Last night, I watched David Lynch’s Eraserhead for the first time. I woke up to the news that the President has the ‘rona. I feel like the latter news — and all of 2020 — makes a lot more sense as part of a Lynchian industrial wasteland dreamscape.
I began a long essay about why I’d never seen Eraserhead before, why I haven’t examined Lynch as closely as other auteurs of his generation. A journey through what I influenced my early film habits. I’ll circle back to those thoughts in coming days. A short David Lynch film festival may be in order first. These are the kinds of things I have time for now that I’m less invested in having baseball on in the background for three or four hours per night while I read, write, and load the dishwasher.
I’m tempted to draw parallels between Eraserhead‘s shock-haired protagonist Henry (played by John Nance) and Trump. Henry is clueless and adrift. I feel like Trump had as much interest in being president as Henry had in being a father, in being involved with Mary, who returns to his life early in the film because she is pregnant. It seems she and Henry are having a child, are getting married because the Man In The Planet pulled a lever, not because of free will.
Then again, Trump is infected, and Trump is the problem. Maybe the strange child at the heart of Eraserhead is Trump. The child does not stop whining and screaming for much of the film. This fits the description of Trump. The child is infected, is sick by the end. Henry takes action in the end to deal with the infected, screaming child. Maybe you and I are Henry.
But then who is the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall. And what does the Pencil Machine dream, or the dancing Lady in the Radiator have to do with Trump? We have another month to figure that out.
Trump is infected. He’s been cavalier about the virus. At Tuesday’s debate, he criticized Biden for wearing masks, taking precautions. His entourage broke the debate commission’s agreed upon Coronavirus protocol by not wearing masks at the site of the debate. He was just flown the short distance from the White House to Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda. While there, he will receive the most focused and attentive medical care given to a single human in history.
Meanwhile, 208,000 people (and climbing) in the United States have died of Coronavirus. This is something like 20% of the global deaths. The U.S. population is about 4% of global population. I’m used to talking about these percentages when talking about American consumerism, oil consumption, pollution. Americans greedily devouring scarce shared resources. Maybe we are simply out of control, period. The Man In The Planet has given up on us. Or has it out for us.