Falling Down

Falling Down

By Wil Forbis
November 1, 2002


(Spoiler Alert - This whole fucking piece is pretty much a spoiler for the film, so if you don't want to ruin it, tread carefully. Stay away from the last 4-5 paragraphs and you should be cool.)

You there!

What? Me?

You're some kind of hippie aren't you? Or a transsexual?

Well, personally I chose not define myself by society's narrow definitions of appearance or sexual practice but I certainly support the rights of individuals to engage in such activities and.

I knew it! You're some sort of commie, tree-hugging lesbian! It's time for us to set you straight soldier. This is Forbis talking and there's no time for your limp-wristed moral relativity. Not with the coming culture war.

Must we engage in a "war." Personally I think that if we all made an attempt to understand and celebrate the differences that separate us we would find no need for such patriarchal, aggressive techniques as warfare. Instead we could create a non-hierarchal cooperative society based on the concepts of sharing and mutual respect for human diversity and.

SHUT THE FUCK UP PINKO! Obviously you've been drinking estrogen by the gallon and become more feminized than Richard Simmons on ecstasy. We've got to get you back to Planet Manhood, pronto! And the best cure I know for she-males like you is a quick screening of the 1993 film classic, "Falling Down," starring Michael Douglas. Are you ready to take the plunge?

Well, gosh.I dunno. what's it about?

It's about one man's battle with the chaos and pandemonium of modern existence. It's a detailed account of what happens when you  reach the breaking point and keep on going. It's a metaphor for our troubled times as..

Wait a second, this isn't a film about the "angry white male" is it? I think the professor for my "Proto-Feminist Film Studies" class included this on her list of "10 Films You Should Gouge Your Own Eyes Out with a Ice Cream Scooper Before Seeing."

Well, I guess the guy is angry. And he's white. And he's a male. What's wrong with that?

I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him. I hate him.

Geez, you're mutual respect for human diversity didn't last long did it? Buck up soldier. Despite your attempts to relegate the main character of this film into one of your neatly defined categories of pre-approved oppressors, I'm going to show that "Falling Down" is about so much more than that. Michael Douglas's role is that of the common everyman, an individual who's woken up to realize that the American Dream never existed. A fellow human struggling to find the rulebook on living in the racial melting pot. A lost soul who finds that.

I'm not listening. I'm not listening. I'm not listening. La, la, la, la, la, la, la! I have my hands over my ears. I can't hear you!

Hey, look over there! I do believe it's Noam Chomsky sodomizing Ronald Reagan!

What? Where? I have to see!

Aha! So you were listening.

Gosh darn it! I was fooled by your diabolically clever ruse!

So let's continue, shall we? "Falling Down" starts out with Douglas as William Foster, a middle aged, bespectacled, white-collar drone who's stuck in Los Angeles traffic during a sweltering summer heat wave. Flies buzz in his car. Sweat drips of his brow. Nearby radiators steam acrid fumes. Traffic makes no pretense of moving forward and the sun blares down, taunting the poor bastard. And suddenly.

What? What happens? Does he kill a poor Hispanic child? I hear the angry white male will do that!

Uh, no. He leaves.

Leaves? Angry white males hate leaves. They want to destroy all plant life!

No, he leaves. He gets up out of his car and walks off. He does what every one of us has wanted to do while mired in traffic. He gets away from it all.

Does he leave his SUV running? So that it can continue to spew its ozone depleting radiation?

No, he's too busy helping the CIA sell crack to baby seals at that point. Besides, I think it was a Buick. But he gets up and walks off the freeway into the surrounding neighborhood. He strolls into a Korean run grocery and tries to buy a can of soda. When the clerk tells him the price, Foster can't understand his accent so he...

What does he do? Does he freak out and trash the place with a baseball bat?

Uhh, well, yes, actually. Yes he does.

I knew it. That's exactly what a angry white male would do!

But you're missing the point, pinko! It's exactly what anyone - having their buttons pushed in that precise way - would do. Foster isn't the hero of the film; he's the protagonist. He's beginning a journey that leads him from the black and white America or yesteryear to the amber waves of grey that define America today.

