ACF Middlebrow #8: A Quiet Place

 

The podcast’s back with something new. There’s a horror movie atop the American box office; it’s made more than $100 million. What’s rarer still is that it’s for adults. Rarest of all, it dramatizes American middle class parents’ terror of the uncertainty surrounding their kids’ lives and futures. John Krasinski stars and also directed this remarkable success; Scott Beck and Bryan Woods wrote the screenplay (with him) and produced; and Emily Blunt gives the kind of performance that wins Oscars, if the Academy had any judgment. So my friend Pete and I are here to show how the movie reflects on American society and the good that art can do, if but people pay attention to it!

We talk about the movie, without spoiling the surprises that make horror a pleasure, even if the experience isn’t simply pleasurable…

We also talk about parenting and how fears give rise to isolation, less socialization, less community help, and thus more need for control. Individualism is forever rising. The movie very deftly moves from this to a sacrifice-protection mode of discussing the ideals of parenthood that gives dignity even to helicopter parenting.

We also talk about the social consequences of lacking the art to address the matter publicly. People either claim they’re doing fine or they turn their fears into safety hysterias that never address the fundamental attitude to life, children, and community.

We also talk about the reasonable attitude in-between nostalgia and Progress, counting the things that have gotten better and those that have gotten worse and try to find some path to moderation.

There are 35 comments.

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  1. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

     This movie was filmed here in Ulster County New York, so I feel a kind of hometown affiliation to it.

    I’d like to see it also because I like the actors. Papa Toad is not sure he wants to see a horror movie, but I bet I can get #1Daughter to join me.

    Looking forward to listening to the podcast with a little white wine while I cook up some pasta with cauliflower, peppers and garlic for a simple Friday supper.

    Peace!

    • #1
  2. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Two glasses of wine and twenty podcast minutes later and I am still standing here listening and have not yet started preparing my meal. Too interesting and I don’t want to miss. You’re a bad influence…

    • #2
  3. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

     The conversation about childbirth is very interesting. As someone who has birthed six children I love the topic, and the idea that these people have chosen to have another child and how childbirth can be achieved without howling utterly fascinates me.

    • #3
  4. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

     Every word you say makes me want more and more to see this film. 

    I wonder what you mean by the failure of pro-life to speak to the reality of giving birth, the failure of which you then also ascribe to pro-choice.

    • #4
  5. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    The conversation about childbirth is very interesting. As someone who has birthed six children I love the topic, and the idea that these people have chosen to have another child and how childbirth can be achieved without howling utterly fascinates me.

    One of my Catholic friends–one of his children died, a mere infant, suddenly. He & his wife also then had another baby. But it wouldn’t make for horror, for existential reasons. The loss & grief did not destroy their faith. Whereas in the film, there’s no God…

    • #5
  6. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    Every word you say makes me want more and more to see this film.

    I wonder what you mean by the failure of pro-life to speak to the reality of giving birth, the failure of which you then also ascribe to pro-choice.

    It’s very intelligent & almost no critic has said anything worthwhile about it. I dunno why, but there’s a massive disconnect between the people & the movies.

    As for what I had in mind, American birth is now a science & healthcare concern in public discourse. In one sense, science means you don’t have to think of human beings too seriously; you can use words like fetus. In another sense, science leads to images of the growing baby in the womb & that makes people take life more seriously. It’s complicated, but it never really gets to the fundamental concerns.

    Think about what my friend Pete was saying: No public monuments in Sparta, but to soldiers dead in battle & women dead in childbirth. The heroic aspect, the daring of death to give life, has been lost. No one who read Kipling’s The female of the species today would have an inkling of what he means by saying women are built around risking death to give birth.

    Of course, America isn’t Sparta; nor should it be. But mothers aren’t considered heroic for giving birth. There is no awareness of the mystery of life. Part of that is American freedom–if children were brought up to understand their mother gave them life, they would be inclined to reverence, not to the ignorant self-assertion required for a free people.

