Episode Number: 118
Episode Title: Demolition Man (1993) (listen to this episode)
Transcript by: Susan the Great
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Renay: Hello friends! I’m Renay.
Ana: And I’m Ana.
Renay: And you’re listening to Fangirl Happy Hour.
Ana: Greetings and salutations again! Somehow, we get to use the same opening that we used for Heathers.
Renay: If you go read the IMDB trivia notes for Demolition Man? They did it on purpose.
Ana: That’s amazing.
Renay: This movie, Ana! I love it.
Ana: When did you first watch Demolition Man?
Renay: I first watched Demolition Man on TV probably in the late nineties.
Ana: Yeah, I first watched it two night ago. I didn’t even know it was a movie. [laughs] Until you told me that we had to watch it.
Renay: I mean, it has not become a cultural touchstone except for one thing, which we will discuss later.
Ana: Oh my god. Okay.
Renay: But as a terrible action movie it’s pretty good. Still holds up.
Ana: I had fun. I was never a fan of Sylvester Stallone. I was more of a Arnold Schwarzenegger fan at that time. I thought this movie was going to go much like a Through The Ice scenario, it was going to be something like that, but it wasn’t! I would say that it was one of the more positive experiences in rewatching/watching for the first time that I’ve had since we started this episode. I actually did really enjoy the movie.
Renay: I like how every time we watch something that I love from like the nineties or before, you go, “Is this gonna be as painful as when Renay made me read Through The Ice?”
Ana: Exactly. That is our touchstone.
Renay: So Demolition Man came out in 1993 and it stars Sylvester Stallone, Sandra Bullock, and Wesley Snipes.
Ana: Also Benjamin Bratt and Dennis Leary?
Renay: There are a lot of people in here that I had forgotten were in here, and I’m just like, “Wow, hello! Hello to you!” This is kinda sorta a time travel movie. Sorta.
Ana: Uhhhhh, that’s pushing it.
Renay: If you have a spectrum of time travel, like at the very end, over at the very edge of what could be legitimately called a time travel movie, this would be on the edge.
Ana: I’ll allow it.
Renay: Thank you.
Ana: You may proceed. [laughs]
Renay: Okay, so this movie was made in the 1993, but the movie imagines this future from 1993 when this was made, they imagined 1996 where LA is apparently a war zone now, we have approved cryogenic freezing of human beings—
Ana: As a prison. People there are convicted of crimes, they are frozen, they undergo therapies for rehabilitation. When the time comes for them to go on their parole they are defrosted, interviewed, and maybe released into the world. Or: refrozen.
Renay: Seems traumatic! When we started this movie and they were freezing Sylvester Stallone because he had been framed for killing a bunch of hostages by Simon Phoenix (PS best villain name). The way they freeze the people is just so inefficient, and you can tell that men wrote this movie because it’s just so inefficient. It makes way for sense to like put them laying straight.
Renay: Takes up less space! More comfortable! I was like, “Wait, is the freezing process supposed to be traumatic? Is that part of the punishment?”
Ana: Well I guess it is because—it’s part of the punishment, I guess, which is very inhumane.
Renay: Seems like—wouldn’t be legal!
Ana: That’s a line in this movie, right? What’s legal and what’s illegal! [laughs]
Renay: Looking at U.S. prison systems now: they’re all garbage. This dark future of 1996 where you can cryogenically freeze people who were bad. It’s just like a common practice used on criminals.
Ana: And then what happens then? It creates a utopian society after that. and then you jump another thirty years in the future in which the future is an utopia/paradise where there is no crime. Police are basically security guards!
Renay: They’re security guards who apparently police your language.
Ana: Several things have been forbidden, including sex, but this is for the betterment of society. And in this future then they defrost John Spartan so that he can go after the criminal that put him there in the first place, Simon Phoenix, who himself was defrosted because of a devious plan of the man who runs everything.