Waitasec, what happened to your Mr. "American Manhood" spiel?  You're starting to sound softer than Bob Dole without his little blue friend!

Hmmm, well I guess I am actually. That's the impact of the film. It makes you question long held beliefs across the political spectrum. But stop interrupting and let me finish.

Sure thing, softy.

So Foster leaves the Korean grocery. Next up he encounters a couple of gangbanging Mexican thugs who he dispatches in a rather hard-to-believe manner. But a few blocks later they take revenge upon him by doing a drive-by, only they don't hit him, and instead  mow down several innocent bystanders before crashing into a wall. This enables Foster to walk over and collect the series of automatic weapons that spill out of their car.

That's ridiculous!

Well, yes, yes it is. But you gotta understand - you can't take the film literally. It's an attempt to look at how the various layers of American society interact with each other. The story itself is a collection of our daily social frustrations compressed into a period of several hours. Whereas our rage towards our fellow Americans builds up over the course of years, Foster experiences these confrontations over a much shorter time span.

You angry white males and your rage. I feel only love and adoration for my fellow inhabitants of earth.

More info about "Falling Down"

A good general review/synopsis

Ebert gives FD a shout out!

Rotten Tomatoes links to a bunch 'o reviews.

Bah! Spare me your new age drivel! Anyway, next up is one of my favorite scenes. Foster walks into a burger restaurant and tries to order breakfast. Unfortunately they've just switched over to the lunch menu and refuse to accommodate his request. So he does something we've all wanted to do in that situation. He.

He advises them to switch over to all vegetarian menu in order to prevent the destruction of our planet's natural resources?

No, commie! He forces them at gunpoint to serve him the selection he wants. It's comedic violence at its finest! Why can't you understand this!?

There's nothing comedic about.

I know, I know. "There's nothing comedic about violence." When you say that you completely negate the comedy contributions of the Three Stooges. Or Abbott and Costello. Or Wile E Coyote and the Roadrunner.

The Roadrunner was clearly a capitalist fascist trying to impose his will on.

Look, just pipe down, you commie yahoo. I don't have enough time to wise your ass up to both "Falling Down" and the Roadrunner, so I'm getting this here wagon back on track.

A wagon you no doubt stole from a band of friendly Indians, I'm sorry, Native Americans, who were planting some corn for some happy Zebras!

Yawn. Look, there's a whole 'nother element to the movie I havn't filled you in on. Ya see, Foster's shenanigans haven't gone unnoticed. A skilled detective whose filling out his last day on the job is starting to piece together the fact that the guy who left his car on the freeway is the same guy who trashed the Korean grocery, survived the drive-by shooting and waved his guns around the burger joint. And it's this top cop, played by Robert Duvall, who offers a sane counterpoint to the rapidly spinning out of control Bill Foster.

Fuck the Police!

Gee, now you're starting to sound like the Bill Foster, the angry white male. Or Ice-Cube. Anyway, next up, Foster walks into a sporting goods store owned by a crazed militia survivalist - you know, a real angry white male! The dude's an avid fan of the police broadcasts and he recognizes Foster from the police reports. So he shuts up his shop and takes Bill in the back where he shows him his toys - Nazi regalia, automatic weapons and a surface-to-air Missile launcher. Now of course our homeboy Bill is like, "Why are you showin' me all this." And Nazi Boy says, "Cuz' you're like me. You wanna kill all kikes and the homos and the niggers!"

That's simply dreadful.

But Foster's shocked. I mean he doesn't see him in self in those terms. He doesn't define himself by his race or who he wants to fuck - he just sees himself as a man, a plain ordinary guy. He's completely oblivious to the fact that other people  stereotype him by his appearance.  Foster's had the privilege to be blind to the categorizations that non-whites (and crazed neo-Nazis) are so aware of. But now that he's finally been driven out of his everyday existence he's finding out that while he defines himself by his interior, but he is amidst a world that defines itself by the exterior.

