I was channel surfing and saw an actor promote his new show – an update on the novel Mosquito Coast. I had never seen the original movie with Harrison Ford, Helen Mirren, and River Phoenix but I was interested. It’s about a man trying to set up a utopia in South America.
I looked it up and the book was published in 1981. In interviews, Harrison Ford said it was a critique of the United States and Reaganism. Wow, that was brave to go against the most popular president in the middle of the 80’s decade.
I am not sure if many people heard the theme since they have Harrison’s character babble on like a mad man and critique the world from the get go. He does mention nuclear war which I think everyone has always been against. The part that fascinated me was how deeper and deeper he fell into madness. He was so stubborn about his ideals and being isolated from others that he put his family in danger. This was how real cults work. They are usually run by someone with narcissistic personality disorder and isolate their followers from the outside world and ideas.
It is a fascinating choice when Harrison Ford chooses to play a “bad” guy – his words on the character. He pulls off the crazy he things the character says with the audience love of his good looks and past movies. In that way, I’m not sure if viewers understood the criticism of US culture at the time, but who knows. His good looks help hide our fear of his craziness but that’s how cult leaders work too – we are dazzled by their looks, confidence, etc and may not notice when they have changed the lines of right and wrong right under our noses.
I want to watch the new episodes. I think they will be prequels and show more on how he began to feel this way. I’m always interested in how cults work and why they go from wonderful ideas (utopias, just societies, self-help) to destruction. I know cohousing doesn’t look like a cult but any group anywhere at any time can become destructive. Watching for the signs can prevent that.
On another note, Crhistine Lavin, a folk singer, has a hilarious song about bumping into Harrison Ford.