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Romanticizing the Past: Sheriff Bell's Internal Conflict

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

The DeLorean

The way I see it, if you're going to build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some style!

With the ever growing complexity of this world, it is often that one may find themselves infatuated with the idea of experiencing their days in a past lifetime. Regardless of which decade suits your fancy, you’ve probably thought to yourself, “Man it would be cool to live way back when…” I’m guilty of it, and so is about 90% of the population. I blame Hollywood! Many films from back in the day are often void of any social awareness, and movies today often paint a romanticized caricature of what reality was actually like in years past. With an outside view, it can be easy to make false judgements that skew the opinions one has on a previous time period.

It is common that kids today will speak negatively on the current state of our society, and quite honestly the way things are heading, their opinions may hold some weight. However, the majority of these arguments are often held at a surface level, and do not seem to provoke any actual reason as to why previous eras had it any easier.


“I hate the 21st century. I hate smartphones and making stupid people famous. And I H.A.T.E. Taylor Swift. She can't even sing! I wish I lived when times were simple, when things were E-Z.” I hate Taylor Swift too, don’t sweat it. But alright, you’ve piqued my interest. Let’s hop in my DeLorean and take a quick journey back in time just a few generations.

It’s easy to look at the past with the rose tinted lenses of your Ray-Ban Wayfarers. The movies, the music, and the stories of our country’s “golden age” lead people to think everything was peaches & cream before the days of the internet. But those who were flapping away during the roaring 20's were the same people begging, scrounging, and surviving their way through the heart of the Great Depression at end of the decade. Those who were dancing the jailhouse rock and driving the flashy cars of the 1950's were existing in a time of generational oppression and heinous acts of racism. Still not convinced?

Alright, let's see. Does this puppy have hyperdrive? Found it.

Those preaching peace, love, and Rock n Roll in the late 1960’s and early 70’s were the same kids being shipped off to fight a war in Vietnam that they didn’t understand. And those wearing the bright colors and dancing to the hip music of the 1980's were the same folks that had the ever so casual fear of Nuclear Warfare with the Soviet Union. Need I continue? Here is some food for thought. Along with the aesthetic of each era you find interest in, comes its own unique list of societal complications. Find me an example of an era without these kinds of issues and I'm all ears. You won't catch me holding my breath though.

The carefree livin' of 1950's America!

Peril in West Texas

As I so bitterly stated earlier, most films today that take place in the past commonly portray their eras in a “Hollywood-ized” nature. (I understand that may have been a bit extreme, I do love these films. Don’t crucify me please.) Despite this, no modern movie may be more paradoxical than No Country For Old Men. For those of you that have yet to see the movie, I will try my hardest not to spoil the plot. That being said, do yourself a favor and add this to your Netflix queue. It belongs on everyone's cinema bucket list. Just from a sheer viewership standpoint, I don’t believe I’ve ever been glued to the edge of my seat more than I was the first time I watched this masterpiece.

Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, Llewelyn Moss, and Anton Chigurh

The 2007 “Neo-Western Crime Thriller” takes place in rural western Texas in the year 1980. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell is the head honcho of a small desert town where not much is coming, and not much is going. That is, until the mess arrives. Ed Tom recalls his father was a lawman, just like him. His father’s father too. Bell even goes on to say some of the old towns in the area were so slow, the sheriffs never even wore a gun. As bell sits comfy in the police station, Llewelyn Moss, a local hunter comes across a drug deal gone wrong in the desert. Moss discovers an array of dead bodies, weapons, a truck load of heroin, and a brief case overflowing with money. Naturally, the man who lives in a trailer park takes the money in an attempt to change his life. The men who were in charge of the drug deal hire a hitman named Anton Chigurh, a homicidal psychopath, to retrieve their money and locate Moss.

"Well, it's a mess ain't it Sheriff?" "If it ain't, it'll do 'til the mess gets here."

Absolute chaos ensues and sparks a chase across the state of Texas, and it’s all happening on Sheriff Bell’s watch. The events are soomething both the area and the man has never seen the likes of. Moss is chasing financial freedom, Chigurh is chasing Moss, and Bell is chasing them both. By the end of the whirlwind that is this movie, you’re left wondering what in the blazes just happened.

So is Sheriff Ed Tom Bell.

Envious of the simple times of his father and grandfather, Bell sets out to ease his mind by talking to his cousin Ellis at the end of the film. Ellis too was a former lawman. Shocker. But Ellis had to retire as he was shot and paralyzed from the waist down while on the job. Cousin Ellis has caught wind from Ed Tom’s wife that he has decided to quit the law and retire as well. As Ellis asks why, Bell regretfully responds that he feels overmatched due to events of the film. Ellis tells stories from the past and ultimately lets the naive Ed Tom in on a well known secret. With a stern voice and stone like glare, Ellis assures Bell that what he has on his plate is nothing new. Not even close. Violence is as old as time, and regardless of when or where Bell is, it is bound to find him. For Bell to believe his father or his grandfather had it any easier in the past is foolish. This world has just as much bad as it has good, if not more. You can’t stop what is coming. Life halts for no man, and to think that it does is undeserved arrogance.

Welcome Back Home (aka 2021)

As we wrap up our journey through time I have a sudden urge to let you in on my own well known secret. Consider me your own personal Cousin Ellis, just with better hair. Cousin Dave, if you will. Okay. I’m about to be mind numbingly honest. Ready? I do NOT have the answers on how to fix the problems we face in our society today. Who in their right mind is looking to a 23 year old for answers anyway? The problems within our society are just as natural as the blessings. Searching for a life that is void of issues and problems is not just unrealistic, it is vanity. that goes for every time period in history.

I totally understand the distaste with the way our society is sitting today. I also understand the desire to experience what life was like for those in the past. As a kid that was in love with history, there were so many pivotal moments I wanted to see with my own two eyes. Neil Armstrong taking the first steps on the Moon, the birth of Rock n Roll, Babe Ruth playing in Old Yankee Stadium, the list is endless. But romanticizing the past without acknowledging the struggles of the time is selfish. Longing for a past lifetime in order to escape the problems in the modern world, will lead to a new set of issues in the old world. One thing that cannot be understated, is that to simply wish your existence into another time without consideration of the consequences of that era is ignorance in it's purest form. But hey, I guess that's why they say ignorance is bliss.

You can't tell me this shot doesn't make you want to watch this movie. C'mon.

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