Renay: Doctor Cocteau uses the prison system to his advantage, because every prisoner is given a rehabilitation program, subconsciously, while they’re frozen. He decides that because in the society there’s still these underground people, loosely led by Edgar Friendly, played by Denis Leary. Doctor Cocteau is like “I gotta get rid of this Edgar Friendly guy. He’s no good. Not helping my cause to take over California.” Because nothing is said about the outside world. We don’t know what’s happening outside.
Ana: That’s true.
Renay: I’m sorta thinking that the rest of the world is going on as normal and this little pocket of California they’re like, “Those people are fucking crazy, stay away! They’ll put you on ice!”
Ana: That’s a good headcanon.
Renay: So Doctor Cocteau thaws Simon Phoenix, but not before giving him a “rehabilitation program”—in quotes—that teaches him all these scary criminal tactics. So Simon Phoenix can go after Edgar Friendly, kill Edgar Friendly, scatter the what I would call economic refugees from this really creepy quote-unquote utopian society, and continue his takeover of California.
Ana: Once these two men from the past are awakened in the future it’s through their eyes that we see this society and realize that utopia’s actually a dystopia. And it’s through their commentary, not only of Simon Phoenix’s but also John Spartan commentary of what’s going on around them, that we realize how fucked up things around them really are. There’s some humor in it, obviously, because how wouldn’t there be? With the two of them waking up in the future and seeing things so different. Like for example, the fact that part of John Spartan’s rehabilitation process was that he needed to learn how to knit.
Renay: Listen. I had a problem with that part of the storyline.
Ana: [laughter] I knew you would have!
Renay: He was rehabilitated to know how to knit and sew and he’s like “I’m a SEAMSTRESS?!” and I’m like, “Yeah, how terrible!” You can tell men wrote this movie, because here we go, men undermining fibre arts. These fucking guys probably don’t even know how to do a basic garter stitch. Fuck off, dudes.
Ana: And also for example, when Friendly is having his discourse of the things that he wanted to do, all of them are highly individualistic things, very macho-like things, like, “I just wanna go run naked around, drink a beer, eat meat, and shoot, and smoke a cigar.”
Renay: I’m pretty sure they had written lines for Edgar Friendly but they threw them out because Denis Leary just made up his own lines. So he wasn’t really being Edgar Friendly at that point, he was just being Denis Leary. He was very big in the comedy circuit and he was very well-known for his rants. I remember him better as a comedian who did these ranty comedies than as an actor. So it was really interesting to see him in this role.
The writers in this film, Peter Lenkov, he worked on the new MacGyver: garbage, the new Magnum PI: garbage, the new Hawai’i 5-0: garbage. The only two things that I can find that he worked on that I even slightly approve of—besides this movie. I approve of this movie—La Femme Nikita that aired on USA in the US, and Son-in-Law, starring Pauly Shore.
Ana: [laughs] I used to love Pauly Shore movies!
Renay: I really still like Son-in-Law. I think back on this like, “Do I have a problem with this movie? I can’t think of it?” but I’m nervous because I wanna go back and I wanna watch Ecino Man, I wanna watch Son-in-Law, but I’m like “I don’t know if childhood!me can handle this because childhood!me loved these movies.”
Renay: When I was looking up commentary and criticism of this movie, one of the things I found was apparently there’s a book called Fight of the Dead by István Nemere, and apparently the plot of this book is really similar to this movie in particular.
Ana: Oh, wow.
Renay: Allegedly there was a trend of Hollywood coming to European countries and looking at all their books and stuff, and basically stealing plots, and now I wanna read this book.
Ana: Well, one I’m not surprised. Two, eh, that’s cool.
Renay: You can tell men wrote this movie.
Ana: Well, shall we talk about the romance?
Renay: Oh my god, Ana, the romance. In this film, Sylvester Stallone was forty-seven.
Ana: I know. He is a mummy. And she’s a beautiful young cinnamon roll.
Renay: He is forty-seven and she is twenty-nine.
Ana: I have never thought Sylvester Stallone attractive. I am so sorry for those of you who do think he’s attractive. You are all wrong.
