27 April 2013

"...maybe it was Utah."

Raising Arizona is one of my favorite films.  I saw it in a theater when it came out in 1987.  It was an early showing and the place was almost empty.  With me were my wife and her best friend, Nancy D.  In parts of the film I was laughing so hard my face was red and I had trouble breathing.  My wife kept elbowing me to quiet down, but I couldn't help myself.

It is full of quirky dialogue and characters. 

"Son, you've got a pantie on your head."

"You never leave a man behind."

"...and if'n I move, I'm gonna be in motion."

"Can I stop now."

It is about a childless couple, one an ex-con and one an ex-cop, who kidnap one quintuplet from the home of a furniture magnate and about all the trouble that ensues. 

I couldn't help noticing, while watching the film, that Hi and Edwina seem to represent Adam and Eve. 

Ed cannot conceive; like Eve before the fall.
Hi's full name is Herbert I. Mcdonnagh: initials HIM.  We never hear Edwina's full name, but I'm betting her maidenly initials would be HER, but the Coen brothers don't get that obvious. I must scrutinize the frames and see if her officer name tag gives a clue.

When we first see the father, Nathan Arizona, he is on TV promoting his stores, and he suddenly walks through a video veil, appearing suddenly, like God, wearing all white.  We find out his real last name is Huffines (sp?), a Jewish name, and the logo for his stores is a lone leafy fruit tree.  Maybe the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? 

When the biker, Smalls, visits Mr. Arizona at his store, he tells him he has flies.  Mr. A tells the biker the building is sealed and climate controlled.  To which Smalls catches a fly out of the air.  Meaning the perfectness of the Garden has been breeched.  There is a fly in the ointment.   The fly represents the McDonnaghs, and Smalls promises to kick their butts.

Edwina is the prime mover in the scheme to get a baby, and like Eve, sets things in motion with Hi abetting.  

The baby, Nathan Junior, is a type of Christ, and everyone seems to want to adopt him and claim him as their own: the biker, Hi's boss, Glenn, the two Snopes brothers and Hi and Ed.  This is like all the Christian religions of the world.  Glenn and Dot's kids are all named after Old Testament Prophets, and they are looking for a new one.

Nathan Jr. is the golden boy, as a toddler; he never cries or whines.  In fact, everyone else, all the adults except Smalls, in the film cries except him.  And at the end of the film, in Hi's vision of the future we see a grown-up Nathan Jr. as number one on a college football team scoring touchdowns effortlessly almost miraculously.

And then there is Hi and Smalls.  They seem to be alter-egos.  They both have the same "Thrush" bird tattoo.  And Hi believes he has awakened the dangerous biker from  his unconciousness to reality. 

You can certainly enjoy the movie without considering all this symbolism.  But it is there, none-the-less.

There are some wonderful performances from the actors, early in their careers: Cage, Hunter, Goodman, Forsythe, McDormand.  Tex Cobb and Trey Wilson, also shine.

I bid you see it.



  1. And what does the tattoo represent? Or is that just supposed to link the alter egos?

  2. It's a white trash motorhead kind of tattoo. It was the logo for Clay Smith Cams and was called "Mr. Horsepower". It was later adopted by the Thrush muffler company. Supposedly, it is not a woodpecker or a roadrunner. It doesn't look anything like a thrush type bird, though. What does it mean in the movie? I don't know. It seems to suggest that the two men, Hi and Smalls are linked somehow. Brothers maybe. It has been suggested that Smalls is Hi's father, because of the similar scenes where Hi drags the baby from underneath the crib, and Smalls drags Hi from underneath a parked car. But I reject that interpretation because Smalls isn't old enough. Best guess? They are just alter egos.

  3. Wow, so Raising Arizona is all allegory of Adam and Eve. Perhaps The Goonies is a retelling of the Exodus account of the Hebraic exodus from Egypt. I dare you prove it!