Field of Dreams is a very good movie. There is one scene in it that is not very good. It is the scene where Ray and Annie attend a PTA meeting about banning Terence Mann’s books (yes, one R) and an otherwise heartfelt, earnest movie becomes somewhat cartoonish and self-righteous. Among the scene’s faults: broad, stereotypical portraits of small town folks, invoking Godwin’s law, and acting as if ‘the sixties’ were a unified experience where every single person in America did the exact same things (which according to Hollywood is marching on Washington, going to Woodstock, and playing “All Along The Watchtower” during your life’s dramatic events.)
There is however one thing that this scene has going for it, and this is the guy playing the husband of Beulah, the woman who is leading the book banning crusade. While other citizens stand up and shout out their own viewpoints, this gentleman has no lines. He mostly alternates between applauding his wife and glowering at Annie. He is an amazingly schlubby, large-faced dude, sporting Match Game glasses and a DIY haircut. One can only imagine how secretly turned on he is watching his wife talk about how Terence Mann stopped writing because he masturbates.
SO ARE YOU READY FOR MY THEORY?
You may not know this if you’ve only watched the movie, but in the novel Shoeless Joe, which Field of Dreams is based on, the Terence Mann character was JD Salinger. The book Beulah is trying to ban, The Boat Rocker, is an obvious stand in for Catcher In The Rye.
Beulah is painted as an enemy of the 60s. As Annie claims, she must have “had two fifties and moved right on into the seventies.” One has to imagine that if she’s against Mann/Salinger, she’s also got to be against other 60s counterculture like Easy Rider, Bob Dylan, and of course… The Beatles.
Hm… A schlubby, large-faced, hideous-glasses wearing guy who hates sixties icons and is obsessed with Catcher In The Rye. Why does that sound familiar…
Clearly, there would be no reason to cast such an odd, distinctive looking guy if there were no meaning behind it. And the meaning, obviously is this: Beulah, though she disparages Ray as “the biggest horse’s ass in three counties” for plowing under his corn, has HERSELF harnessed the magical powers of the Iowa corn belt and built her own magical field. But while Ray’s obsessions with baseball and his failed relationship with his father resulted in the Black Sox and his dad breaking the boundaries of time and space to come to his field, Beulah’s toxic obsessions with the 60s have summoned John Lennon’s killer Mark David Chapman out of prison and into HER backyard!
Beulah must be experimenting with even more dark and unstable forces than Ray is, since her conjured spectres are able to leave her property and accompany her to PTA meetings. It would also explain why her husband never speaks, as he does not wish to draw attention to himself, and why he restrains his enraged ‘wife’ from accepting Annie’s offer to take it outside. Any police involvement would surely result in them spotting one of the most notorious killers in America.
What Beulah’s ultimate goal was by banning Boat Rocker/Catcher is unknown, since her plan was thwarted by Annie’s appeal to reason. But it doesn’t take a genius to see that once she and Chapman had banned Catcher from the local schools, they would easily be able to consolidate all copies in the region, using them to promote its dark message and recruit other unstable individuals to go after other sixties icons. Who knows who might have been the next summoned to her Field of Nightmares? Squeaky Fromme? Sirhan Sirhan? Fortunately, we never had to find out. Too bad, I’d have loved to see Doc Graham wail on this weirdo with his umbrella.
Of course this is all just a wacky theory, because as we all know, Stephen King actually shot John Lennon.