Unconscious Cinema: The Terminator

Mark Brahmin and Richard Spencer deconstruct James Cameron’s “tech-noir” masterpieces, The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991).

Unconscious Cinema


  • Hey, we are winning against the “machines” over here in East-Europe! Just wanted to tell you. Hold on!

  • Lighting brings in Arnold… this reminds me of a Nietzsche quote. “Lo, I
    am a herald of the lightning, and a heavy drop out of the cloud: the
    lightning, however, is the ÜBERMENSCH.–”

    In the Termintor, Reese
    is a raindrop (at best). He is man, striving. Reese, clings to life and
    pushes to his highest virtue. He is limited as a man to always being a
    man. He is the rain drop, he is the strumtruppen. The Terminator,
    however, is the Übermensch. The Übermensch will conquer all men as is
    his place in evolution. At the end, this movie is about freedom.
    Therefore, man conquers the superman. Yet he does not defeat him, he
    merely delays him.

  • 57:01 “This technology becomes self aware, and then it achieves White Guilt, and lowers itself into a lava pit.”

    I could not stop laughing. Thank you for your insights Richard! LOL!

  • I don’t think TERMINATOR 2 is anti-technology or Luddite. Rather, it is fearful of technology that runs out of human control. Big difference. So, if TERMINATOR 2 has a message, it means we must keep technology in OUR control. It is not saying technology is bad. Same with HAL in 2001. The film isnt anti-technology but fearful of technology that moves beyond human control.

    But this is a human anxiety with ancient pedigree. Knowledge is good, but it destroys what had been. The forbidden fruit opens eyes to new things but also destroys what had been.
    The fire as gift by Prometheus is a blessing to mankind… but man can use it burn down the world.
    The knowledge of the Ring in Germanic mythology is of great power, but it also brings down destruction in the end.

    We have a neurotic fixation with power. We want it and want more of it… but it’s as much a curse as a blessing. Every new advantage comes with a disadvantage. Everything that creates something new destroys something that is old… and valuable.

    Take the internet. Yes, it made Alt Right possible, but it is also working to destroy local and national cultures all over. Everything has two sides to it. Blessing and curse.

  • Actually, the sacrifice of Terminator in Part 2 is a common trope in storytelling.

    In a world of chaos and violence, there are violent outlaws and tyrants. Against them, the good guys must also use violence. It’s a world of fight fire with fire.

    But when the good fire destroys the bad fire, the good fire too must be extinguished in a world of peace.

    SHANE is about such sacrifice. it’s about a man who lives by the gun. He has conscience and fights bad guys, but rule of gun is still rule of gun. And in order for there to be real peace and order, there must be rule of law and morality, not by guns.

    Same thing in MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE. John Wayne as tough guy with gun is instrumental in taming the West by taking out Valance. But his kind must also make way for the men with the law. He even gives up his girl. And Ethan Edwards in THE SEARCHERS must fade away with the Indians, his mortal enemies. Though he fought Indians, he too is a man of violence and aggression. The West needed someone like him to fight Indians, but once Indians are gone, he must go too.
    Same theme at the end of SEVEN SAMURAI. After the battle is won, it’s a world of farmers, not of warriors.

    So, it is less about ‘white genocide’ than ‘hero genocide’ or ‘warrior genocide’.

    Warriors are necessary in war.. but when the war is won, they must hand in their guns and return to plowshares. And that may be the toughest thing. In war, men may die but they can be men. In peace, there are no heroes. Just salary men. Consider the difficulty of returning to peace in BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. Graveyard of the warrior.

  • “I’ll be back”.

    McCarthur: “I shall return”.

    There’s a scene in LOST IN AMERICA where Albert Brooks is pulled over by a cop. Cop is about to give them a ticket but Julie Haggerty mentions EASY RIDER. The cop says he got into motorcycles because of the movie. So, one bunch of counterculture boomers became yuppies, and another bunch of counterculture boomers because lawmen.

    80s cinema made by boomers show that strange dichotomy. These movie brats had counter-culture as their formative period. And the 70s were all about being ‘authentic’ and ‘personal’, with movies like Last Tango in Paris and Last Detail and French Connection.
    But with some exceptions like Martin Scorsese, most movie brats found footing not in personal art-film-making but with New Genre that refurbished the Old Hollywood genres. RAIDERS is Hollywood matinee serials done large.

    Also, as these boomer movie brats gained power and prestige, they got less interested in counterculture themes and more involved with Power for power’s sake. They loved fascist imagery of power. But since fascist politics was anathema, their work became stylistically fascist but thematically anti-fascist. Like Robocop. But then, as they say, form is content. When you show fascist imagery as cool, it becomes attractive… as with Darth Vader and the Empire.

    Furthermore, most movie brats were different from your average counter-culture boomer who was more into radical politics and rock music. Movie brats preferred John Ford and Howard Hawks to Mick Jagger and Abbie Hoffman. So, even as their politics were liberal, their cultural references and tastes were often conservative.

  • It’s not so much that Sarah and Reese are meant to ‘Jewish’. Rather, it’s gentiles appropriating Jewish tragic tropes for their own victim-heroic fantasy.

