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Keep Your Mouth Shut

books and culture

Keep Your Mouth Shut

The blockbuster hit A Quiet Place is an allegory of American political culture. May 4, 2018
Arts and Culture

John Krasinski’s new sci-fi thriller, A Quiet Place, has racked up big numbers at the box office. Fans and critics alike are intrigued by a movie about sightless creatures taking over the Earth. Using their super-acute hearing to hunt and destroy by sound, these deadly beasts have just about eliminated all resistance. Here and there, die-hard humans survive by maintaining total silence.

A Quiet Place begins on “Day 89” of the blind beasts’ attack. From old newspaper headlines and other hints, we learn that the relentless creatures, which move so quickly that they’re almost invisible, have defeated the U.S. military and armies from other nations, too. In three months, the human race has gone from predators to prey. Where the creatures come from is never explained, but we suspect that they arrived from space. We’re not told why they’re angry at us. Our only hope for survival is to shut up.  

 There is something haunting about a post-apocalyptic world in which it’s clearly understood that those who control mainstream communications are both powerful and intolerant. Speak out of turn and you’ll pay for it. A Quiet Place goes a step further: say anything and you’ll die. Is A Quiet Place just another end-of-the-world movie—or an allegorical retelling of the conquest of Western society by enforcers of political correctness? That interpretation might sound farfetched, but audiences are drawn to something here, and it isn’t the originality of the premise. The two main plot twists have been borrowed from earlier films. Blind creatures hunting humans by sound owes to the classic Day of the Triffids, and the ending of A Quiet Place, with its lucky discovery of the creatures’ weak spot, is blatantly lifted from the 1996 Tim Burton sci-fi spoof Mars Attacks! Nevertheless, crowds have been lining up at the multiplex.

Moviegoers are obviously fascinated by a world in which people are deathly afraid to speak—and they know a bit about that from the headlines. They know that progressive politicians and PC intellectuals are abandoning First Amendment protections that they once swore to defend. They know that a distinguished professor at the University of Pennsylvania has been denounced for voicing forbidden facts. They know that campus demonstrators regularly shut down non-PC speakers, almost always with their professors’ consent. California is proposing the banning of non-PC books. Even powerhouse companies like Starbucks operate in fear.

Young people are getting the message: shutting up makes sense. They know that Facebook not only keeps track of the text and images that they post online; it also sells their data. They know that Facebook and Twitter serve as overseers for progressive politics, closing the accounts of those who step out of line. In A Quiet Place, the all-hearing enforcers who have seized control put Mark Zuckerberg to shame; Zuckerberg has the power to censor Facebook entertainers such as Diamond & Silk for being “a danger to the community,” but the movie’s blind creatures devour anyone who can’t keep quiet.

From the perspective of contemporary America, where families instruct their children in the art of not saying the wrong thing, A Quiet Place isn’t just an allegory of political correctness—it is practically cinéma vérité.

Photo: Paramount Pictures

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