While most of the movie references I make are not literally applicable to my life, some of them are pretty accurate. For example, in the film Good Luck, Chuck, the main character is cursed by a former classmate, so any woman who sleeps with him will find her true love immediately after sleeping with Chuck. There’s certainly no way to prove I’ve been cursed, but two of my three previous girlfriends have all married the person they dated right after our relationship ended.
Whether or not the accuracy of the references is indicative of a universal grand design, I’m still surprised at the number of situations that call for references to the film Escape From New York.
The movie, which came out in 1981, is a landmark science fiction film in which Manhattan Island has been turned into a maximum-security prison. At the beginning of the film, Air Force One is hijacked and the president of the United States is able to eject but lands in the prison. The Government sends in S.D. Bob “Snake” Plissken to rescue the president. Plissken is a former soldier who has been sentenced to life in prison for attempting to rob a federal reserve bank.
So far, there’s nothing even remotely applicable to my life.
Originally, the studio wanted Charles Bronson or Tommy Lee Jones for the role, but John Carpenter cast Kurt Russell, who had previously been a child actor and starred in lighthearted Disney films. This was the break that transformed Kurt Russell.
The character is the quintessential anti-hero with a unique look in that he sports an eye patch.
Within the last 7 years, here are the few Snake Plissken references I’ve made that are applicable:
It’s Halloween 2014 at my new school, and I’m teaching 6/7th grade English to students with ADHD and learning disabilities. One of my students arrives that morning in costume sporting an eye patch.
“Awesome!” I say “Who are you, Snake Plissken?”
The student looked at me with a furrowed brow
“Mr. Davie, I’m a pirate.”
Later after my ruptured brain aneurysm, I had double vision, so I covered one of my glasses lenses with an eyepatch. During a visit to my neuro-ophthalmologist, he said he could put Scotch tape over one of the lenses which would be less intrusive and serve the same purpose.
“But then I wouldn’t look like Snake Plissken,” I said.
I don’t remember how he responded, but I’m pretty sure he had no idea what I was talking about. As I had with my student, I was quick to remind myself of my surroundings. There are people out there who will understand the short-hand reference to Snake Plissken, however, I was rolling the dice with a neuro-ophthalmologist. If the eleven/twelve-year-old student knew what I was talking about, it might very well have been proof of a universal grand design.
Fifteen years after the original Escape From New York came out, most of the people involved made a sequel titled Escape from LA. I remember watching a behind-the-scenes documentary, during filming, in which Kurt Russell claimed the same costume he wore in the original film still fit him perfectly.
This was the analogy I thought of when I returned home after living at my parent’s house for a few months while I was recovering from a ruptured brain aneurysm. I had assumed when I settled back in, I would simply resume my old life like Russell was able to wear his old Snake Plissken outfit.
Of course, this was not the case.
Things change and we ascribe meaning to make sense of it all. This time around, I’m much more comfortable with my adjustment. Within the last year, I’ve been able to continue to heal, and I have more reasonable expectations. In the immortal words of the song “Change” by Blind Melon, “Life is hard, you have to change.” I will still make movie references which people may or may not get as it’s sometimes easier to articulate experiences through making an analogy to a film. For example, on a recent date, I made a reference to the film American Psycho.
I’m sure the next Snake Plissken reference is just around the corner, and I’m looking forward to making it whether it lands or not. I feel similar to how Red described Andy Dufrense’s escape in The Shawshank Redemption “Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of s—t and came out clean on the other side.”
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/