Ana: No, I’m lying. [laughs]
Renay: The age difference here is just a blaring, “THIS IS WHAT’S WRONG WITH HOLLYWOOD” We’re still doing this shit!
Ana: But this is so typical of Hollywood! Their action heroes: they go on and on and on till they are in their late fifties and sixties, still playing roles in which they are much younger. And then they are paired off with much, much, MUCH younger actresses—Chemistry zero between their characters! And then there is a romance that we are force fed because it is supposedly like this that all action heroes must get the girl and in the end of this movie, even though Sandra Bullock—yes, she was interested in him, absolutely. She was. Her character was. But in the end, he just grabs her and then just kisses her, and that’s it. That was the one thing in this movie that I really really disliked.
Renay: I do not like the romance in this movie at all.
Ana: I felt like I was forced—this into my throat.
Renay: That got graphic real quick. Yikes.
Renay: The movie didn’t need it. It just felt like the romance was there so the men could write this weird, “Here’s how sex works with these cool machines now!” Not necessary. Again, I’ve been having this debate recently with myself about the media I consume and how it handles babies. So once again in the future they can freeze people and unthaw them and refreeze them and unthaw them, but apparently women are still having babies the old fashioned way. You can tell men wrote this movie.
Lenina Huxley is a wonderful character.
Ana: She is a beautiful cinnamon roll, too precious for this world. That’s the literal definition, it fits so well.
Renay: Because she lives in this weird time and it’s not that she wants bad things to happen. It’s just that she wants to be able to use her brain. And we get to watch a lady use her brain! So yes, I was actually pretty impressed with her character overall.
Ana: Yes, let’s just forget the romance ever happened.
Renay: Blocking it out.
Ana: To start with I actually thought she was his daughter. You know, that would have been so much more interesting!
Renay: Apparently they filmed a bunch of stuff. Like a whole storyline about his daughter and him meeting his daughter again after he was unthawed. But test audiences got mad because his daughter and Lenina Huxley were the same age and they felt really weird about the romance between Huxley and Spartan when his daughter was basically the same age. Maybe you should have kept the daughter thing and dropped the romance thing, but no. Of course they kept the romance and dropped the daughter thing.
Ana: Fuck men.
Renay: You can tell men wrote this movie.
During your livestream of your viewing of this film on Twitter, you made a comment going, “I didn’t know there were Jedi in this movie!” because Doctor Cocteau was dressed like a Jedi.
Ana: [laughs] He’s totally dressed like a Jedi!
Renay: What if Doctor Cocteau was part of the Jedi Order? Because I mean if we’re talking about horrific utopian nightmares and the organizations within them —
Renay: — the Jedi Order totally fits! So what if Doctor Cocteau was actually a Jedi and he was too evil and the Jedi was like ,”You know what? No.” and he time-travelled to the past of Earth to take over California after a terrible earthquake destroyed everybody’s lives.
Ana: And thus we continue with our tradition of throwing shade at the Jedi. [laughs] It will never be not funny.
Renay: I mean, that’s my headcanon for where Doctor Cocteau came from.
Ana: I love it. And obviously he fails at it because he’s a Jedi!
Renay: You’re welcome for that headcanon! I worked really hard on it.
Renay: Listen, I spent way too long on the IMDB page for this film. Learning things. The reason that they had these weird clothes was because in the nineties we were hazing ozone problems. Men were like, “In the future we’ll have ozone problems, so we need to have cooler clothes that cover more of your body because the ozone will be thinner.” So that’s where the costumes came from. So fashion changes to address climate change. At least they’re admitting that there’s some climate change and Earth stuff happening that’s bad? At least they’re not denying that there was a hole in the ozone layer!
Ana: And thus we continue our tradition of throwing shade at Donald Trump.
Ana: Except for Sandra Bullock, who wears a really diminutive dress. Climate change does not apply to young ladies!
Renay: That dress was made of gems and it was forty pounds.
Ana: My god.
Renay: You can tell men wrote this movie.
Ana: [laughs] And thus continues our tradition of throwing shade at men.