    Now, the pro-choice / pro-life part. To be pro-life in America would mean to help poor women, especially black women, because that’s who’s blighted by abortion. Only by serving those who suffer in misery will the full moral weight of being pro-life be borne & the public case be made in a way people can participate in, believe in, & help. I don’t really think conservatives can be bothered–it’s too far outside their way of life. They are usually incapable of thinking about class & abortion is a class issue even more than it is a race issue.

    As for being pro-choice, that’s why pro-choice has won for so many decades, against the Constitution, against majority opinion, & against electoral politics. Sure, pro-choice is mostly another form of class privilege & not without a measure of class contempt. But so long as no one is willing to help women undertake the heroic work of giving birth & being mothers, the society & the politics are governed by a certain complicity in unseriousness. A certain understanding that mostly people don’t care about giving birth, except if it concerns them privately. 

    • #6
  7. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    I’m glad you had a lovely evening, MT! You just gotta watch the trailer, get a sense for the genre; if you still feel like seeing it, I encourage it, as well as taking the girl!

    It’s well made, well-acted (especially by Emily Blunt, who I am partial to, but who was especially good in this movie: It’s rare to see beauty put to the purpose of revealing motherhood, it’s almost unique…), a very cheap movie that never looks cheap, & it’s not bloated or long, either.

    It is in short the perfect example of mediocrity. It’s not Ford or Felini or Kurosawa. It’s a genre picture, but one done by people who had something to say, who found a way to say it, & did it by craft put into every aspect. If anything can show what an achievement mediocrity is & how much it is preferable to what passes for originality, this is it. There’s almost nothing in the movie that calls attention to itself; the rule of invisibility is obeyed almost throughout; I suppose that’s partly why critics have been almost stupefied by blindness. This is one of the problems with getting middlebrow back–people need to have the art translated into common language & there’s no money in that.

    It’s like an old painting. Most of those guys were not Rafael. It’s not the few great talents; not the few great artists; it’s the combination of insight & competence that made the craft the success it was.

    • #7
  8. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But so long as no one is willing to help women undertake the heroic work of giving birth & being mothers, the society & the politics are governed by a certain complicity in unseriousness.

    We used to have a system where nearly every woman giving birth had a man assigned to help her and support her in childbirth and child rearing.  What was that called again?

    The conservative solution would be to work to reverse the policies that have worked to destroy that system.

    • #8
  9. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But so long as no one is willing to help women undertake the heroic work of giving birth & being mothers, the society & the politics are governed by a certain complicity in unseriousness. A certain understanding that mostly people don’t care about giving birth, except if it concerns them privately. 

    I agree somewhat with your sentiments, but I think that you are short-changing pro-life people with over generalizing.

    I think pro-life people are trying to encourage women in difficulty and even the men in their lives to love and be heroes, that they are strong enough and will be given the strength and grace they may lack if they only try, that their children need them.

    I used to work in a shelter for homeless pregnant women and mothers run by pro-life people. A couple of months ago I organized a clothing and diaper drive for a pro-life organization that gives them to women who need them.

    • #9
  10. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But so long as no one is willing to help women undertake the heroic work of giving birth & being mothers, the society & the politics are governed by a certain complicity in unseriousness.

    We used to have a system where nearly every woman giving birth had a man assigned to help her and support her in childbirth and child rearing. What was that called again?

    The conservative solution would be to work to reverse the policies that have worked to destroy that system.

    No, the conservative solution is to hide & run away. Now & then, GOP people get elected–none of them have really done anything. GOP organizations or conservative organizations or whatever–they don’t really want to do anything.

    It’s always the mythical future where all the welfare-healthcare-redistribution state disappears. Nobody does anything to make it happen, conservatism is always this fanaticism that would work, except no one ever does it. No politician ever elected to office, no event, no action ever taken by actual human beings in space & time. But somewhere in heaven, conservatism is fixing things!

    • #10
  11. Judge Mental Member
    Judge Mental
    @JudgeMental

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But so long as no one is willing to help women undertake the heroic work of giving birth & being mothers, the society & the politics are governed by a certain complicity in unseriousness.

