Airstreams in the movies

Up in the northeast, where I am from, it’s a modern tradition to pass much of the long cold nights surrounding Christmas by watching movies.  Heart-warming tale after tale eventually anesthetizes you sufficiently that you don’t notice that it’s dark 16 hours out of 24, and thus you survive a period where there is otherwise not much to do.

But my Christmas week is somewhat different, because I am working on an article for a future issue of Airstream Life, about “Airstreams in the movies.”  Instead of cheer, I am watching horror, and bad horror at that.  Instead of hearing saccharine songs of happy reindeer and Christmas miracles, I am listening to gruesomely bad musical themes (generally written by the writer/producer/director’s cousin).  No upbeat characters and plots here; instead, Airstreams seem to be most often featured in gory slasher flicks, spoofs, and satires of human oddities.

I’m talking about movies like “Mars Attacks,” and “Eight Legged Freaks” — and those were two of the better movies.  Most of the rest are just plain bad. Spend an afternoon watching “Evil Alien Conquerors” and “Idle Hands” and you’ll know what it means to have your brain cells nullified, one scoop at a time.

Perhaps the worst part of the process was today, when I discovered that (despite tips to the contrary), the Wes Craven horror pic “The Hills Have Eyes,” does in fact NOT feature an Airstream.  The hapless family eaten by mutant rednecks are staying in an ugly corrugated Shasta trailer.  I had to skim through the entire movie to discover that an Airstream was not going to appear.

motorhome-massacre5.pngWhy is it that Airstreams most commonly show up in horror movies?  Perhaps because they are cheap props.  “Motor Home Massacre,” for example, features a customized Argosy motorhome that was virtually the only set in the entire flick. Just add a few bimbos with huge implants, some stereotypical rednecks, and a few knives, and voila!  instant movie success thanks to an eager audience of teen boys.

Rather unfairly, Airstreams also show up in movies regularly whenever a connotation of “yokel” or “trailer trash” needs to be made.  This is the role in which “Mars Attacks” used them, and they were used to equal effect in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “Legally Blonde,” and “Raising Arizona.”  Is it a compliment that movie directors so often choose Airstreams to depict the wide world of travel trailers, or an insult?

Fortunately, there are times that the Airstreams get star treatment, as the preferred choice of movie actors.  In both “Simone” and the animated movie “Bolt,” Airstreams are used as star’s trailers in the backlot — which happens to be a slice of realty.  Movie stars really do like Airstreams, and many many famous names you’ve heard have owned them.  So the scene is not all bad, but there’s no denying there’s a distinctly unfavorable tinge about the way Hollywood has treated the world’s most famous and long-lasting travel trailer.

I have a rough list of about 55 movies that theoretically feature Airstreams.  There is no way I’m going to watch them all.  Most of them are bad, and I need to retain at least some of my brain for future employment. But I will watch or skim at least a dozen of them for purposes of research.  Tonight, for example, the movie will be “Space Cowboys,” a ridiculous premise involving a group of over-the-hill test pilots who get NASA to put them on one last crucial Earth-saving mission.

Coming up:  “Quicksilver Highway,” “Beyond The Sea,” “Baghdad Cafe,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Air Bud: 7th Inning Stretch,” and “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.”  So you can see that the life of an Editor is not all glamorous (not that you thought that anyway).  If you’d like to spare me further pain, do me a favor:  put in a comment here, naming movies that I should see, or those that I should be careful to avoid.  The brain cells you may save thank you in advance.

About the Author

Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine