May 052012

Perhaps one of the most interesting things about Falling Down is the audience response. Of course many films have developed cult followings; there’s nothing odd about that. But Falling Down is different, for several reasons. For one thing, most films that have enduring, cult, or even widespread audience resonance are genre films such as horror, action, or science fiction. By contrast, Falling Down is a mainstream drama / thriller / satire that doesn’t even have a clear hero (or anti-hero). Its message and moral is murky and nuanced—hardly the stuff of mainstream success.

Furthermore most films with a strong audience or cult reaction have been carefully cultivated, commercialized, merchandised, and licensed by the movie studios as part of their marketing campaigns (there’s no shortage of Batman or Freddy Krueger figurines and memorabilia, for example). Fans of those films are no less genuine, of course, but Falling Down enjoys a strong, multi-cultural, and truly grassroots resonance. The film was never intended to launch sequels (nor a video game franchise), nor sell toys and T-shirts. Because there was no effort by Warner Bros. to create a money-generating fan base, people who loved the film were inspired to create their own artwork and expressions of devotion. Here are some examples of fan-created art from Falling Down.

One t-shirt is explicit about the creator’s view of the D-Fens character: he’s an “American Hero.”

Another shirt design offers a more ambiguous phrase that emphasizes the character’s power and might: “An Army of One”:

This was actually a well-known recruiting slogan used by the United States Army between 2001 and 2006. Other shirts merely used an image from the film or poster.

One artist who goes by the name Gigantic created a series of spray-painted LP records, including one featuring a black-and-white semi-silhouette of D-Fens on the film poster, with blood-red spatters:

Then there are the figures and models. One is a simple arm-articulated action figure that has been modified and painted to look like Bill Foster:

Though the likeness (with the tie, buzz cut, and glasses) is crude, it’s still a remarkable achievement for what is essentially a custom-created piece.

The most impressive piece by far is the D-Fens figure created by sculptor Joe Bailey for the U.K.–based company Killer Kits, standing 12 inches tall including the base. All the pieces were custom sculpted and created, including the wire-rimmed glasses, the briefcase, and gun. The base has an inscription on the front reading, “I’m not economically viable,” and a Monopoly board theme on the top, with small relief depictions of various items seen in the film, including the D-FENS license plate, the gangster’s butterfly knife, a gun, and a golf ball and club.
It’s a very clever piece, combining the risk-taking, money-losing theme of the Monopoly game with the main character’s journey—not only through Los Angeles on the day the film takes place but also through life.

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