Humboldt County’s chief product, aside from tole painting, is the homeless person. On every corner in every Humboldt city sits (or stands, if they prefer) the wandering poor, pleading for just a little money, food, or mind-altering substance to help them get through another day. Whose heart doesn’t break when such a person is encountered? The homeless and the rest of us share a common problem: homelessness. It’s a problem for them because they don’t have homes. It’s a problem for us because we want them to have homes, or we just want to get them away from ours. No one knows what to do — no one except Hollywood, that is. Lucky for us, they’ve suggested some helpful options for dealing with this escalating issue.
Option 1: Hunt them for sport
(“Hard target”, dir. John Woo: 1993; “surviving the game”, dir. ernest r. dickerson: 1994)
Subsistence hunters won’t like the ideas behind these films, as the would-be killers don’t even plan on eating their prey. Not that you’d want to in real life; your typical homeless person is made up of tough, tendon-filled meat of a rather gamy flavor, covered in a leathery skin that doesn’t allow for adequate barbecuing. However, these movie homeless guys aren’t typical: Ice-T (from “Game”) has a delicate, marbled Wagyu-like flesh with an outer layer of succulent fat that would melt over any prime rib-style roast of his torso, while Jean-Claude Van Damme (from “Target”) is the kind of muscle-bound, ultra-toned and martial arts-trained homeless person you will see exactly zero times in your life. His meat tastes like grass-fed Angus brisket. I mean … so I’ve heard.
But these men are being hunted for the pure fun of it, and that’s where these films make economic sense, as the primary export of harsh financial times is the homeless man. By judiciously thinning the herd, there can be financial opportunities community-wide for the surviving homeless; moreover, the rich hunters’ cash goes to local economies when the hunted homeless who survive long enough enjoy the spoils of the money belt given to them by Lance Henriksen. Everybody wins.
Option 2: Have sex With them
(“midnight cowboy”, dir. john schlesinger: 1969)
One thing you can’t take from a homeless man, unless a hunter has forcibly removed it, is his skin. So why not help him make some money from the stuff? In “Cowboy”, Jon Voight plays the kind of homeless guy most homeless guys dream of: the kind who has sex with people for money, and is clean. Voight isn’t homeless for long, but during that time he finds that his goal of screwing his way to financial security is much less likely to become reality than he had previously hoped. Life is hard sometimes.
But it’s easy to see how his dreams could have come true. If the average Humboldt citizen just sexually propositioned one homeless person a day with enough cash to put him or her up in a fleabag motel for a night or two, this place would be homeless- free in about five days. What homeless man could turn down an offer like that? It would be an ego-booster and a wallet-fattener, and the purchaser would get the satisfaction of knowing she’d just done a little bit to make America a better place. (This option may or may not be acceptable depending on who wins the upcoming district attorney race.)
Option 3: Don’t try to help them, because they’re going to die anyway
(“groundhog day”, dir. harold ramis: 1993)
When Bill Murray’s character first finds that he is stuck reliving the same day again and again, he becomes a hedonist. He eats a lot of donuts. He bangs the town slut. He punches Ned Ryerson in the gut. He also does other things that don’t rhyme.
By the time he realizes that doing everything you want over and over sucks, he turns into a pinko, bleeding-heart liberal and tries to redeem himself by saving the life of an old, sick homeless man. But the man dies on him, day after day, until he is left permanently numb by the futility of his efforts. As a nurse finally tells him, “Sometimes people just die.” Even though Murray finds his way out of the time loop by becoming a genuinely nice person and falling in love with 84-year-old makeup model Andie MacDowell, the filmmakers’ message is clear: There’s no point in lending a helping hand to anyone, ever, because the cold, gaping chasm that is their eternal grave is right around the corner.