Can you imagine anything more horrific than to be told you’ve just been poisoned, and that you will die in just a short time?
Of course, Harrison Ford played out this scenario to great comic effect in the 1984 adventure movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
What we see in this movie is wonderfully choreographed chaos as Indiana Jones struggles to get the vial of sparkling liquid which his enemy Lao Che has described as the antidote, the only thing that will save him.
In this, not only did Indiana Jones know he was slowly dying; he also had to face the cruel fact that the solution was just beyond his reach.
For any of us, wouldn’t it be easier to just die without hope, then to realize that the antidote representing life was only inches away and still unobtainable?
Sociological Imagination: The Need for a Universal Antidote
Can this idea of a universal antidote be taken to new levels of grim necessity?
True, we are far removed from the arch enemy caricatures of the 1930s upon which the character of Lao Che is based; but can the present state of our human experience be in need of a type of generalized and omnipresent antidote?
Further, as we deal with the particular poisons of the post-9/11 era, wouldn’t the antidote have to represent the power of faith instead of just being a vial of sparkling liquid?
The need for a universal antidote is typically recognized as we are engaging in the daily dramas of the sociological imagination. This imagination refers to how the individual interprets personal experiences in terms of what is happening in the larger world.
The Martians of 1950s drive-ins, for example, are a helpful precedent of human experience which involves this interpretation. The fiction of the Martians could bring about a greater sense of attunement to the sociological imagination if only because moviegoers were encouraged to envision the impact of the real foreign invaders, those who had already pushed the destructive panic button of their own political dogmas.
Because of the sociological imagination, the aliens of the movies could become translated into the Red Menace of real life.
Further, the need for (and acquisition of) a universal antidote was demonstrated in these drive-in reminisces by the reliance on science to defeat any and all enemies.
The United States didn’t have to admit to any real fear as long as science could be the faÃ§ade of the moment, a one-way ticket to a more personal peace of mind. Science could always be the coins I found in my father’s pocket when I wanted to buy ice cream.
War of the Worlds (1953), The Blob (1958), and When Worlds Collide (1951) are all fine examples of how the antidote of science became the universal rationalization for sending the kids off to school in the morning with a clear conscience even when ambiguous predators roamed the streets.
How can anything truly frighten you as long as the test tubes are cooking up a better alternative for the hatred of human beings?
Of course, this scientific antidote can be seen even in more recent times. One has to only consider the space race to see the point.
Somewhere between playing with rubber ducks and playing with atomic bombs, the need for a universal antidote becomes apparent, and it is discovered by distinguishing between the personal experience of watching children playing on the swings and the real possibility that the swings may one day become rusty.
Citation: The Red Menace Films of the 1950s by Timothy Sexton