I find myself pulled in two directions after seeing Matt Damon in Promised Land—east toward villainy and antagonism and west toward heroism and protagonism. Both his character, Steve Butler, and the hydraulic fracturing process for getting natural gas out of the ground are dual in nature. Damon works as a front man for the eight-billion dollar corporation called Global Crosspower Solutions. He and Sue Thomason (Frances McDormand), his mentor, show up in the small Pennsylvania farming community to buy drilling rights from all the landowners. And both of them (Who doesn’t love Matt Damon and Frances McDormand?) initially appear as nice people doing evil deeds for an evil company. They discuss their plans to bilk the residents as they buy clothes to help them masquerade as “down home” farm folk. The dichotomy continues. At an open meeting in the high school, Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook), an aging science teacher with major scientific pedigree, challenges Damon about the dangers of fracking. Later, Dustin Noble (John Krasinski), an environmentalist from a group called Athena, shows up to present the other side, to try to subvert the evil gas company’s plans. Even the townspeople are split about evenly as to whether they should or should not sell the drilling rights. Are Steve and Sue bad people posing as good people or are they good people trying to help this dying community? Is fracking an environmental disaster or is it a safe process to help us become energy self-sufficient? Neither question is answered. The scenery of farmland Pennsylvania is beautiful, the acting is good if not excellent, the film is worth seeing, despite the viewers’ ambivalence as they exit the theater.
Now we have plans all over the nation for arming teachers and--get this--custodians. Wow, is that a stupid idea. I was a teacher, and when I think about having a gun in my room, I wonder where I'd have to keep it to stop some bloody nutcase who crashed my party. Would I keep it locked up in a cabinet so that no student could get to it? I don't see how that would be very effective. At the initial announcement that some baddie was in the building, shooting it up, I'd have to lurch to the cabinet and unlock it, shakily extract the gun, nervously take off the safety, maybe accidentally squeeze off a few rounds into the ceiling or into one of my really bad students. Nah, that just doesn't seem like a very good plan. Where else would I carry it? I guess either tucked in at the back of my pants or in a shoulder holster. John Wayne reincarnated. Wow! Have we really come to that?