Jack Dawson, Daniel Plainview and 4 other characters from Wisconsin fictional films

Aamong the many shocking revelations of new blockbuster 007 No time to die, there’s this bombshell: James Bond’s best friend is from Milwaukee. The best friend in question is Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), a CIA agent who often crosses paths with Bond on a mission, always proving to be both a trusted ally and a true mensch. This little snippet of Leiter’s biographical origins comes across as a joke, the joke being essentially: “Milwaukee? Is random. “

The Milwaukee benchmark probably zoomed in on most of the film’s global viewers, but it got me thinking. I came back to the many movie characters with roots in Wisconsin. These people are imaginary; their writers could give them any hometown they wanted – so why, I wondered, of all places, train them in Wisconsin? The responses seemed to indicate very vague ideas that people in the rest of the country have about our fair state. Mainly, that it is Random and also that it represents a kind of pure spirit of the heart. Let’s start with luck, as it dates back to the classic Hollywood era.

Random is definitely the joke in 40s peek-a-boo comedy Two guys from Milwaukee, in which a Balkan prince chooses to disguise himself as “just an ordinary guy from Milwaukee” to escape the responsibilities of royalty and learn how ordinary people live. To him, Milwaukee has so few attributes that its value lies in its essentially bland lack of glamor or character. This also seems to be the city’s value when it comes to screenwriters. When the prince meets an authentic Milwaukeean on the streets of Brooklyn, he is asked about his knowledge of the city. The questions are: Does he know any guys named Russ Winnie, Larry Lawrence or Buck Herzog? That is, three people in a city of about 600,000 (Milwaukee has almost exactly the same population size today as in 1940). Milwaukee is imagined to be so small that individuals are known to every man, woman and child in the city, and so lacking in culture or character that there is no other topic of conversation than gossip about these individuals.

A Wisconsinite impostor is also tested on his regional knowledge by There will be blood, with a similar lack of specificity. The film is about Daniel Plainview, a gold digger turned all-powerful oil tycoon, and the loss of what little soul he had in the process of accumulating his wealth. An interesting detail of Plainview’s life is that he is said to be originally from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The birthplace is taken from the biography of oil baron Edward Doheny, but it has the ring of authenticity – the great men of the 20th century coming from humble origins and Random Central American cities. This authenticity is somewhat overturned by one of the only conversations Daniel has about life in old Wisconsin. He remembers a man who claims to be his long lost brother, Henry, about a tradition in his hometown of “getting drunk” and going to the “Peach Tree Dance”. “Henry” doesn’t seem to know what the peach tree dance is. This makes Daniel doubt that the man is really his brother; when his suspicions are confirmed, he brutally chases him away.

While compelling drama, all of this comes with a lack of Wisconsin authenticity. It is possible that there could be an event called the Peach Tree Dance in a fictional version of Fond du Lac. It is even possible that there is a peach tree at Fond du Lac. The detail is precise, and There will be bloodPaul Thomas Anderson Writer / Director Is Nothing But Specific As An Artist, But It’s Not Specific in Wisconsin. It seems to have sprung from the imagination, not from knowledge or research. The Dance of the Peach is a detail, like Fond du Lac itself, which adds to the richness of the film’s fictional universe. But, being totally detached from anything in the area, it carries on a tradition of Wisconsin-born characters: that their birthplace is of interest, primarily, because it is Random. The details are supposed to make these people feel authentic without actually using any authentic details from the area. In other words, it is specificity without specificity.

The same could be said of the character of Mr. White, the career criminal and tragic hero of Quentin Tarantino’s crime thriller. Tank dogs. In his secret investigation, police detective Mr. Orange learns that White is a Brewers fan, which leads Orange’s boss to conclude that “his ass must be from Wisconsin.” Another good detail, filling the world, making it all real. Like Anderson, Tarantino is known for giving his characters the complexity and nuance of those of a great novel. But, alas, this is a novel whose author has never been to Wisconsin. The character has no regional specifics (other than being in the bag for the Brew Crew). Harvey Keitel, playing Mr. White, has a very special accent. Milwaukee, no.

