November 14, 2018

Master-Blaster Runs Bartertown

Sometimes I see Cuban history everywhere I look. Lately I’m also finding present-day gloom-and-doom in the sci-fi films of the past.
In Road Warrior, Beyond Thunderdome (1985), the third installment in the Road Warrior Film Series and the least popular of the four, a two-person-bad-guy known as Master-Blaster calls for an energy embargo on Bartertown. Blaster turns a lever and the electricity stops running, sending the town into instant darkness.

Master is the brain of Underworld, an underground energy plant that harnesses methane gas from pig shit and converts it into the town’s electricity. Blaster is the body; a muscle-bound monstrosity “driven around” by Master, a short, disfigured man of unusual intelligence and unlimited cruelty. Together they’re undeniably powerful and inhumane, somewhat like a ruthless President with puppet-like control over a wimpy Congress.
Master wants everyone in Bartertown to know that HE’S in charge, that HE’S smarter than everyone and, with Blaster at his command, stronger. Together they symbolize the high cost of rebuilding a civilization that’s already been destroyed once by human conflict.
Who Runs Bartertown?
When Tina Turner’s Aunty Entity is forced to admit over loudspeakers that “Master-Blaster runs Bartertown,” Master is pleased.
What there is of civilization returns to the dusty dessert town only after Master chooses to lift the embargo. And that’s all it takes to soothe a madman and the monster he controls; acknowledge his grandness. Bow to his authority. Let him know he’s “the best.”  If only for the moment.
Master’s reason for making Entity grovel in public is to show Max that he must follow orders or Blaster will crush him with total impunity; Max is told to disable the explosive device in the vehicle stolen from him, now in Master’s possession.
Max is new in town, but he soon realizes that Master-Blaster runs Bartertown the same way Trump runs Congress and the same way that past U.S. Presidents used to run Cuba. They do what they want. They don’t understand the meaning of “no.”
Aunty Entity knows that without the big Blaster, the small Master would be easy to control. And it just so happens that Max could use a job.
The dice… are rolling!
For those of us that pay attention to the news, those that vote and those that refuse to, the dice ARE rolling right now. We can see it in the many distractions and political side-tracking… The pig-killer serving a life-sentence in Bartertown’s energy-producing pig farm recognizes this in Max; the dice are rolling.
After Max refuses to kill Blaster in Thunderdome, the power of Aunty Entity and her supporters turns against him.  Deep down they’re just as brutal as Master-Blaster but subtler and more resourceful, and they can’t allow Blaster to live another day.
Now Max must face their impartial wheel of justice.
Bust the Deal, Face the Wheel
It’s almost as if writers Terry Hayes and George Miller channeled a future President’s divisive slogans and simplistic legalisms… if it works in 2018 to control the masses, why wouldn’t it work in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by an ex-hooker?  Will a near-future Supreme Court approve of a Bartertown-style wheel of justice for enemies of King Trump?
After the wheel condemns Max to “Gulag” he’s fortunate to find himself in Cuba… I mean he’s fortunate to be discovered dying in the vast dessert by a community of idealistic children bound by hopeful dreams of peace and survival.
In Bartertown, immigration priorities were articulated early on by The Collector: “People come here to trade, make a little profit, do a little business. If you have nothing to trade, you’ve got no business in Bartertown.” They could have been spoken by Jeff Sessions around the time of the border-child heists of 2018.
The young Cubans, however (I don’t know what else to call these children of the desert) share whatever vaccines and locally-grown veggies they have on hand and nurse Max back to health. He doesn’t realize immediately that this is what he’s been looking for since he lost his family in the first movie; a reason to live… something to care about.
These young Cubans may not have a record-player on which to play their one record, but they have a caring and nurturing culture that Bartertown could learn a thing or two from.  They think that Max is their Fidel Castro… or, as they call him, Captain Walker.
Max tries to explain that he’s not their Captain Walker. But maybe, in the end, it will turn out that he is.
If only we could find our Captain Walker (John Kerry? Elizabeth Warren? Joe Bidon? Person to be named later?) before our country becomes the Bartertown it’s headed for… If only our Captain Walker could pop his head out of the fog and say to us; “don’t worry, young Americans, I’m here!”
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