Red Dawn Rising: As Political Map Goes Blue, the Right Wing’s Favorite Flick Makes a Comeback

The opening sequence, starring President Obama and depicting an America weakened by recession and thus unable to deal with the gathering storm, was the product of consultation with the RAND Corporation; the military-industrial think tank helped craft a geopolitical potboiler that showed “this domino effect of how the world could go to shit,” Mr. Vinson said. Posters prominently displayed throughout post-invasion Spokane (a world in which nearly every citizen is quietly united in their loathing for their new overlords, though only a few heroic individuals have the fortitude to take them on) indicate that North Korea’s sell is not so very different from the Democrats’ 2008 election pitch: “Helping You Back on Your Feet” and “Fighting Corporate Corruption.” In a speech to the assembled citizenry, a North Korean potentate tells his new subjects: “You, too, are victims. Greed, irresponsibility and fraud were encouraged by a corrupt government in bed with Wall Street.” The villainous foreign interlopers also try to convince the populace that they are entitled and to promote that age-old conservative bête noire—a culture of victimization.

Red Dawn’s America is one of rugged individualists defining true citizenship along deeply familiar lines: the protagonist, played by Mr. Peck, plays in a football game at the film’s start, pausing to get a bit of advice from his cheerleader girlfriend (Ms. Lucas). Mr. Peck’s brother is a veteran back to check in on dad, the town’s sheriff. The family has maintained a cabin in the woods stocked with canned food and ammo. In the era of popular reality series like Doomsday Preppers and an internet burbling with threats against Mr. Obama, we’re on familiar terrain. Spokane, the film’s setting, may be just another local stronghold; in real life, it’s the site of a thwarted Martin Luther King Jr. Day bombing in 2011.

“The defendant stated that he needed to make sure that everyone is fed up with [President] Obama,” read the would-be bomber’s sentencing memorandum.

“[F]or many of us, it feels that the things we hold most dear as Americans just don’t seem as secure as they once were,” Mr. Bradley, the director, observed in the film’s press notes.

It may be a cynical way to market a film, but it could also prove a smart one. Amid all the post-election discontent, one detects more than a touch of Red Dawn defiance, as when Fox News contributor Monica Crowley urged in a blog post, “We MUST … and more importantly CAN … fight” the President (who would be ultimately discredited, she hypothesized, after the U.S. economy collapsed once again and conservatism rose).

“America CAN be saved, and she is WORTH SAVING,” Ms. Crowley added, sounding in her appeal to patriotism and her self-conscious melodrama like an uncredited co-writer of the film. As Mr. Hemsworth puts it in the film, “For them, this is just a place. For us, this is our home!”

As a commenter on Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze put it immediately after the election, “The future is either Red Dawn or Ron Paul—i dont see any other options.”

And maybe—just maybe—the future really will be Red Dawn. Not that insurrection is coming, exactly. But Politico has termed the upcoming generation of unapologetically arch-conservative lawmakers (think Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz) the “Red Dawn Republicans”—claiming for themselves leadership and firing at will after a flailing older generation has been overrun.

“When you’re dealing with things like your community, family, neighborhood, your home, and you have to step up and defend it,” Mr. Vinson pointed out, “that’s a fun fantasy that people think about.”