Renay: I did want to have a conversation with you. I think we’ve touched on this before when talking about media and history. In the film, Alfredo Garcia, played by Benjamin Brat, who is baby-faced, he asks Spartan if he wants to listen to some oldies on the radio, and it turns out “oldies” actually means like old 1960s jingles for commercials. And then Lenina Huxley has all this stuff from the 20th Century. Movie stuff, pop culture stuff, and it’s clear that she can study history, but it seems very selective? So there’s this weird dissonance between that they know history, it seems like, but there’s a lot they just don’t have access to or haven’t looked at. It’s like history’s been selected for them.
Ana: But all history’s selected, right? Because we have this nostalgia for the fifties and the sixties. We watch movies with beautiful cars and we watch all of the Grease movies and Back to the Future and you have all of the nostalgia for fifties songs, and ice creams and blah blah blah and ice cream parlours, and Corvettes, etcetera. And Make America Great Again, that is America of the fifties, and yet the fifties was terrible for a huge part of the population—women, people of color. Nostalgia is nothing less that filtered history, and it’s exactly what this movie shows. That we tend to pick the things that we think are cool about the past and we just want to forget everything that is not.
Renay: How do they think that they’re in a beautiful utopian society where everything is controlled if they have access to history? Does it mean that they don’t have access to that history? Or they’re literally ignoring because they don’t like it and it’s scary?
Ana: I don’t know. I think it’s probably a little bit of both. I would say that Doctor Cocteau probably deleted archives, selected history, because what she was talking about and what she was really in love with, was more pieces of pop culture really.
Renay: She had access to historical files of police activity, though.
Ana: She did, but those were fixed by the cryogenesis, and the prison reform that Doctor Cocteau started. It is what it is! We forget history. I know we had this conversation before. We forget history.
Renay: Everybody else does but I’m just like, “Guys read a book!”
Ana: Society forgets, society forgets! It’s just easier like this.
Ana: Listen, we are forgetting about Nazisim, we’re forgetting about fucking Nazism how do you forget about fucking Nazism?! They caught, here in the UK, a Nazi cell with a family who was supporting a number of terrorist activities, white extremist activities. When they entered their house, they found pictures of them dressed as both Nazis and members of Klu Klux Klan. Their son was named Adolf. Their baby son. It’s a young couple in our days. We are forgetting about Nazism. It’s the same thing with Handmaid’s Tale. We had this conversation about that, too. It’s just too easy. Brazilians have now embraced this guy, this new president, forgetting the horrors. Not only forgetting, but denying the horrors of the military government that we had for thirty years in Brazil, in which people have been killed, tortured, disappeared. And they say those are untrue or that it wasn’t that bad, or a number of other things to allow them to sleep at night, I guess.
Renay: This got real cheery real fast.
Ana: I’m sorry, you asked. [laughs]
Renay: It’s true.
Ana: It is terrifying. That really terrifies me that we can so easily forget things and move on to the next thing like the past doesn’t exist and this is why we keep repeating the same errors over and over again. Because we do forget.
Renay: I have a related but not exactly the same question? So, as we’ve noted, this movie was written by men.
Ana: Just a couple of times! [laughs]
Renay: Where they write their films outside the context of the rest of the world. This film’s plot is super self-contained. We don’t know what’s going on in the rest of the world. It’s just contextless out there in the void.
Ana: That’s true for most dystopia movies and stories though, right? Everytime I read one of them I’m like, “But where is everybody else?!”
Renay: But my favourite dystopian story’s not like that. The most recent one in fact, Station Eleven. She has the context. The context is there for that one.
Ana: At least an American context, right?
Renay: No, the whole world! Because there are characters who are travelling—have you not read Station Eleven?
Ana: I have very recently. I don’t remember now, those details.
Renay: Ah, your memory.
Ana: I know.
Renay: But this whole thing where there are no contexts outside the story and the plot bubble that they’re in.
Ana: Well, it’s an action movie. It’s just easier like this, right?
Renay: But what do we think of that as a trope—where we have a plot bubble where everything happens and there’s no context for the outside world?
Renay: I asked a tough question!