Interior? Exterior? Now you're sounding like some namby-pamby Alan Alda clone!

That's the power of the movie, man. Even a piece of rock-hard manhood like myself starts to get introspective.

So Foster freaks out right? He joins up with the Nazi and they start bombing synagogues!

Not at all. He's repulsed that this nimrod would think they are connected simply by skin color. Foster sees the world's intolerance and is enraged because it goes against his rather simplistic, Ten Commandments morality. He gets in a scuffle with Nazi and ends up killing him. Then he arms himself with the guy's weapons, dresses up in military greens and goes back out in the world. But now he's been transformed. He's figured out the rules of the game and he's gonna play to win. HE'S MAD AS HELL AND HE AIN'T GONNA TAKE IT NO MORE!


Foster hits the street and almost immediately comes across some classic Los Angeles road construction, gumming up the streets and blocking traffic with no explanation as to why. A construction worker tells him to take a hike, but Foster ain't playing that. "There's nothing wrong with these streets," he tells the worker. "You're doing this because you've got a budget that you've got to meet." So Foster figures, if these guys wanna repair something, he'll give 'em something to repair. He loads up the surface-to-air missile and, with some friendly advice from a nearby youth, blows a giant section of roadway apart!

At this point, Duvall's done his homework and figured out "The Bill Foster story." He knows that Foster recently got divorced and moved back in with his mom. He knows that he got fired from his job months ago and is only pretending to go to work every morning so as not to worry his mother. It turns out that William Foster's American dream has been dead for some time now and he just can't let go. Armed with that info, Duvall manages to figure out Foster's destination - the house his wife and young daughter live in near the Santa Monica Pier.

And sure enough, after a few more hijinx, Foster walks up to the house. He strolls up the stairway and goes inside. Once he gets in he.

He rapes and kills her, right? And then sacrifices his child to Satan?

No, actually, since his family isn't there, he settles down and watches some old family videos. He stares at images of his pastlife and his eyes tear up. It's rather touching actually.

Sniff. Geez, you're right. I think I've got some dust in my eye.

But then, while watching one of the videos, he sees himself get angry. He yells at his wife and his daughter starts to cry. And the inkling of a realization starts to hit Foster: he's responsible. He drove his family away. He got himself fired. He's been avoiding the ultimate conservative creed: You've got to take responsibility for your own life!

As quickly as that realization hits him, it's gone. Because he's figured out where his wife and daughter are. He goes out to the end of the pier and finds them. His daughter's glad to see him, but his wife, played by the ravishing Barbara Hershey is reticent. She knows the cops are after him. She's knows he's finally lost his marbles. She apprehensive about what he's gonna do.

Goodness? What does he do?

Just then, Duvall shows up. It's the final showdown, but Foster doesn't recognize it as such. After all, if Duvall's the good guy, then he must be. the bad guy? Movies are filled with villains who want to rule the world or steal tons of gold, but Foster just wants his family. He just wants his job. He just wants his American Dream. He's crushed that he's let himself be pushed against all his principals of right and wrong and truth and falsehood. So he does the only thing he can.

What? What does he do, damn you!

He goes for his gun.


Yep. Only it's not really his gun. It's his daughter's water pistol. He manages to get Duvall's shirt wet before Duvall blasts him and he falls back over the pier into the water.

Gee. I kind of feel sorry for him.

We all do son. But that's not important. The whole reason we went through this exercise was to wake you up to the importance of being a man's man. Are you ready to rescind your allegiance to the causes of angry white male bashing and the political correct mantra?


Are you going to swear off your knee-jerk condemnations of characterizations that don't fit into the pre-approved liberal spectrum of good and bad?


Will you finally conced that the world exists in a blurry quagmire and no one political philosophy can accurately explain it all?


Yeah. me neither.


Wil Forbis is the pen named shared by such noted authors as James Ellroy, Katie Roiphe, and Jim Thompson. E-mail him, I mean, them, at acidlogic@hotmail.com

View Wil's Acid Logic web log, a stirring endorsement of sex with pandas!

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