Director Tate Taylor has made a name for himself with the struggles of 1960s-era African-Americans. First came The Help, in which a black Southern maid persevered against all odds to net Taylor a bajillion awards nominations. Now comes Get On Up, in which a black Southern James Brown will persevere against similar odds, with Taylor standing just out of sight with arms outstretched (in anticipation of a new armful of statuettes).
The director’s newest project, which has just been announced through The Hollywood Reporter, is more of the same. Only, swap out “black people” for “astronauts,” and “persevere” for “die horribly.” The film is called In the Event of a Moon Disaster and is based on a Black List screenplay by Mike Jones, about a completely factual 1969 speech written for then-president Richard Nixon. The speech was Nixon’s fallback if the Apollo 11 mission (you know, the one where man first walked on the moon) was to horribly backfire- in the event of a moon disaster (hence the title), Nixon had a memorial speech to read on live TV.
The film will follow all these same events, with one slight difference. In Moon Disaster, the mission will fail, and Nixon will need to memorialize our fallen space heroes with his fun historical footnote of a speech.
Neat, right? Well, what’s neater is that Moon Disaster might give us, for the first time ever, a fictional Richard Nixon who’s not a pure black hole of evil. Because Moon Disaster’s Nixon kinda sounds like a semi-decent guy caught amidst a horrible tragedy. And all other alternate universe Nixons have been Emporer Palpatine with an increase of jowl.
Allow me to demonstrate:
Evil Acts: Putting his face on a dollar coin, creating the “Nixon Parkway.”
Evilness Rating: 2. Yeah, not particularly menacing, but the Nixon of Fringe has a more subtle, implied evil. What did he do, exactly, to get on that dollar coin and parkway? Something nefarious, no doubt. Also, this Nixon bumped Susan B. Anthony off her coin, which is probably uncool (especially considering that spearheading the campaign for women’s voting is probably more coin-worthy than cover-up-ing your way into a resignation.
X-Men: Days of Future Past
Evil Acts: Giving the go-ahead for the eventual destruction of all mankind.
Evilness Rating: 5. Technically, yes, Nixon did approve the Sentinel Program, and a mutant Rube Goldberg series of events (assassination + mutant capture + Sentinel experimenting) left Earth with an army of superbots bent on destroying all mutant life as we know it. But this Nixon didn’t really know he was thumbs up-ing mass genocide, so we’ll give him a pass.
Evil Acts: Blasting Vietnam to smithereens, secretly executing Woodward and Bernstein, repealling the 22nd Amendment so he can serve five consecutive terms.
Evilness Rating: 9. This particular Nixon is so not cool. Sending in the god-man wunderkind Dr. Manhattan to firebomb the Viet Cong into surrendering could potentially be justifiable (if you viewed it in the same vein as “Nagasaki/Hiroshima; Massive Casualties Now, No Casualties in the Future”). But killing those who oppose you and altering the foundation of Presidential rulebook to rule forever is textbook evil dictator behavior.
Back to the Future Part II
Evil Acts: Basically the same as Watchmen, but add “prolonging the Vietnam War by at least a decade” in the place of “blasting Vietnam to smithereens.”
Evilness Rating: 8. Watchmen and Back to the Future Part II’s Nixons are super similar (intentional homage? Freak coincidence? The world may never know), but because BttF never had any giant naked blue god-like beings, there was really no way to obliterate most of Vietnam. Also, because Back to the Future has a much more family-friendly vibe than Watchmen, we’ll go ahead and subtract an evilness point.
Evil Acts: Conspiring to secretly shrink the penis of every African-American man in the United States.
Evilness Rating: 8. Trying to mess with anyone’s junk in secret is a big no-no (never mind the junk of millions), but this Nixon narrowly escapes a perfect 10 with his display of sniveling cowardice after being bested by the heroic Black Dynamite in a battle of kung fu mastery. Also, the preceding sentence is a pretty good reason to see Black Dynamite, if you haven’t already.
Evil Acts: Ruling the Earth with an actual iron fist (giant robot body); embarking on a campaign of mass destruction throughout the galaxy.
Evilness Rating: 10. The Futurama Nixon is a bad dude all around. He’ll use a legal loophole to get himself elected president past the usual term limits (a la Watchmen), but will then one-up that evil act by becoming a giant robot and destroying the White House just for the fun. Keep your hands away from his face- he bites.
Fictional Nixons do not have a strong track record. But maybe In the Event of a Moon Disaster could finally give the world a fan-fiction Nixon that actually does at least one good deed. Or, more likely, he’ll be one the orchestrating Neil Armstrong’s death behind the scenes.