A Political Reading of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”: An Allegory for Oil Capitalism?
The allegory of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre unless considered before watching the film itself, might seem to be a stretch, however upon reading Chuck Jackson’s article “Blood for Oil” prior to screening the film, this metaphor is certainly not without definite merit. Although the United States is a vast and diverse country, Texas has always remained as the sort of centre of the “freedom loving American” ideology, and has withstood the test of time despite the many conflicting points of evidence when comparing the reality to the mythology of this notion. Texas, a state steeped in ranching, petroleum and low state taxes is the libertarian, “afraid of big government” uncle of the United States family unit and evokes imagery of wide open spaces, big blue sky and old ranch houses, where muscular men work in the fields and put in a full day of hard physical labor for a fair pay. However, what happens when the oil economy crashes and the very framework that this state relentlessly banks its existence on takes a dive? As Chuck Jackson says, “Bodies are killed and tortured. The flow of capital stagnates and, in the film’s Gothic schema, its value gets transferred to other kinds of fluid forms: blood, urine, tears, automotive traffic, news media, and, in one two-shot sequence, fuel” (Jackson, 48).
Under a system where a day without income coming in from the local toil means fighting for scraps to survive, how easy could it be to make it through the next day of paying medical bills and putting food on the table? This is especially true when considering the inhabitants of the setting of the film in rural Texas, those highly specialized blue collar workers living many miles and hours away from the nearest major cities where employment means putting on a white collared shirt and suit pants? How would they even get there without fuel? Are they going to hop onto a state owned train system, funded by locals taxes, in order to get to a centre of commerce and better opportunities? Or, instead, under the very original notion of the founding of the United States, are they going to buckle up their bootstraps and “get to work”, however dirty it may be? (Truscello, 7). As shown in the events of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this romanticized ideal of doing the dirty work and what needs to be done to make the money to pay your electricity bills gives way to the grotesque horrors of the Sawyer family. If the American dream means having the ultimate freedom to live your life your way in order to make something of yourself, which really means something as basic as surviving, violence and terror would likely emerge from some of the most economically disadvantaged pockets of the country. Would the results be as horrific as they are in the film, showing the effects of a worldwide oil crisis on a region that depends on those revenues the most? You wouldn’t imagine it would possibly be, however the opening credits reading “inspired by a true story” are sure to make any person on either side of the political spectrum shiver after taking in the full length of the film and its gruesome events.