Do People Believe Crime Doesn’t Pay Anymore?

It’s getting hard to keep the faith.

Will Leitch

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I caught the movie Arrival on a random cable channel the other day. The movie is excellent, still, with a fantastic Amy Adams performance and a vibe of both menace and wonder that is intoxicating. (It’s no wonder director Denis Villeneuve was tasked with reviving both Blade Runner and Dune afterward, to smashing success.) I saw the movie with a friend of mine, when it came out on November 11, 2016, and I came out of the theater jazzed and excited the way one is when they’ve just seen a great movie.

My friend, though, didn’t have the same reaction. She liked the movie. But she was downright depressed.

“It won’t be like that anymore,” she said. “When the aliens come and we send our best scientists to talk with them, when all these professionals and geniuses put their heads together to figure out the right thing to do for the sake of humankind and the better angels of intergalactic commiseration … well, when Trump is President, it’ll never be like that again. He’d just shoot a nuke at them the minute he saw the spaceship.”

My friend could no longer get lost in a movie — to escape from reality — because reality was so bleak. To believe that we could communicate with extraterrestrials is to believe we are worthy creatures capable of pulling off such a feat without falling on our face — that we are curious and open-minded (and open-hearted) enough not to screw it up. And that was impossible to imagine with Trump as the President.

I find myself often thinking the same thing about political thrillers these days. I was randomly scrolling through some old episodes of “24” the other day. The show is inextricably linked to the Bush-era policies of torture, but on the whole, the show was really just a non-stop actioner in which Jack Bauer worked within the U.S. government to take out the traitors within. As the seasons went on, there was less torture, but just as much conspiracy. Jack’s job was to find out how high the conspiracy went. Inevitably, he’d win: He’d find the bad guy, he’d catch him red-handed, and the guy would confess to his sins. And there would be punishment. There would be ramifications. There would be retributions.

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Will Leitch

Author of six books, including “How Lucky” and "The Time Has Come." NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin. https://williamfleitch.substack.com