During my last two years of college, I lived in an apartment off-campus with two roommates, Sam and Aaron. Most of the movies in our collection were mine. There were some classics, but for the most part, it was an eclectic mix; films like Apocalypse Now!, Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Warriors. You get the gist. This was the late nineties, so while DVDs had become popular, and I had a few of those, the bulk of the collection was VHS tapes. That being said, Sam had added a few and these movies gave birth to an entire genre which came to be known as a “Sam movie.” A “Sam Movie” would enter into our lexicon and become an adequate response if asked to explain the genre. Is it comedy or drama? It’s a Sam movie. However, like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when asked to categorize “hardcore pornography,” my response for what constitutes a “Sam Movie” is “I know it when I see it.” For example, Red Dawn is a quintessential Sam movie. In Sam’s arsenal of films was Porky’s, Revenge of the Nerds, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I can’t recall if the Kevin Costner film The Postman was in his supply; I have to imagine it was. It’s definitely a Sam Movie. It didn’t fare well at the box office. Regardless, though, that film would become significant in our house.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, The Postman is a post-apocalyptic film about a drifter who saves mankind by re-establishing the postal service. Before that, however, he is indoctrinated into a militia controlled by General Bethlehem. The Militia operates under a code of rules known as “The Laws of 8.” I don’t remember what all of the laws stipulate, but I do remember Law 7 allowed any member of the militia to challenge for leadership of the group in hand-to-hand combat.
The Postman was released in 1997. Although Costner had made Waterworld two years previously, which was a box office bomb, he still had enough clout to open a film and had a string of hits under his belt including The Untouchables, Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, JFK, The Bodyguard, and Dances With Wolves, which he also directed and won academy awards for directing and for Best Picture (beating Goodfellas; a whole other essay).
Some other great trivia bout The Postman: Brian Helgeland wrote the script. He also helped to adapt LA Confidential that same year in ’97. He won the academy award for best-adapted screenplay for LA Confidential and The Golden Raspberry Award for the worst screenplay for The Postman. Typically, The Raspberries don’t issue trophies, but Helgeland asked for one to be commissioned. He keeps both awards on his desk to remember “The Quixotic Nature of Hollywood.”
Sam, Aaron, and I adopted a modified version of the laws of 8 in our house. We didn’t have any rules to follow per se, but if you became the head honcho you had bragging rights which to 20-year-olds can be extremely important. At any point, though, someone could invoke law 7 and challenge for the right to be in control of the house. Now, I don’t recall Aaron participating that often, but Sam was all about it. He was much stronger and more muscular than me. Not to mention, he was always working out at the gym. However, since I had wrestled in high school I had technique.
A few days a month, Sam would come back from the gym full of ferocious energy, and I would hear “I invoke law 7!” If we had theme music at the time, Sam’s would have probably been “All For You” by Sister Hazel or “Send Me On My Way” by Rusted Root. All For You had been released in ’97, so that made sense, but Send Me On My Way, though it had been released in ’94, had had staying power. It would be on the radio frequently. As for our matches, I know the first minute or so would always began the same. Sam would tackle me and have the upper hand. I would reverse it and execute a move like a switch and then I’d tie him up with a guillotine or something similar. After about another minute or two of some lighthearted verbal sparring, we would agree on a stalemate, which I guess meant I would keep the crown since I hadn’t been beaten.
I want to make it very clear that without the wrestling advantage, I would have had no chance.
In previous essays, I’ve mentioned teaching the concept of Thunderdome from the film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome to students as a viable means of governing. I regret now not including the Laws of 8.
Andrew Davie has worked in theater, finance, and education. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant and has survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He has published short stories at various places, a chapbook with The Daily Drunk, crime fiction novellas with All Due Respect and Close to the Bone, and an upcoming memoir. His other work can be found in links on his website https://andrew-davie.com/