We all see what we want to see. Coffey looks and he sees Russians. He sees hate and fear. You have to look with better eyes than that.
Lindsey Brigman, The Abyss (1989)
Patrick: When The Abyss came out in 1989, the Cold War was still very much a part of the American Zeitgeist. So much so, that a James Cameron movie about underwater aliens necessarily had to address political tensions between the US and the Soviets and the fear of nuclear annihilation. Those themes are more clearly expressed in the lumpier director’s cut of the film, but even the theatrical release is colored with assumptions and anxieties specific to that period in time. I love The Abyss, but I probably didn’t see it until I was 11 or 12 (1994 sounds right), which means I was able to take it in from the other side of the Berlin Wall, and none of those relics of Cold War paranoia rang true to my personal experience. But rather than being alienating, those details tap into an existing international psychology, and create a world that is instantly recognizable as real, honest, and not so far outside the world we know. Paper Girls pulls a similar trick, filling the pages with 1988 details that don’t so much tell a story as set the scene for a story. Continue reading