The stories we see and tell sometimes mirror the reality we live. It’s usually easy to shrug it off and call it a coincident, or maybe you’re reading too much into it, but there are times when the storyteller and the fortune teller seem to be one in the same. Our stories often predict the future and tell us truths about the present even if we don’t want to see or admit it.
On March 16th, 1970 The China Syndrome was released in the USA. You might remember the movie starring Jane Fonda, Jack Lemon, and Michael Douglas about a cover-up and near disaster at a nuclear power plant. 12 days later radios and television stations across the country delivered dramatic reports about a partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island Unit 2 reactor located outside of Middletown, PA. This was, (and still is), the most serious accident to occur in an American commercial nuclear power plant. A malfunctioning valve caused the problem and the nation waited for days to learn if there were disastrous consequences.
I went to see The China Syndrome on March 27th, just one day before Three Mile Island incident. I went back two days later on March 29th in a state of disbelief and amazement. I wonder what affect the movie had on the collective consciousness; a million people experienced the fear of a nuclear meltdown in a power plant by watching a movie and then it happened for real.
Here are the two taglines that promoted The China Syndrome:
“Today, only a handful of people know what it means…Soon you will know.”
“People who know the meaning of “The China Syndrome” are scared. Soon-you-will-know.”
There were no fatalities or major injuries, but the event was the catalyst for major changes in regulations and standards for nuclear power plants.
Frank Sinatra starred in The Manchurian Candidate, a movie about a prisoner of war who is brainwashed and then becomes an assassin. The film was released in October 1962. President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed November 1963, just a little over a year later. Back in the sixties movies circulated for a year or two after their release so when The Manchurian Candidate naturally finished its run, the rumor spread that it was yanked because of the assassination. People saw the connection between the story and reality and jumped to their own conclusion. We search for (and create) stories to help us make sense of life events that are often too difficult to embrace head-on.
Last night my 18-year-old daughter, Chaya, and I went out to see The Mocking Jay, Part One. It’s the third movie in the Hunger Games series. We both read the books and liked the first two movies, so we were excited to see the third. The Hunger Games is about a futuristic society. The wealthy and powerful Capital controls and oppresses the poorer districts by forcing them to sacrifice a few young people each year to a televised fight with only one victor. The third movie is about the rebellion.
About 15 or 20 minutes into the movies we see a few of the poorer districts (filled with people of color) forced to watch public executions. A few minutes later we see them fight back. My daughter turned to me and said “Oh my gosh, it’s just like Ferguson.” As the movie continued the connection became even clearer.
The Mocking Jay Part 1 came out November 21st and three days later on November 24th the Grand Jury Announced that Officer Darren Wilson would not be charge in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Riots and protests followed.
Once again story became the herald of our reality.