    Milius did the same with RED DAWN where, ironically, white Americans are made to appropriate the Viet Cong resistance. Americans, who played role of great imperial power in Vietnam, get to play the guerrilla underdog.

    It’s a kind of Victim Envy. America and whites have been powerful for too long, so they don’t have much victimhood points. Indians were once seen as threatening savages but easily defeated. And Japan did Pearl Harbor but American ‘victims’ totally crushed Japan in no time.

    So, white Americans feel victim-fantasy through science fiction. There, machines are the Nazis and whites are the ‘Jews’. And in paranoid fantasy of Red Dawn, whites get to play Viet Cong.

  • Speaking of Terminator, if you replace “Terminator” with “leftists/anti whites” it will wake most whites up. “it can’t feel pity, remose or fear or be bargained with. It will not stop ever until you are dead”

  • I think Linda Hamilton’s transformation for T2 was amazing. Cameron has a great ability to develop believable and competent female heroes. I think it might even be my favourite female performance of all time.

    Comparable to the transformation the likes of Bale and Hardy regularly go through.

  • Are we ever going to see a downloadable archive of al the old Radix podcasts? I was looking for the Dune podcast with Richard, Greg Johnson, and John Morgan, and could not find it online anywhere.

  • I don’t think you mentioned the rather obvious James Cameron – John Connor – Jesus Christ = Saviour of Humanity angle, with Sarah Conor as the Virgin Mary. Skynet is Herod! I agree the Terminator uses some Fascistic imagery, notably in the arrival scene, and Arnie is himself the son of an Austrian SS Captain – you can hardly cast Arnie without things feeling a bit Nazi.

    • It is indeed obvious. I feel certain it was mentioned at some point. Perhaps in the first podcast setting this up. I haven’t had a chance to listen so perhaps it was omitted. In any case, it is the assumption throughout the analysis.

      Likewise it is mentioned in an old article on Nolan I wrote three years ago – scroll to the discussion of Interstellar:

      To your earlier point about Reese, not necessarily being a Jewish figure…well if he becomes Joseph in the tale, or even the Jewish God by actually impregnating Sarah, it would seem to follow that he is a Jewish figure and certainly in contrast to the Terminator, who certainly appears to be a caricature of a “godless” Aryan.

      As to Cameron’s intention, I am sure he intended the Christian allusions. Likewise I am certain he understands that Christ is/was Jewish, and Christianity developed as a branch of Judaism, even if, ostensibly, a radically dissenting one, that is deracinated and universalistic in approach. His inclusion of the ultimately virtuous black scientist in the sequel seems suggestive of this understanding.

      As to why he makes the inventing scientist black, outside of a desire for racial diversity in the cast, may even be suggestive of the “subversive” notion that blacks too may develop the “technology” of racism or “identity politics” if not mollified by Christianity. Though I have no strong support for the latter argument as far as the director’s intention can be discerned. Again, it was just as, if not more, likely a simple effort to include more “diversity.”

      • I think the chintzy ‘black scientist’ casting in the sequel was just first wave Political Correctness. The first film is far more interesting IMO. There aren’t many directors who maintain the genius of their early work – George Lucas, Ridley Scott are a couple more examples from the SF genre who have clearly declined. Not sure about Paul Verhoeven, he likes to layer the sarcasm & allusions on so thick – I’m about the only person who thought Showgirls was a brilliant take on Frazer’s The Golden Bough, and the complete inversion of having the black female fan brutally raped in hotel room by a middle aged white Country & Western singer such an obvious inversion of what actually happens (typically, naive white girl raped by black celebrity thug) that it just had to be deliberate.

        Anyway, I do always enjoy your podcasts.

        And sure, if Christianity is Jewish, then Kyle Reese is necessarily Jewish too – but so is a big chunk of our three-pillar Roman/Classical-Germanic-Christian Western Civilisation.

        • True. Though some would argue one of those is a tunnel under the structure and not a pillar. Something we shall not get into. 🙂

          Showgirls…wow. The reviews were so bad, and myself such an intolerant film goer, it’s not something I had considered watching for a moment. But, maybe, one day…

          Appreciate the kind words. Thanks for listening.

          • Showgirls – read up on the Golden Bough myth, then watch the film with it in mind. It was blindingly obvious to me, the whole Nomi character, the Diana/Goddess thing, the endless cycle (where she topples the previous lead & takes her place, just as the escaped slave must murder the previous guardian of the sacred shrine & take his place, until one day a new arrival shall come for *him*) – but I guess most people only saw the tits. 🙂

          • Since it’s a distinctly pagan (in this case Classical Greek) narrative, you may find it particularly interesting. 🙂

          • I think this refers to Michael Biehn. He’s certainly excellent in The Terminator.

          • Sorry, wasn’t clear. I meant the actor who played Miles Dyson. I thought he was genuinely great in T2.

            And yes, Biehn is a fantastic action lead.

        • I really enjoy your comments Simon. You should consider writing longer form and contributing. This site could do with a cultural Sunday supplement.

    • What’s the fascistic imagery in the arrival scene BTW? I always thought the aesthetic was lifted whole cloth from Blake’s The Ancient of Days?

