Welcome to Nebraska. Serving Repression & Corn Chowder All Year-Round!Well, now I know why I'm so afraid of cornfields... and kids... and Cousin Itt...
As much fun as this film is to watch, it is pretty restrictive in its reactionary ideology. While the children of Gatlin are portrayed as a cult-community, preaching a dangerous belief system that demands human sacrifice, the film is not anti-religious. In fact, when Bert and Vicky arrive, Bert’s desire to get to the bottom of the mysterious town secrets is inherently linked to his privileged position as a status-quo guy. Notably, he takes immediate interest in converting them to Christianity. At the sight of their hand-made corn-cross, an obvious religious symbol and sacred object, Bert deems it “primitive folk art”. Granted, he may not go so far as to try to become their new leader, but he does attempt a heart-felt speech, stating that any religion that is not about love cannot be a religion. He begs of them to use their ability to reason in order to see things his way.
His Christian values are, however, challenged by his own lifestyle. A doctor, a man of science, and a man who refuses to commit to the woman he shares a bed with. Yet, he is simply unwilling to accept that some middle-of-nowhere town would have the audacity to rewrite his bible. I would like to say he should get off his own high-horse but, WOW, those Gatlin kids are really disturbing! (Especially Isaac. Fun fact, John Franklin went on to portray Cousin Itt, twice)
Presenting the community as religious nuts is a little problematic, but by the end the film fully reinforces traditional values by having Bert and Vicky walk off into the sunset (so to speak) with their new children. They can be a ‘proper’ family now. Bert even finally says “I love you”. So, despite revealing the dangers of religious righteousness, the film is not progressive. I can live with that. But is there something to be said for the fact that the kids successfully kill their parents?
In most non-progressive films, by the time the evil is subdued, the only people who have succumbed to their wrath are those that can be found “deserving”, like the poor promiscuous teens in every slasher film, ever. But here, all the good townsfolk die... even the old cooky mechanic! Talk about Return of the Repressed! Robin Wood has used Freudian theory on repression to explain that monsters are made up of what our societies most repress. Ranking #8 on his list, Children: “What the previous generation repressed in us, we, in turn, repress in our children, seeking to mold them into replicas of ourselves”. But the Children of the Corn, though defeated in the end, managed to execute their hostile revenge, slaughtering all the adults and taking over. The children, if even for a short time, held the power.