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PC Apollo 13
July 1995

Mr. John Powers of the Washington Post recently wrote a review of the movie Apollo 13 wherein he blasted Ron Howard for his portrayal of the historical context in which the events occurred.1 Mr. Powers was particularly offended by the omission of any mention of the tremendously significant role the women's lib movement played in the incident. He was also incensed by the fact that a lot of key roles were played by white males. Here are some actual quotes from his review:
It is true, of course, that the Apollo astronauts were notoriously boring (compared to those macho wild men film critics? ed) . . . Strangely enough, Apollo 13 doesn't even ask the rudimentary questions about the astronaut's inner lives. . . . their memories, their regrets, the whole meaning of the universe. Unfortunately, "Apollo 13" isn't about any of this. It's about how these guys got home. (Imagine that! ed) . . . in a journey such as this, physical bravery would be the least of the men's heroism. The real struggle would be (I am not making this up! ed) the journey through their psychic landscapes. The scientists speak nerdy, indecipherable NASA jargon . . . what should have been a transcendent moment--humankind touching the source of sea tides and lunacy--had been rendered banal by technology and NASA jargon. Watching this movie, you won't see the least shadow of women's lib, the civil rights movement or that troublesome war in Southeast Asia. . . .

If you read the review you probably thought Mr. Powers saw the previews for Steel Magnolias then inadvertently walked into the theater playing Apollo 13. That would mean you are the victim of evil brainwashers like Ron Howard. I lived through those tense moments in 1970 and until recently I would have thought the movie was quite historically accurate. But after many months of expensive therapy I have succeeded in replacing those false memories with the true facts that Mr. Powers has alerted all Americans to.

First of all, the movie's depiction of the three astronauts was all wrong. I distinctly remember that one was African American, one was Native American, and one was an Asian woman. One of them, I don't recall which, was an avowed homosexual. None of them had any military experience and they were all graduate students in the humanities who were going into space in protest of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

When the explosion occurred Mission Control took immediate action. They formed think tanks, brain trusts and task forces to write mission statements. They hired consultants to tell them they were "empowered" and help them get in touch with the inner feminine child of their past self. Despite their best efforts, however, they were doomed by their hopeless white American maleness. This problem was compounded by the fact that the craft had been constructed from American-made components instead of their obviously superior Japanese counterparts, 

Finally, the NOW and NAACP in cooperation with the ACLU were the ones who got the situation under control. They recognized that attempting to apply technological solutions to malfunctioning mechanical equipment posed the grave danger of introducing technical jargon into this transcendent moment in humanity. What was needed was not the dull hollowness of a rescue but the real struggle of a journey through some psychic landscapes. They knew that the only group that could deal with the problem would have to "look like America" in terms of ethnic and gender distribution. Such a group was formed and recommended that solution was for everyone in America to hold hands while singing and walking across the country. The astronauts, meanwhile, were able to prevent further damage to the spacecraft through the aggressive use and promotion of latex condoms.

With the situation thus stabilized it was time for action; class action, that is. On behalf of the millions of Americans who were suffering severe emotional distress over the episode the American Trial Lawyers brought the crew safely home by filing a huge action against a wealthy convenience store chain whose employee had knowingly sold a tobacco product to an engineer on the project.

After the incident, a bi-partisan joint congressional committee determined that the technical malfunctions could all be traced back to a silicone implant in the service module. Everyone was aware of the danger of silicone implants but they felt pressured to install them because of unreasonable sexist male expectations of what the perfect space capsule should look like.

To prevent such a tragedy from ever occurring again, a seven-day waiting period was imposed on the sale of all liquid oxygen to be used for space flights.

At least that's how John Powers and I remember it.



Frank Leany

1 Washington Post 7/9/95

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