      • Just what they discussed in the podcast – Arnie arriving in a thunderbolt, kneeling like a Greek god.

        I think there’s definitely an Arnie as Zeus, Kyle Reese as Prometheus angle there. Reese is the one who has to sacrifice himself to save mankind. Unlike Jesus, John Connor has to survive, not get himself killed (obviously I am ignoring crappy sequels umpteen years later).

        • Got it. I always thought that the Blake reference was a nod to the interchangeability of the Terminators with Demi-Gods — which is an interesting conceit for me.

          Although I always associated the story less with Christ and more with the Osiris myth though that could be a stretch.

  • Sorry this is off topic, but really shocking.

    “A group of 43 senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — wants to implement a law that would make it a felony for Americans to support the international boycott against Israel, which was launched in protest of that country’s decades-old occupation of Palestine. The two primary sponsors of the bill are Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland and Republican Rob Portman of Ohio. Perhaps the most shocking aspect is the punishment: Anyone guilty of violating the prohibitions will face a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison.”

  • To be honest, the Christ-bashing is getting old. Richard, didn’t you turn your cheek when you were sucker-punched by antifa on Inauguration Day? I didn’t see you Terminate him. Perhaps the absolute duality of war and peace contained within the Christian God is more multidimensional than a young defector from the faith would like to admit. If your only counterargument to Christianity is “muh (((Christianity))),” then perhaps you should reconsider. That said, Godspeed with all the work that you’re doing.

  • I remember the London tube corridors being plastered with “T2” placards. Simply saying “T2”. That left an impression on me because this kind of massive movie promotion was still new in Europe.

    Haven’t been back to London since. They have their own Skynet show going on there.

  • How about looking at the Terminator movies from a more esoteric perspective:

    -Skynet is ZOG enslaving humanity and working us to death in its gulags.
    -The Terminator is a crypto-jewish (((assassin))) who looks Aryan but is really a non-human on the inside, who has no empathy for real people whatsoever. The Terminator is meant to (((deceive and infiltrate))) White society in order to kill the savior of the White race and is able to (((mimic))) the people around him to avoid detection.
    -Sarah Conner is a peasant girl saved from the Terminator by a heroic knight.
    -The jewish psychiatrist wants to keep Reece locked up so the Terminator can kill her.
    -The Terminator keeps coming back no matter how many times you destroy it/kick it out.

    • Since Sarah definitely = The Virgin Mary, John Connor = Jesus Christ, this actually makes some sense. 🙂

    • It’s completely unlikely but looking at the Silberman — typical rationalist who uses his ‘reason’ to deny the obvious evidence in front of him and imprison Sarah (notice how Silberman toys with Sarah in T2 dangling the possibility of seeing John before sociopathically ripping it away?) — character and Burke the avaricious, manipulative and deceptive corporate man in Aliens I always liked to entertain the idea that Cameron ‘knew’ things.

    • Yes. This is much more healthy way looking at it. I could not listen the whole podcast as it felt somehow so forced.

  • How about looking at the Terminator movies from a more esoteric perspective:

    -Skynet is ZOG enslaving humanity and working us to death in its gulags.
    -The Terminator is a crypto-jew who looks Aryan but is really a non-human on the inside, who has no empathy for real people whatsoever. The Terminator is meant to (((deceive and infiltrate))) White society in order to kill the savior of the White race and is able to (((mimic))) the people around him to avoid detection.
    -Sarah Conner is a peasant girl saved from the jewish assassin by a heroic knight.
    -The jewish psychiatrist wants to keep Reece locked up so the jewish assassin can kill her.

  • I don’t see how Reese as the scrappy underdog makes him Jewish. There are enormous numbers of Jewish and Jewish-type characters in Hollywood films, including action heroes; this is about the least plausible. Indiana Jones for instance seems to have far more Jewish tropes.

    • The only deviation is that Indiana Jones does not fuck his infatuated Shiksa students.

    • True. To be fair, Brahmin is brilliant at deconstructing Jewish types in films directed by or created by Jews (A.I., No Country for Old Men, X-Men, Saving Private Ryan, Ant-Man, etc.). He’s a brilliant film critic, but I’m not sure he’s fully fleshed out his views on European and American narratives (perhaps he admitted this in the first episode of “Unconscious Cinema”). I enjoy listening to Brahmin and Spencer’s ideas on film, but I’m not sure I subscribe to their Jewish typology of Gentile films.

      • Yes, I agree. There’s so much clearly very Jewish stuff in Hollywood cinema – arguably the majority of the output – it seems strange to go looking for it in such marginal cases. It’s probably more interesting to point out non-Jewish directors & characters, and how their work differs. Hollywood stereotypes of blond Nazi-esque male villains are practically universal at this point. Jewish cinema is hardly universally hostile to non-Jewish America per se – Spielberg for instance often seems to show some affection for it – but if you want to focus on the more hate-filled stuff there is such a vast archive to draw on, right there on the surface. You don’t need to go digging.

  • About damn time 😉 Looking forward to listening to this. It’s nice to hear discussions on other matters outside of depressing current events all the time.

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