    We used to have a system where nearly every woman giving birth had a man assigned to help her and support her in childbirth and child rearing. What was that called again?

    The conservative solution would be to work to reverse the policies that have worked to destroy that system.

    No, the conservative solution is to hide & run away. Now & then, GOP people get elected–none of them have really done anything. GOP organizations or conservative organizations or whatever–they don’t really want to do anything.

    It’s always the mythical future where all the welfare-healthcare-redistribution state disappears. Nobody does anything to make it happen, conservatism is always this fanaticism that would work, except no one ever does it. No politician ever elected to office, no event, no action ever taken by actual human beings in space & time. But somewhere in heaven, conservatism is fixing things!

    You’re confusing the philosophy with politicians who claim to embrace the philosophy.  Two entirely separate things.

    • #11
  12. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But so long as no one is willing to help women undertake the heroic work of giving birth & being mothers, the society & the politics are governed by a certain complicity in unseriousness. A certain understanding that mostly people don’t care about giving birth, except if it concerns them privately.

    I agree somewhat with your sentiments, but I think that you are short-changing pro-life people with over generalizing.

    I think pro-life people are trying to encourage women in difficulty and even the men in their lives to love and be heroes, that they are strong enough and will be given the strength and grace they may lack if they only try, that their children need them.

    I used to work in a shelter for homeless pregnant women and mothers run by pro-life people. A couple of months ago I organized a clothing and diaper drive for a pro-life organization that gives them to women who need them.

    MT, I’m not blaming you. You do more for America than could be asked of you.

    But let’s not delude ourselves. If pro-life people really wanted to deal with the problem, after 45 years of Roe, they would have figured that helping people in the lower classes who abort children was really important. It would take serious organization & it would take a lot of people & churches to convince rich people to pony up the money & come up with institutions that help people immediately, but also develop with a long-term in view. It would take something more serious than Christians are these days–but is there any doubt that Puritans could have solved this without breaking a sweat?

    Lot of pro-life people, to get back to reality these days, must just be normal people who can’t really transform anything, but whose hearts are in the right place & who do some real good despite the times. I’m not against that. If anything, I want to help those people in what way I can. I think they’re admirable.

    But reality is still there.

    Hey, conservatives are good people, too, & they believe pretty hard & try, try, try–but does that wish away the enormous beast of the federal gov’t?

    Reality is still there.

    I know how hard it is to persuade people. I’ve been trying to tell conservatives they had things wrong for years. Ask me if people listen… I’m old enough to remember the decades of delusion, when conservatives always hoped they just had a messaging problem. If only they could find the right guy with just the right words, the nation would turn around & all the changes of the bad 20th c. would disappear. Lots still believe that in their hearts. But it’s not real.

    • #12
  13. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Judge Mental (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But so long as no one is willing to help women undertake the heroic work of giving birth & being mothers, the society & the politics are governed by a certain complicity in unseriousness.

    We used to have a system where nearly every woman giving birth had a man assigned to help her and support her in childbirth and child rearing. What was that called again?

    The conservative solution would be to work to reverse the policies that have worked to destroy that system.

    No, the conservative solution is to hide & run away. Now & then, GOP people get elected–none of them have really done anything. GOP organizations or conservative organizations or whatever–they don’t really want to do anything.

    It’s always the mythical future where all the welfare-healthcare-redistribution state disappears. Nobody does anything to make it happen, conservatism is always this fanaticism that would work, except no one ever does it. No politician ever elected to office, no event, no action ever taken by actual human beings in space & time. But somewhere in heaven, conservatism is fixing things!

    You’re confusing the philosophy with politicians who claim to embrace the philosophy. Two entirely separate things.

    Plato was a philosopher. Kant. Conservatives just have a cult. I advise dropping the cult in favor of politics. There, things actually can get done.

    • #13
  14. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Hey just got back from seeing the film with #1Daughter and my certified teenage grouch Martin. He wanted to leave midway but I made him stick it out.

    Wow. Great movie. So poignant. Talk about manly. “It’s Sound!” 

