White House Down, the new blockbuster by Roland Emmerich, is part of the ever-growing new genre of movies where terrorists take over the White House.
Okay, technically, this is not a new genre. It’s basically Die Hard. The bad guys take over the White House, and they plan to – well, it’s hard to say what, exactly. In typical Die Hard fashion, the main bad guy, Agent Walker, has a villainous scheme that’s actually a cover for an even more villainous scheme. Also, he’s one day away from retirement.
Yippee kie yay, Mr. Walker.
Not only that, but he’s gone through the “Secret Service Book of People from All Walks of Life Who Might Want to Kill the President” to recruit his men, and every single one of them has a different reason to be there. There are the militant racists, guys who want the hostage negotiation money, the evil computer genius, the guy who just wants to be president, the soldier who wants revenge on the president for ordering a strike in the Middle East that got his friend killed, and a guy who is infuriated by the president’s bold new magical Middle East peace plan. We never actually find out what that peace plan is, which is a shame, because all the other countries seem to accept it. So it must be a doozy. My guess is that as soon as the movie is over, everyone backs out of it and goes back to killing each other.
Together to bad guys have a plan, which is mostly in the main villain’s head, and that plan is entirely foolproof, unless one of the hostages from the White House tour group escapes and goes around killing all the bad guys one at a time in a sleeveless undershirt with bloodstains, while the authorities wait patiently outside, occasionally checking in by phone.
The hero, John McLane – Oops, I mean John Cale, who is not at all the product of someone going over a Die Hard script and hitting “find and replace” – ends up saving the day in between taking cover in elevator shafts and bathrooms and limos in the basement garage and, of course, behind bulletproof couches.
Yippee kie yay, Mr. Walker.
Of course, this movie is updated for modern times. John has to fight terrorists AND be a single father. It’s a grind. His estranged daughter is actually one of the hostages – though she helps him out with her iPhone – and in the end, their relationship is okay. It turns out that if you save the free world, your child will look up to you again. That’s good advice for us all.
But it gets pretty rough there for a while. The White House is down. All of it is down at some point – the lights are down, the phone lines are down, the fence is down, the internet is down, the pool is down, there’s a Ming vase…
But as one of the characters points out, “Our country is stronger than one house.”
And it is. When everyone thinks the president is dead (despite it being clearly established at the beginning of the movie that they have heat scanners that can see people through walls), the vice president gets sworn in, and when the vice president dies, the speaker of the house get sworn in. Altogether, over the course of the movie, the presidency changes hands like 5 times.
But that’s our system. All these people are in different locations, and that means you can’t take them all down at once. In fact, the president and vice president never fly on the same plane, and not just because Obama doesn’t want to have to make awkward conversation with Joe Biden all the way to the Middle East.
And if one ever gets taken down, the other just takes his place. Our whole government is specifically structured so that if one person dies, the whole country doesn’t fall apart. We have 3 branches of government whose job it is to remorselessly shoot each other’s ideas down, so that every president gets into office promising to make changes but then realizes that it’s actually harder to make decisions once you’re married.
But the upside is that if it were that easy to change anything, this country would have collapsed a long time ago.
The point, though, is that it’s not the end of the free world if the president gets killed. Everyone just takes a step to the right and the next guy becomes president. And then the next guy.
This is as opposed to the bad guys in a Die Hard movie, who all gather together under one roof so they can be taken down easily by a guy who didn’t have time to finish getting dressed before the bad guys showed up.
And despite the good guy killing bad guys as he stumbles across them, the main villain is always taken out last. Never second to last, never by accident all the way at the beginning. In fact, the bad guys are always taken down in reverse order, from least important to most important. 3rd in command gets taken out 3rd to last, and so on.
But there’s the difference. The main villain has to be taken out last, for story purposes. Otherwise, the whole plan will fall apart, because after all, it’s all in his head. Especially in this instance, where every bad guy has a different goal. The main bad guys have to get taken down last because once they’re gone, the plot is gone. But good doesn’t work that way.
Jews don’t work that way.
We’re all over the place. But in a good way. Wherever you go, you can be surprised – “Hey, look! More Jews!”
(Yikes. That sounded less racist in my head.)
But it wasn’t always this way. Before the destruction of the Temple, we all basically lived in one place. But then when things started going south and God decided we would no longer be untouchable, he made sure we scattered all over the place, so that no matter what happened, there’d be some of us left to carry on. We can’t all fly on one plane anymore.
The way to stick around, at this point, is that we have to be united in mission. And not keep the entire plan in one head, but to keep passing it on to our kids, by spending time with them – taking trips, getting taken hostage on those trips, saving the day together, and so on.
Yes, our Temple was destroyed, but we’re stronger than just one house. We believe that each house is a temple, run by a man and a woman who sometimes fly separately.
We all know couples like that.