Finding five ‘obstructionist bureaucrats’ proved too difficult a task in class yesterday for my second one archetype five films in five seconds video assignment. Also the keeping it to five seconds has been next to impossible. I think Kat’s Five High School Bullies is the best really short one I’ve seen. But I don’t think the exact length matters so much as long as you do your best to use the minimum amount for each clip.
The bureaucrat is a pretty interesting character type in films as you need the person who’s not really a villain, yet is constantly getting in the way of the protagonist(s). And they are really hard to search for too! It’s not a particularly popular archetype, as I was only able to find a few examples on the TV Tropes website (I actually didn’t see the examples at the bottom of the page until I was finished, I discovered two they listed but will have to edit the page and add my three.)
Here’s the list in order:
Ghostbusters (William Atherton as Walter Peck) He forces the shutdown of the ghost containment unit at the Ghostbuster’s firehouse wreaking havoc on the city as thousands of ghosts are freed at once. There’s a great subsequent scene in the film in which Dan Akroyd calls him ‘dickless’ for shutting down the system. The mayor asks Bill Murray if this is true, to which he responds, ‘Yes it’s true, this man has no dick.’
The Incredibles (Wallace Shawn as Gilbert Huph) The diminutive boss of the Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) realizes that Parr is helping insurance claimants navigate the bureaucracy, and is ‘not happy.’ Later in the scene Parr tosses his boss through five walls for not allowing him to rescue a mugging victim they both observe through the office window.
Rambo: First Blood Part II (Charles Napier as Murdock) Rambo was supposed to only document whether American POWs are alive in Vietnam, but disobeys the bureaucratic order from Murdock to not rescue them. After fighting his way out of camp with one POW and reaching the extraction point, rescue helicopter hovering overhead – Murdock kills the mission leaving Rambo to be captured. Later while in captivity, Rambo is tortured into admitting crimes via radio broadcast to Murdock – instead Rambo indignantly utters while clenching the microphone, ‘I’m coming after you Murdock, I’m coming after you.’
Die Hard 2 (Dennis Franz as Captain Carmine Lorenzo) As the head of police of an airport, Lorenzo epitomizes the obstructionist bureaucrat again and again bringing John McClane’s efforts to go after the bad guys to a standstill. McClane finally convinces Lorenzo after shooting him with machine gun – filled with blanks.
Jaws (Murray Hamilton as the mayor of Amity Island) A mayor can’t help but be a bureaucrat, it’s the nature of the job I guess. But allowing a few of your citizens to continue to be eaten by a great white shark is political suicide!
What’s been interesting about this assignment was how it revealed archetypes are often employed in similar ways across movies. The obstructionist bureaucrat was consistently condescending, dismissing the knowledge of the protagonists. And despite having a position of power, the bureaucrat always must eventually be publicly exposed and/or humiliated. If only that could happen in real life – trips to the DMV would be so much shorter and our license pictures would be prettier.