The Devolution of Charlton
Heston or The Return to the Planet of the N.R.A.pes
August 9, 2001
by Richard Prasad
SPOILER WARNING! If you haven't seen the original 1968 Planet of the Apes and don't want to know what happens at the end, then read no further. However, if you don't mind having this classic piece of cinema ruined for you, read on!
The central plot of the original Planet of the Apes concerns the twisting of modern day evolutionary theory, with talking apes and mute humans. The question concerning Charlton Heston, star of the original Apes movie is: Is his movie career and life evolving or devolving? He has gone from being an A list actor, Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt in the Ten Commandments, and Ben Hur a slave fighting for his own freedom, to an B movie actor, in sci-fi films like Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green. Worse yet, he has gone on to become the mouthpiece of the N.R.A., and in turn the N.R.A. has gone on to devalue and undermine the Second Amendment, the very part of the Constitution which they contend they are protecting.
The original Planet of the Apes, as B movie science fiction goes, is not a bad movie at all. The screenplay was written by Rod Serling, famous for his work on the Twilight Zone TV series. The story deals with George Taylor, (Heston) a loner astronaut, who is sick of the world of the late 20th century and yearns for something better. So he volunteers for a time warp experiment and jets grumpily into the future. What he finds after he crash lands on the planet, is a bunch of mute humans being dominated by ruthless gorillas. Heston is also made mute by a gorilla bullet though the throat, which is good news for those of us not enamored by his prodigious overacting, which is very much on display in this movie. Heston is rescued from the gorillas by 2 chimps, and learns to use his vocal cords again, when at the end of a long chase scene, he utters the famous line "Get your hands off me you damned, dirty apes!" This was a sort a human Declaration of Independence in Apeland, not to mess with humans, at least not Heston.
Chuck finally wins his freedom and goes off on horseback to learn of his destiny. What is his destiny, you ask? He finds the Statue of Liberty while riding on the beach in this Planet of the Apes, and then the awful realization comes to him. This was not some far off planet he flew to but good old Earth, blown to smithereens in a final cataclysmic nuclear war. Wait a minute? Our friend Chuck Heston, conservative hero, in a movie with an anti-nuclear theme? Say it ain't so! If you look closer, however, there is a very conservative theme here. When he escaped for the last time, he did so on horseback and with a rifle. He did not outwit the gorillas, he simply outshot, them and took Dr Zaius, his orangutan nemesis, hostage until granted his freedom. All hail the all powerful gun, and good old Charlton who isn't afraid to use it!
In the new version of Planet of the Apes, Charlton is back, not as old Taylor, but as an old ape. Further evidence of his devolution, he goes from man to ape in 30 years time. He tells his ape son that man was here before the talking apes, and was technologically superior to any ape. What does he show his ape son as proof of this technological superiority? A supercomputer small enough to fit in the palm of one's hand? No. A fantastic medical vaccine that cured many human diseases? No. The old ape that Heston plays, shows his ape son a gun, and says "This has the power of a thousand spears." Hooray!!! The gun lobby lives! In Hollywood, no less. So much for Hollywood being a a liberal bastion. Oh well, there's always Vermont!
It would be enough punishment to hear Charlton Heston's pro gun views echoed in his movies, but he feels that he can do so much more, and so he is currently President of the NRA, or the National Rifle Association. On June 5th 1998, Heston was named to head the NRA, an organization known for it's second amendment absolutism. This is an organization that comes out against banning AK-47's and armor piercing "cop killer" bullets, all so the rights of hunters and sportsmen can be preserved. Please!!! Spare me!
In May of 1999, the NRA outraged many by holding its convention in Denver, two weeks after the Columbine school shootings. In May of 2000, Heston told NRA enthusiasts at a convention that Al Gore would have to rip his gun from "his cold dead hands." What he was saying, in other words was, "Get your hands off my guns, you damned dirty liberals!" Despite it's horrible timing and lousy Hollywood theatrics, the political power of the NRA is unquestioned. The National Rifle Association has around 3 million members, and many of those members are single issue voters, and they undoubtedly proved to be Dubya's most loyal constituency in a razor tight election. Or should I say selection?
Further proving the point that the NRA is nothing more than a political arm of the Republican Party was a quote from NRA first Vice President Kayne Robinson saying "if (the Republicans) win, we will have a President where we can work out of the White House." And damned if that prediction hasn't come true.
Just this week, the Bush administration announced that it was defunding the Clinton administration's gun buyback program. This was a program begun by Clinton HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo (the Cuomo that doesn't mind holding Federal Office). The gun buyback program took approximately 20,000 guns off the streets in two years, in 80 cities around the country, so naturally it had to be stopped. It was far too successful, and far too obtrusive of the NRA motto of a concealed weapon in every purse or fanny pack. Current HUD Secretary MLE Martinez said the money could be used more effectively by HUD in other areas, but the rank stench of political payback is in the air, it is like the smell of apes who haven't washed in a week.
As if to add injury to insult, in the same week, Attorney General Ashcroft said that he wanted to throw away all the criminal background checks on gun owners after only one day, as opposed to the current 90 day waiting period. Apparently, Ashcroft is too busy reading the Bible in public prayer meetings to be bothered with reading criminal background checks. Law enforcement officials strongly disagree with Ashcroft's view here, saying they need much more time than a day to conduct criminal background checks. A day to conduct criminal background checks, is Ashcroft nuts? Or is this another example of political payback gone mad? To paraphrase Heston in the Planet of the Apes, when he was being jailed by the apes, "It's a madhouse!!! A madhouse!!"
To prove how much Ashcroft is in bed with the gun lobby, one need not go any further than a May 17, 2001, memo he wrote to the NRA. Ashcroft says "that while some may argue that the Second Amendment guarantees the collective right for the states to maintain a militia, I believe the original intent prove otherwise." The Second Amendment of the Constitution clearly states that the right to bear arms, in a well regulated militia shall not be infringed. It is the well regulated militia part that most conservatives leave out and therefore misconstrue the intent of the founding fathers. This misrepresentation undermines the intent of the framers, by saying every nut job and criminally insane wacko has the right to a gun. And now add John Ashcroft to the list of people who misunderstand the Second Amendment. The only difference is, Ashcroft is the top law enforcement official in the country.
It is my firm belief that something happened to Charlton Heston during the shooting of the first Planet of the Apes movie. Somewhere in the back of his mind a little voice tells him that unless he holds on to his gun, with both hands, the world is going to be taken over by talking apes. Does this sound like paranoid ravings? Welcome to the world of the NRA, where liberal conspiracies abound at every corner. Unfortunately the voice of the NRA is gradually becoming the voice of our government, which can only be bad news for "damned dirty liberals" like me.