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Repo Man (1984): The Analysis

*SPOILER ALERT*

In case you don’t know, Repo Man is one of my all-time favorite movies. The plot is attractive, the soundtrack kicks-ass, and there are many topics to be discussed about. So before we move further, I have to remind you once again that this is NOT a typical-style movie review. I’m not going to tell you the plot of the film or tell you why I love Repo Man. Instead, I’m going to analyse the meaning of this film and topics depicted in this cult classic. If you haven’t seen this masterpiece, please watch it before continue reading. If you have any question about it or have no idea what’s going on in the film, this article might help you.

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Reaganism

When it comes to Ronald Reagan, he eventually becomes one of the best of US presidents among conservatives and the worst among Liberal. Back then, the Punk movement had a lot of anti-Reagan movement and there were many protest songs and concerts throughout country. Surprisingly, Repo Man, a film that was released by big studio, has a few jabs at what happened during that time as well. Personally, I don’t think it’s an anti-Conservative film (I’ll tell you about it more in later parts), but anti-Reagan? Probably…

First of, it talks about poverty. Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) rants about hobos in the street. He says…

“Fucking trash. Makes you wonder how much they owe. Most of them are on the run. Don’t even use their social security numbers. If there was just someway to find out how much the motherfuckers owe and make ’em pay.”

After that, our hero “Otto” (Emilio Estevez) tries to calm him down, but Bud still pisses off about these poor people and Otto. This is an attitude about poverty in 80’s. Whether these people couldn’t find job or they were welfare queens/kings, some people seemed to think that EVERY hobos in America become what they are because of laziness.

Next, the film directly points a finger at televangelists. These kinds of people were on the rise back then and there were lots of fraud scams and deception in this circuit. In this film, it depicts televangelists as some sort of scam in which they lure people to send money to them. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have anything against believe and faith in Christians, but where does the money go? Sure, it feels better to willingly give money to something you have faith in, but let’s take a look at what our televangelist in Repo Man, Reverend Larry, says…

“The lord has told me personally. Yay for I walk with the lord, Amen. He said Larry you and your flock shall seek the promised land. But only if you first destroy the twin evils of godless communism abroad and liberal humanism at home. Oh joy and Hallelujah smash’em down. Now my friends.[…]Occasionally we get a letter from a viewer that says now the only reason Reverend Larry comes on your television set is because he wants your money. And do you know what? They’re right! I do want your money. Because god wants your money. So I want you to go out and mortgage that home and sell that car and send me your money. You don’t need that car.”

Speaking of televangelists, the film also links relationship between Christianity and the government as well. Later on, Reverend Larry appears on TV screen again and tell us to help a “poor lady” find the mysterious Chevy Malibu. Apparently, the last time we saw the car is when someone else (definitely not woman) steals the car from repo office, so it’s possible that a secret government organization (in which they also chases the Chevy Malibu as well) uses Christian TV programs in order to gather information about the car. And in the final scene, the secret government organization actually invites Reverend Larry I mentioned before to try to approach the the car. These scenes reflects a relationship between the role of religion and the government in 80’s, in which Christian conservative movement got bigger and bigger.

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Commercialism

One of those things that many people remember about the film is the anti-product placement attitude. Okay, I know that Little Trees air fresheners play a pretty huge role in the film, but the most prominent “product placement” is generic goods. Everywhere the characters work, everywhere the character lives, they use only generic brand of product. Look at these products…

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What’s the point of doing this? It takes us back to a time when there was a weird fad about generic brand. Yep, in early 80’s these brands were skyrocketing like you couldn’t believe. But in my opinion, I guess it also satires the whole product placement movement in Hollywood and probably shows us what would happen if there was no competition among brand in market. Consumer would have no choice among brands and they were forced to pick the only brand in market (which probably has terrible quality), but on the other hand…what’s the difference between Coke and Pepsi at this point?

Speaking of Coke and Pepsi, remember Kevin, Otto’s friend who always sings that annoying 7-Up jingle? It kinda contradicts the fact that in the Repo Man universe, most of products that people use are generic brands. But hey, it shows us how important music marketing was in the past. This type of marketing WAS effective thanks to catchy lyrics and melody of jingle. Now? Who cares if Dr. Pepper releases another jingle? (Unless it was sung by pop idols)

 

*NOTE: Actually, I find out later that these generic brands featured in the film were offered by Ralph’s supermarket because the crew can’t get a sponsorship for giant corporations. This somehow accidentally makes the film becomes more memorable and gives new topic to be analyzed as well.

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Next page: I’ll talk about abstract subjects like morality, the ending scene, and what’s inside the trunk.

About The Author
Nuttawut Permphithak
Nuttawut Permphithak
A student who's studying in marketing. He usually spends his free-time on watching movies, listening to music, reading books, and creating things you're probably reading/listening right now.
1 Comments
  • Black Doug
    April 22, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Repo Man should be more widely hailed as a classic.

    Also, John Wayne was a fag. “The hell he was!” (Notice how that scene is probably the only time many of the characters actually get along.)

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