    It reminded me a bit of the Mel Gibson/Joaquin Phoenix M. Night Shymalan film Signs. In only good ways. I really liked that movie a lot as well. 

    • #14
  15. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But let’s not delude ourselves. If pro-life people really wanted to deal with the problem, after 45 years of Roe, they would have figured that helping people in the lower classes who abort children was really important.

    Are you aware of the many crisis pregnancy centers?

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    It would take serious organization & it would take a lot of people & churches to convince rich people to pony up the money & come up with institutions that help people immediately, but also develop with a long-term in view.

    Again, the CPCs are very much church and wealthy-benefactor funded.

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    but is there any doubt that Puritans could have solved this without breaking a sweat?

    Umm…  Sure, they would have excommunicated the godless women who had children out of wedlock.  Not sure that’s a solution either worth trying, or particularly practical today.  

    • #15
  16. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    But let’s not delude ourselves. If pro-life people really wanted to deal with the problem, after 45 years of Roe, they would have figured that helping people in the lower classes who abort children was really important.

    Are you aware of the many crisis pregnancy centers?

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    It would take serious organization & it would take a lot of people & churches to convince rich people to pony up the money & come up with institutions that help people immediately, but also develop with a long-term in view.

    Again, the CPCs are very much church and wealthy-benefactor funded.

    Skip, I agree. If a bunch of conservatives come  here & mention every good pro-life thing being done, I don’t mind. I’d thank each & every one, because it’s worth remembering how much real work is done to help people.

    But can we also agree the ugly reality is real? That that is the signal of failure as a society to fix a problem after 45 years of Roe?

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    but is there any doubt that Puritans could have solved this without breaking a sweat?

    Umm… Sure, they would have excommunicated the godless women who had children out of wedlock. Not sure that’s a solution either worth trying, or particularly practical today.

    Don’t be so glib about the past, Skip. Especially not when those people, with far less wealth & peace, had far fewer of the social collapse problems rampant these days…

    • #16
  17. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    Hey just got back from seeing the film with #1Daughter and my certified teenage grouch Martin. He wanted to leave midway but I made him stick it out.

    Wow. Great movie. So poignant. Talk about manly. “It’s Sound!”

    It reminded me a bit of the Mel Gibson/Joaquin Phoenix M. Night Shymalan film Signs. In only good ways. I really liked that movie a lot as well.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’ve been recommending it left & right. This is one unusual movie people usually take to! You’ve got a good comparison there, which hadn’t occurred to me–Signs was also about the endangerment of family.

    • #17
  18. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Sure, they would have excommunicated the godless women who had children out of wedlock.

    Just because you’ve never tried tar and feathers doesn’t mean it didn’t work, ya know. 

    • #18
  19. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Titus, your podcast has made me curious enough about the film to go see it tomorrow, even though I don’t usually see horror films. Just one question for you and Mama Toad (regardless of what the answer is, I’m seeing the film. I’m just asking to know if and how much I need to prepare myself.) : Does the film have a hopeful ending ?

    • #19
  20. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Ansonia (View Comment):

    Titus, your podcast has made me curious enough about the film to go see it tomorrow, even though I don’t usually see horror films. Just one question for you and Mama Toad (regardless of what the answer is, I’m seeing the film. I’m just asking to know if and how much I need to prepare myself.) : Does the film have a hopeful ending ?

    Yes.

    • #20
  21. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Ansonia (View Comment):

    Titus, your podcast has made me curious enough about the film to go see it tomorrow, even though I don’t usually see horror films. Just one question for you and Mama Toad (regardless of what the answer is, I’m seeing the film. I’m just asking to know if and how much I need to prepare myself.) : Does the film have a hopeful ending ?

    The film oozes hope all over the place, including the end. It’s also full of terror and terrible things, but countered by hope and love.

    Of course, I think Cormac McCarthy’s The Road is also a story of hope.