Ana: I guess it depends what I’m reading, what type of book or movie it is, and how much that is important. So for example in this action movie, I would wager that that has zero importance to me.
Renay: They have a problem, because if they use outside context, why would you defrost a random cop who took down this criminal from the twentieth century instead of just calling the National Guard? Because if you called the National Guard, you’d have to deal with the outside context. So this plot only works in this really specific way. It’s been a really long time since I read some dystopia.
Ana: Oh! I’ve just read The Book of M and it’s actually worldwide. It’s another genre that tends to be very localized, the post-apocalyptic one, right? Zombies blah blah blah because a good way of explaining it out is lack of communication, so the characters can’t know what’s happening everywhere else in the world Because there’s just no means of communication anymore. But in The Book of M, you actually have characters from India, from all of the world, participating in the thick of things.
Renay: I just find it very interesting that we get these action movies with the sci-fi twist, but the science fiction aspect only works if you’re in the plot bubble.
Renay: As soon as you burst the plot bubble and let the outside world in, it doesn’t work.
Ana: But I guess that only matters in the context of your enjoyment of the plot bubble, whether you that plot bubble should be exploded.
Renay: I want other plot bubble science fiction books and movies.
And: Would you say that Jurassic Park was a plot bubble?
Renay: No, because the outside context is there. They bring the outside context in. They’re our POV characters.
Ana: Yeah, but what happens to the dinosaurs?
Renay: You’ll have to watch the sequel.
Ana: [audibly throws something on the floor]
Renay: [laughs] But you can tell men wrote it because they get celebrity/politician trivia right, but they get basic facts about salt wrong. There’s a whole scene where Lenina Huxley goes, “Yeah, Arnold Schwarzenegger was President of the United States after the 61st constitutional amendment to the United States Constitution!”. And I was like wow, number 1: these men don’t understand how constitutional amendments work! It was a different political time when apparently they just thought passing constitutional amendments was a breeze.
Ana: Was this movie before or after Arnold Schwarzenegger—
Renay: Before. They got that right.
Renay: And when they’re at Taco Bell, the only remaining restaurant, which is the only point where they burst the plot bubble—where they talk about the Franchise Wars? And the only restaurant coming out of it was Taco Bell. Worldwide, something happened.
Ana: Unless they think that the United States is the whole world.
Renay: Also could be. Americans are conceited. That’s accurate.
Renay: But Lenina Huxley’s like, “Salt’s bad for you so it’s banned.” It can’t be banned, because you need it to survive, human beings need salt, you can’t ban salt! This is basic science! You can tell men wrote this movie.
Renay: As I was watching the end where Alfredo Garcia went from “fresh-faced cop to “underground ally of Edgar Friendly,” I remember young!me was like, “Wow. Edgar Friendly and Alfredo Garcia are going to bang.”
Ana: [laughs] I did not see that coming.
Renay: Go rewatch the end of the movie after they meet Edgar Friendly. Edgar Friendly and Alfredo Garcia had more chemistry between them than—
Renay: —John Spartan and Lenina Huxley.
Ana: I was actually shipping Garcia and Huxley. I thought they were so cute!
Renay: They were cute, but no not them. Edgar Friendly. Alfredo Garcia. Go look at their scenes again! You’ll see what I see, I promise! … Ana’s like, “No Renay, that’s not how this is gonna work.”
Ana: No. I don’t think so.
Renay: I’m gonna write that fic now. I really want to.
Ana: I think you should at least check if there are any.
Renay: There’s not going to be. I’ll go look, but it’s all probably going to be Lenina Huxley/John Spartan fic.
Ana: Oh no. [retches]
Renay: Let’s not kink shame other fans, Ana. They might really like that relationship.
Renay: I just find it an extreme example of Hollywood being unable to conceptualize women who are older. Did you notice at the end where Simon Phoenix has collected all of his allies from cryo-prison. Did they defrost women criminals to have to look decorative?
Ana: Probably. Were all of the criminals Black people and Latinos?