However, some movies use Wisconsin based on its actual characteristics, but those characteristics are not the most nuanced. Concrete example :

The man who jumps from (and onto) moving planes, climbs solo solo in the tallest building in the world, and learns to fly a helicopter in a high-speed air pursuit has an origin story appropriate to Superman. Echoing the biography of the son of Krypton, Hunt lost his young father and grew up among the agricultural plains of the Land of Flyovers. Where Superman had the fictional hometown of Smallville, tailor-made to embody all the myth-steeped purities of the heart, Hunt has the next best thing: an idealized version of the Midwest embodied as a place in Wisconsin. (A Impossible mission fan wiki pin like Madison.)

As far as I know, the only backstory given for Hunt in the film series is from the OG Impossible mission (1996). There, after Hunt first becomes a thug, the mischievous Mission Impossible Force director Kittridge attempts to smoke him by implicating Hunt’s mother and uncle in a fabricated and rigged drug scheme. . Media coverage of the scandal identifies the Hunt family’s location not by any specific town or city, but only as “a farm in the heart of the state of Wisconsin.” At least it’s not a fishing farm where they speak with a Brooklyn accent, but we’re still quite a ways away from anything that looks like a knowledge of the state beyond what you’d get on the front side. ‘a postcard.

So why is Wisconsin here? It may have something to do with the fact that relativity was never exactly Hunt’s (or Cruise’s, for that matter) strong suit. From the start, his main traits have been superhuman dexterity and a manic work ethic (again, much like the man who plays him) – and human characteristics have increasingly been squeezed out of the character as he goes. as the franchise continued, even though his physical prowess did. become more and more impressive. Hunt is kind of a superman and, as is the case with the big “S” Superman, rubbing some dirt on him from a “heartland farm” helps undermine some of that super-ness and to make it more likeable. . At least my hunch is that’s what the people who created it thought.

The Brewers… the Farms… Come on, what could someone who’s never been to Wisconsin know about this? And the cold ? We have “some of the coldest winters ever,” according to Jack Dawson, a fictional native of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin and victim of the RMS Titanic disaster. Writing Jack as from Wisconsin makes sense, from a storytelling strategy standpoint. On the one hand, Jack is said to be unschooled in arrogant high society and, like Daniel Plainview, born outside the institution. A small town in the middle of nowhere sounds great. In addition, he has to talk about the cold and cold water of the ocean to foreshadow his death by drowning in the film’s climax. So the filmmakers give Jack a childhood that includes an incident while ice fishing and a firsthand experience of ice water. Writer / director James Cameron (or someone else) even bothered to look at a map and identify a real lake in Chippewa County, Lake Wissota, for the Dawson backstory. Despite the fact that the Wissota is man-made and only existed years after the sinking of the Titanic, this is the biggest Wisconsin specificity we’ve seen so far.

However, the filmmakers’ lack of familiarity with the state is belied by their choice of Jack’s hometown. Chippewa Falls is not a big place; it’s also not particularly noteworthy historically, so it’s likely Cameron pulled it from another popular movie, Annie hall, whose main character is also from Chippewa Falls. Why look for inspiration beyond another movie (eg reality) if it isn’t necessary?

Although there is almost no regional specificity in Star manI find this to be probably the most charming use of Wisconsin in the movies listed here, as it doesn’t try to tie the state to half-baked stereotypes. Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen) lives in Chequamegon Bay (which is not actually a town, but a body of water near Ashland, but who really cares?), Soul-sick after death recent from her husband. Out of the blue, a disembodied alien crashes into her property and takes on the eye-pleasing form of her late spouse (Jeff Bridges). Jenny and the alien go on a road trip to Arizona to meet other aliens, they are chased by infamous government agents, they fall in love, and more. What’s new about Jenny’s character is that being from Wisconsin doesn’t to define her. She doesn’t talk about her childhood on the farm, ice fishing, or her love for the Packers or the Brewers. She has her own life which is not dictated by outside notions of how the people of the state are supposed to act. Instead, she acts like an individual person: she lives alone in the woods and owns a gun but is not unfriendly or reactionary, she watches home movies, she loves milkshakes.

Jenny could almost be from anywhere, but at the same time, her origin in Wisconsin is not random as it is. No time to die Where Two guys from Milwaukee; that is to say, it is not played for fun. In a way, of course, Wisconsin is random here. The alien just landed in the state, but didn’t make it in the dead of winter on a dairy farm. However, Jenny is not random; he is a complex person with idiosyncratic character traits, like most of the thousands of Wisconsinians I have met in my life.

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