10 Cloverfield Lane is an interesting piece of work, and one relevant to the national question, for two related reasons. Firstly, there is the theme of alien invasion, familiar from the contemporary political situation with regard to immigration. Secondly, there is the character of Howard, a man quite dedicated to keeping himself and others safe from this invasion. This character is disquieting in several related ways which should be familiar to the alt right.
Howard, played by John Goodman, lives in an underground bunker after a devastating attack, one whose nature and source he is not sure of but which makes him unwilling to return to the surface. Contamination and aliens are included in his unclear explanation. He shares the bunker with a young woman named Michelle, who he has abducted after crashing into her car with his truck, and a young man who helped build the structure and claims to have forced his way in.
Emmett, the young man in the bunker, comes across as not very bright and does not suspect Howard on his own. Michelle, though, is immediately suspicious. This is not only because she initially wakes up chained to a wall, but based on the old man’s strange mannerisms and outlandish talk about the attack. She eventually convinces Emmett that the two of them must escape.
Howard’s creepiness is a major theme of the movie, although the word is never used. The basic issue is that he seems to lack normal connections with others, and not only because most others are already dead. This isolation includes family; he says his wife has left him, but although he is old enough to have gray hair, it is not clear that he has ever had either a wife or children. A young woman he claims was his daughter “Megan” was in fact a former classmate of Emmett’s, a girl he abducted and killed in unclear circumstances.
Howard’s alienation from others is not difficult to explain when we consider his personality. He shows no sign of being able to relate to Michelle or even wanting to relate to Emmett. He brags that he has saved Michelle’s life and repeatedly makes it clear that he expects gratitude, which in this context refers to romance. According to his formulaic way of thinking, providing someone with some benefit entitles you to a relationship with them. This of course does not work out as he hopes; he is an old man with a terrifying personality, so his feelings for Michelle are not reciprocated.
In one sense the old man’s attitude toward Michelle is similar to the way in which some racial egalitarians try to be benefactors to outgroups with whom there is little basis for a human connection. Westerners cannot have healthy relationships with starving children in Africa, regardless of how much contact they have with them, how much aid they give them, or even how many they adopt; they have too little in common. Obviously Howard’s intentions are different, but there is a strange disregard of one’s own limits here which some cucks share with Howard.
Howard sees Emmett resentfully as a competitor for Michelle’s affection. He shows a striking lack of sympathy for him and angrily discourages his attempts to engage in light-hearted conversation over dinner. When Michelle attempts to flirt with Emmett, Howard becomes enraged, accuses her of betraying him, and demands an apology and a promise to “behave.” It would not be out of character for him to be unable to recognize flirting, but he would also consider the two of them becoming romantically involved to be a betrayal in itself, as he hopes to make Michelle his wife.
Although his fears about aliens ultimately turn out to be well-founded, it is clear from the beginning that the man of the bunker is paranoid and controlling. He initially forbids Emmett to touch Michelle and does not trust the young woman to even use the bathroom alone or according to her own schedule.
Outside of the human problem, Howard is prepared to maintain his own life to his own satisfaction for a long time. His bunker is well-stocked with food and entertainment, and he is perfectly safe from aliens or even desperate humans who might want to enter without his permission. On an emotional level, he is profoundly alienated even from Emmett and Megan, despite living with them. This may remind viewers of the insulated elites of Western nations who suffer little personal risk, physical or emotional, from the social degradation of their own societies, while the general population has quite a different experience.
Howard’s lack of awareness of normal human interactions is profound and dangerous. He does not understand that Michelle is bothered by his behavior, let alone why anyone would be; according to him he seems like “a reasonable guy.” Further, not only is he surprised and angered to not receive romantic interest from a woman he has abducted, but he never abandons the idea that he is obligated to protect her and takes extreme measures to do so, oblivious to what this means for her.
Howard ultimately murders Emmett in front of Michelle. In an attempt to cover up the pair’s escape plans, the young man has confessed to a desire to steal his gun but left Michelle out of the story. Michelle is of course shocked and terrified, but Howard does not entirely understand her reaction, apparently believing that he has rightly protected the two of them from a violent threat.
Instead, after an awkward attempt to comfort Michelle, Howard decides this is an appropriate time for romance. Breathing heavily, he says he wants the two of them to be a “happy family,” offering her a choice of a bowl or a cone for her ice cream, and acting as if the cause of her distress is the limited quality of life inside the shelter rather than the murder of her friend.
Near the end of the film, Michelle is attempting to escape the bunker through an air duct after a violent confrontation with Howard. He warns her that “you don’t know what’s out there” and “you can’t run from them,” as if still concerned for her safety even after plunges a knife into the duct.
One might hope that the situation with the alien invaders was intended as a commentary upon the Third World invasion of Europe. Given the social justice signaling in his previous films such as 2009’s Star Trek, enriched with interracial romance, and the feminist superhero film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, producer J. J. Abrams is not likely sympathetic to the nationalists who are most willing to recognize the invasion. He would likely see them as a great danger in themselves, and this view would be shared by the director and others involved in the project.
If we interpret Howard as a dangerous nationalist fanatic, then, the aliens outside represent the actual aliens flooding into the West from the Third World. This assumes that nationalists are essentially right about the seriousness of the conflict. After escaping the shelter, Michelle sees no sign that communication with the creatures is possible or even desirable. She is attacked by a monstrous lifeform on the ground as well as some kind of hungry machine in the air, and only survives through an unlikely set of lucky breaks. Minus the details of the monsters, this seems more like an invasion by ISIS.
Although the director or producer may not have intended it, a better analogy draws on Howard’s confused self-image, considering himself the great benefactor of another while showing wanton disregard for her well-being. Claims to be protecting Western nations and values by importing people quite hostile to these things are now made all over the West, namely by the political elites, as well as many in the population who sympathize with them. These claims resonate with people who are not murderers themselves but still have something critical in common with Howard.
From this point of view, the monsters outside are not alien in the sense of having allegiance to a foreign nation, let alone a distant planet. Instead they represent a culture which the elites see as equally alien, unthinking, and hostile, namely nationalism. As with Howard in his bunker, they do have a defensive edifice to keep it out, consisting of ideology and taboos. But it is still something they are desperate to protect people from, even at the cost of those people’s lives.
Although there are of course other internal factors, the perpetuation of the current self-destructive paradigm in the West depends upon a million Howards. They are perfectly competent or even talented in some areas, such as bunker construction, but are at best oblivious to their actions’ impact on others. Their creepy disconnection from human realities, including their belief that nationalism is not natural but pathological, leads them to see themselves as heroes while behaving as the opposite. When faced with others’ perfectly natural suspicion of them, their reaction ranges from baffled to enraged.
Our nations will never entirely be free of Howard, but knowing what he is capable of, we cannot allow him to remain in charge of our governments or our culture. He may have built himself a fine bunker, but we cannot share it with him.