Renay: They were. Apart from Benjamin Bratt. The movie codes him specifically as Latinx though. And a lot of the underground people were Latinx.
Renay: However. Wesley Snipes in this movie played Simon Phoenix. Wesley Snipes also played Blade. That’s the same actor. You wouldn’t know it because Wesley Snipes is an excellent actor. He took this role and he—
Ana: —had so much fun. [laughs]
Renay: Simon Phoenix is one of my favorite villain characters because Wesley Snipes is so good in this role. And I guess Sylvester Stallone is okay but he’s kinda wooden.
Ana: Well, yes!
Renay: The most animated he got was when he was dissing knitting. Still bitter about that. These fucking writers! I’d like to see them knit a scarf! Look! They didn’t even understand how knitting works, because they just had John Spartan spit out a fucking sweater! That’s not a night project! A scarf is a night project!
Ana: It is a night project for John Spartan because he is Knitting Man.
Renay: I just can’t with the shade thrown at women’s work in this film.
Ana: No, it’s terrible.
Renay: They named the computer in the police station L7. It’s an insult.
Ana: Is it?
Renay: You call somebody a square?
Ana: Right, right, yes.
Renay: I love this movie, but I have a lot of feelings about this movie. How many space bees would you give this?
Ana: I would give it around a three. It was fun.
Renay: Yeah, I think I’m on a three, too. It’s fun, but there’s some issues. [laughs]
Hey, hey listeners, hey listeners, guess what. Ana doesn’t know how to use the three seashells.
Ana: What the fuck is that? Do you know how? I’m sure there’s a fan theory out there.
Renay: Sylvester Stallone has stated in interviews is that the idea behind the three seashells is that two were used like chopsticks and/or clamped together to pull waste out of the body, and the third was to scrape what was left over. No explanation was made about how they were to be cleaned and sanitized between uses. That was Sylvester Stallone’s brilliant theory about the three seashells.
Ana: Oh my god. That makes no sense.
Renay: And then later on down the page, “according to screenwriter Daniel Waters, the inspiration for the three seashells came about when he was writing a scene where Spartan has to use a restroom. He was trying to come up with the futuristic things you’d find in there. He was having trouble, so he called a buddy, another screenwriter across town, and asked him if he had any ideas. Ironically enough, that person was in the bathroom when he answered the phone.”
Number one, gross, number two, what?
“Looked around the bathroom and said, ‘I have a bag of seashells on the toilet as decoration,’ and Waters said, ‘Okay, I’ll make something out of that.'”
Ana: And he literally did just that.
Renay: No explanation, no context: you can tell a dude wrote this movie.
Renay: Our show is made possible by our patrons. Thanks to all our patrons at all pledge levels. So many people help make Fangirl Happy Hour what it is. We want to highlight our patrons at our five dollar pledge level across each episode.
Ana: So a huge thank you to Alicia, Amanda, Amy, Ann-Marie and Brandi.
Renay: To Claire, Dearblha, Elisa, Elissa M., and Hedwig, thank you.
Ana: Thanks to Jen, Jocelyn, Karen, KJ, and Lara.
Renay: And last but not least, thanks to Margot, Mark, Philip, and Transcendancing.
Ana: We’re grateful to all of you.
Renay: Our show art is by Ira.
Ana: Our music is by Chuki Beats and BoxCat Games.
Renay: Our transcripts, which our transcription queen Susan makes for us with help from our patrons, are available at fangirlhappyhour.com.
Ana: You can help choose future Vault episodes like this one by joining us on Patreon at patreon.com/fangirlhappyhour.
Renay: Please read a history book. I do not care which one.
Ana: Please be as brave as Renay. I just learned she can drive a truck and ride a horse. Mind blown.
Renay: Enhance your calm, space bees.
Ana: See you next episode space bees. Be well.
Ana: Okay, I will drink some water because I got excited now, because we’re talking about history.
Ana: I hope you have enjoyed Demolition Man, but I hope you don’t let it demolish your love for action movies.
Ana: I think I got so excited about Sylvester Stallone that I demolished my own voice.