What’s scarier to horror movies? McCarthyism!

Last weekend I caught a film called Blue Kite about the rising of Communism in which people either willingly went along with the reform or they would be accused of being a “Rightist” and sentenced to hard labor.  The story followed a little boy who grew up as he saw various people die around him.  His father was accused of being a Rightist, sent far away to do hard labor and died after a tree fell on him.  The family never recovered his body.  Then his uncle dies due to a combination of malnourishment (there was a famine) and hard labor.  His high ranking Communist stepfather is accused by other party members of being a Rightist as well and dies of a heart attack during interrogation.  The landlady, who started off quite rich in the movie, ends up impoverished as her saved rations are taken from her (the accusers said she bought flour on the black market although the landlady says she saved it to make her son buns to welcome him home) and she is forced to lower all rents as entrepreneurship is not encouraged. 

To balance the situations, there were lots of pro-Communist characters, with one being the boy’s aunt who talks ideally about how they were the pioneers, living in a time of historical change.  In general, many of the people just wanted to live their lives and didn’t care too much about politics.  There were lots of little old lady characters that just wanted peace and quiet for themselves as well as for the younger generations around them.  However, no one really had any choice of not changing as reform started to set into the country.  The movie isn’t about whether Communism is good or bad, but sheds light on how people are swept away by events beyond their control.

thebluekite_01

All the scenes of multiple characters being rounded up by masses of people and then taken away were frightful. It resonated with me that none of the “victims” protested at all. They seem to have decided there was either no point or they were in shock that their friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, etc, were throwing out accusations left and right without any proof. In horror stories, it’s more black and white: monster bad/hungry, humans good. Here, with people you have known turning against you, there is no telling what the motivations are. There was one character who kept saying that she didn’t know what happened and why she was even sent away.

When I told my Viking husband about “Blue Kite” and how it was frightening to see neighbours as well as friends turn against you, he told me to look up McCarthyism. Joseph Raymond “Joe” McCarthy was a Republican U.S. Senator represented the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957. During the Cold War, McCarthy started freaking people out by claiming there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the United States federal government and elsewhere. He couldn’t prove his claims and was eventually censured by the United States Senate.

“McCarthyism” was coined by Washington Post cartoonist Herbert Blockwho used the word as a synonym for demagoguery, baseless defamation, and mudslinging. Basically what was happening in Blue Kite was the same thing…life is so depressing sometimes.  This is something which people will use as a weapon when it serves them for whatever gain they want, no matter what country they live in.

mccarthyism cartoon

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