I was born in 1988 and, growing up, had no idea of the important political events that were unfolding in the world at the time. The first time that something from outside my hometown of 5 000 people really affected me was September 11th. I was in grade 8. I knew that there had been a “Cold War” but didn’t know what it meant. In television shows, people would use the term “nuclear bomb” but I didn’t understand the fear it instilled. As I grew older, I started consuming more adult media but it was too late; the words just didn’t drive the same impact as I could tell they were meant to.
Canadian Bacon, a film in which American starts a Cold War with Canada (but Canada doesn’t notice) let me see how ridiculous some people thought the preceding few decades had been. Dr. Strangelove showed me why exactly “mutually assured destruction” doesn’t work as a viable political strategy. The Hunt For Red October (fantastic movie, better book) showed me the kind of fear nuclear weapons could inspire in people. It also showed me how anyone with an English accent can play European roles in general.
After reading a book on the history of uranium, I learned more about the Manhattan Project, the nuclear arms race, the Cold War, uranium mining politics in Australia, and how fission technology is being used to influence Pakistan’s current politics and culture. I’ve since gone back and re-watched The Hunt for Red October, all the James Bond movies, and an episode of Stargate: SG-1 with a planet in a Cold War itself. Every time it was mentioned, I reflected on what I heard.
The thing that has really struck me the most was the impact the Cold War had on our culture and, by extension, our media. It informed the characters’ beliefs, actions, and stories. I finally realized that, even though it was over by the time I had really heard of it, the Cold War had been a pretty big deal.
I still don’t know that much about the politics of the post-World War II world. Everything I can even say I know about has been taught to me by fiction. And that kind of bothers me.