November 20th, 1983. The day we were nuked.
Well, not really. It was the day of The Day After. If you're not familiar with the film the plot line is pure 80's. USSR expansion aspirations become reality, they blockade East Berlin and eventually attack West Berlin. They make quick advances across Germany. To stop them at the Rhine River the Allies use some nukes and from there, well, bye-bye Kansas City and many, many other places.
At the time it wasn't a far fetched as it may seem. Ronald Reagan was very hawkish on crushing the Soviet Union. There were several incidents that could have very quickly escalated into a "hot" war. Little did we know at the time that less than two months prior to the film the world had a very frightening near-nuclear miss.
The film had a profound effect. Over 90 million people watched in the U.S. Hotlines staffed with grief councilors were set up for those traumatized by the reality of what nuclear weapons can do. President Ronald Reagan viewed the film in October of 1983 and in his diaries said of it "It is powerfully done. It’s very effective & left me greatly depressed."
I was 10 at the time and it freaked me out. It was the first time I fully understood weapons that could literally vaporize a lot of people in mere seconds were an actual thing. Too real for a kid who mostly just cared about Star Wars, cartoons and football. At the time Fargo was home to F-16 fighter jets. I grew up right under the flight path of those jets in south Fargo. Never gave them a second thought because they were just always there. I recall being panicked at times when I'd hear them in the weeks after the movie.
The most disturbing thing about this film is that, 35 years later, people seem to have forgotten exactly what these weapons really do. More and more often we hear people flippantly say "nuke 'em" when referring to some enemy or perceived enemy of our country. I realize most people don't really mean it when they say it, but do people really understand the scale of destruction that would come along with such a thing? More and more often we hear world leaders, people who have access to using these weapons, mention or allude to them in their rhetoric. This uptick in bravado comes at the time where the last members of the WWII generation are leaving us. Not surprising. How quickly we forget. They never did.
Disturbing. Frightening. Time for a reboot.
It's time for this movie to get a 20-teens upgrade. After The Day After, the only thing that's really come close (and has a far more realistic look about it) is this scene from Terminator 2. At one point in time this scene looked more realistic but, as it goes with all things it's become dated. Not as dated as The Day After movie itself. If you never have seen it, or it's been a long time, you can watch the entire film free on YouTube here.
In 2018 the world that's free of a USA/Soviet Cold War is more dangerous than those good ol' Cold War days. Who would have thought? Nuclear proliferation is a genie that can't be put back in the bottle. More nukes and nobody left who remembers what happened the two times they were used against civilians.
I genuinely shutter thinking of what a movie using today's effects technology could do in portraying a nuclear blast. I shutter more at what might happen if we don't remind the world very soon exactly what using these weapons would really mean.