and of what they’re capable. Perhaps we don’t. Perhaps we have never really known them at all. The film concludes on a note of profound alienation–as may the 2016 election.

 

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
This entry was posted in donald trump, hillary clinton, Politics, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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