    • #21
  22. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    Don’t be so glib about the past, Skip. Especially not when those people, with far less wealth & peace, had far fewer of the social collapse problems rampant these days…

    I’m only glib because it is rather too easy to romanticize the past, or assume our forebears would be able to step in and solve our problems.  The Puritans were also far less numerous, spread over a very small geographic area where everyone knew everyone else, at least indirectly, and lived in a time when travel was expensive.  You had to conform to social norms to survive, unless you were either wealthy enough or courageous enough to buck the society or leave it entirely (as many did).  The Puritans had a system that worked (to a point) for its time, its place, and its people.  As you say, they had far less wealth and peace – that meant that the consequences were immediate and severe if they experienced social collapse.  Our current social collapse is slow-moving, and (so far) the consequences do not include immediate starvation or death, save for the individual gang and vengeance killings – which are quite different from famine and war.   Instead we have a slow and drug-hazed decline of distracted misery and loneliness.  

    • #22
  23. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Skip, first of all, you’ll never learn anything if your answers are that I romanticize the past. I don’t.

    It’s not a matter of whether the Puritans could step in & solve your problems. It’s that these are problems they didn’t have. In certain ways, they were so far your moral superiors, it amuses me that you cannot see it.

    Maybe you need to square with that first. Your forebears, in some ways, were your moral superiors. You seem to take pleasure in looking down at them–mocking their sins, vices, & failures & half-explaining away their virtues.

    • #23
  24. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Titus Techera (View Comment):

    Skip, first of all, you’ll never learn anything if your answers are that I romanticize the past. I don’t.

    It’s not a matter of whether the Puritans could step in & solve your problems. It’s that these are problems they didn’t have. In certain ways, they were so far your moral superiors, it amuses me that you cannot see it.

    Maybe you need to square with that first. Your forebears, in some ways, were your moral superiors. You seem to take pleasure in looking down at them–mocking their sins, vices, & failures & half-explaining away their virtues.

    You mistake my purpose.  I’m not mocking them – merely pointing out that they lived in different times and in different ways.  But if you have a system by which you can import their virtues into our society, by all means give it.  My point is that their virtues, in terms of their everyday functioning, were in no small part dependent on their environment for their reinforcement, and we don’t have that environment today.  Nor do we have the religious structure and belief system today that they had then, which would provide the internal reinforcement of those virtues.  Thus to say:

    Titus Techera (View Comment):
    It would take something more serious than Christians are these days–but is there any doubt that Puritans could have solved this without breaking a sweat?

    really is romanticizing the past.  You cannot sustain virtue in a vacuum, nor impose it from above.  And even if the Right had all the virtues of the Puritans, it still would make little headway against a Left that has its own pieties, and treats abortion as a moral right.

     

    • #24
  25. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Skip, all I can say is, good luck. I hope it works out.

    Whatever it is that the environment & the circumstances & the situation, & the fearful Left, add up to. Good luck.

    • #25
  26. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    Saw the movie.

    I’m convinced noise in the movie—the evil it draws and, ultimately, the defense and protection it provides—symbolizes the potential effect of free speech. The movie is like a vivid dream caused by our new anxiety over the dangers—both of and to—the first and second amendments—a dream caused by our fear of the dangers of freedom and loss of freedom.

    It’s a fantastic movie. I actually want to see it again.

    So grateful to all you guys for making me aware of it, and curious about it, through this podcast and thread.

    • #26
  27. Ansonia Member
    Ansonia
    @Ansonia

    I loved the scene of the newly born child floating in a box in the water like baby Moses.

    • #27
  28. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    Glad you liked it. Free speech must be part of it, because we’re human, but it’s not the only thing. Free speech is part of self-expression, revealing ourselves, that is, to each other, being public–the fear in the movie is primarily about anonymity as a weakness. You don’t want to draw attention to yourself, because you become a target.

    • #28
  29. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    But if you think of people who don’t speak up because they want to avoid unwanted attention–then yes.

    I used to write about politics on Ricochet. I got depressed & tired of how that turned out. I don’t do it anymore…

    • #29
  30. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Some of you might enjoy this video essay by Bishop Barron on Quiet Place.

    • #30

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