MovieChat Forums > The Stand Discussion > Question about Las Vegas scene

Question about Las Vegas scene


When Trash Man is about to blow the bomb, why were Flagg and all of his people suddenly so paralyzed? Why didn't Lloyd just put a merciful bullett in Trash's head? Why didn't Flagg kill him himself? I realize God/Mother Abigail ultimately detonated the bomb anyway, but I found it odd that these killers were suddenly frozen, not knowing what to do. Was it explained more in the book?

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I haven't seen this in awhile, but that is what allegiance to a brutal person or (in this movies case) 'being' can do. People are afraid to take action for fear of making a wrong move and facing the wrath of the dictator. This is seen throughout history, Stalin,Hitler,Mao. The weakness in these states is that independent thought is often lost, people respond to orders only.

Kings ending played in nicely to this quirk of human behavior.

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Like you say, people didn't know what to, and in a lot of cases such as this, they do nothing for fear of doing the wrong thing.

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> When Trash Man is about to blow the bomb,

Trash's intention wasn't to blow up the bomb. He was bringing it to give to Flagg so Flagg could use it as a weapon (presumably against Boulder). The reason he was doing this was to atone for his "sin" against Flagg; in a moment of especially strong madness and confusion, he had destroyed some of the Indian Springs base's planes and killed all of the qualified pilots, leaving Las Vegas with no air force.

Anyway, I think Trash believed (or at least hoped) that Flagg would say "Well done, my faithful servant. Take the bomb now to this storage place (someplace ten miles outside of Vegas), then return here and sit at my side."

> Why didn't Lloyd just put a merciful bullett in Trash's head? Why didn't Flagg kill him himself?

The sensible thing to do would have been for Flagg to say to Trash what I wrote above. The bomb was obviously leaking radiation; one look at Trash told them that. But had they got Trash to take the bomb away immediately, the amount of radiation Flagg, Lloyd, etc were exposed to in that short time wouldn't have hurt them any. Killing Trash wouldn't have accomplished anything, and it might as well be Trash who carries the bomb off; he was already a walking dead man anyway. As I recall dimly, in the book Flagg did say to Lloyd something like "get him to take it away," but I might well be wrong about that.

I think they just panicked.

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Thanks, that actually makes a lot more sense now that you pointed out he didn't intend to blow it up and that it was leaking radiation.

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There are some religions that believe that good and evil can't act DIRECTLY, only influence men/women on their path of life.

I think this is what King was alluding to in the end.

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> [–] Redsfan001 (974) a day ago

"Redsfan001," huh? Maybe I've seen you at the Great American Ballpark? I take a few trips to Cincinnati every year to catch some home games. Nice thing is, since they define a senior citizen as anyone over fifty, I get half-price tickets on their weekly senior citizen days. I usually go for the $80 seats then; right behind home plate, about twenty rows up, great view, only $40 for me. I'm usually the youngest guy in the section then, but so what? ;)

Afraid I won't be doing much of that this year, though. :(

> There are some religions that believe that good and evil can't act DIRECTLY, only influence men/women on their path of life.

I'm not sure what you're getting at here. Flagg didn't (or couldn't?) act directly to try to dispose of the bomb, he instead tried to talk Trash and/or Lloyd into acting. But God sure acted directly when the "hand of God" reached down from the heavens and blew the thing up. Am I missing your point?

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I haven't seen this flick in about 10 years. But what stuck me about this film (also read the book in college) is that the powers of good and evil represented by Mother Abigail and Flagg were more like magnets. Neither side FORCED the individual into their camps, rather tempted them by using dreams or promises of power.

The ending is the only exception of this direct action. Kind of like God saying 'checkmate'.

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> the powers of good and evil represented by Mother Abigail and Flagg were more like magnets. Neither side FORCED the individual into their camps, rather tempted them by using dreams or promises of power.

Ah, gotcha. I was thinking only of the bomb scene and thought you were referring to it specifically; but as far as The Stand as a whole, I agree.

This hits on something about The Stand which I've always considered a grave flaw and a disappointment. King had a wonderful chance to explore this question -- why would sane, basically decent people willing align themselves with evil? -- and he utterly failed, IMO.

I'm not talking about people like Trash, The Kid, etc. I mean people like Jenny Engstrom, Whitney, Barry Dorgan, etc. Seeing the world through Trash's eyes is fun, but I'd like to know why the normal people are in Vegas. Now, I can think of a half dozen or so reasons why such people might go to Flagg's side.

One possible reason is the Miltonic idea of "better to be a prince in hell than a pauper in heaven"; and to be fair, Lloyd's story does approach that idea. But it never gets there, because Lloyd never had a choice (unless starving in a prison cell is considered a viable alternative).

And some would think Americans had their fling with democracy and had blown it -- 99.4% dead! -- and a strong, authoritarian hand was needed, especially now that weirdos like Trash and Rat Man had crawled out from under their respective rocks. And Barry does state that general idea, but it comes off as fearful excuse making (see below) rather than sincere conviction, and hearing him say it isn't the same as getting inside his head, which we never get to do.

I can think of more reasons, but I'm running out of room ...

But we seem to see the same type over and over again; the person who says "he's the biggest and the strongest" but can't quite look you in the eye when saying it. In other words, it all boils down to fear. **Way** too simplistic an explanation.

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I dunno. People have followed evil people, blindly for millennia. If anything, I think it showed that people don't change.

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There was a poster on the IMDb who started a thread on 'Did Anyone Else Respect Flagg?' that said that Flagg's appeal was was one of order out of chaos. Could this be part of the reason for his appeal?

The thread is still around on this site. Take a look and tell me what you think.

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> [In another thread, a poster suggested that] Flagg's appeal was was one of order out of chaos. Could this be part of the reason for his appeal?

Sight unseen, my first reaction is that this might overlap with two ideas of my own, which somewhat overlap with each other. One is the idea I stated above; pre-plague USA had blown is, authoritarianism was necessary now, etc.

Another that I didn't have room to write earlier ... I WISH MOVIECHAT WOULD REMOVE THIS STUPID LIMIT ON POST SIZE! ... is this. I think some might look at the Free Zone, with people bebopping happily doing their own things, the semi-deification of a guru figure, the "love feast" politics, government by committee, etc, and quite calmly and rationally (even if incorrectly) conclude that the Boulderites were going to screw around and end up freezing and/or starving to death.

Now that I think about it, both these are choosing between order and chaos. I guess the difference is whether one views pre-plague America as chaotic or orderly.

I was informed a couple of minutes ago that dinner is ready, and people are waiting for me to sit down and eat with them. I'll find the thread and continue this a little later.

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OK, I'm back. This is going to be long, so I'll have to break it into parts.

To answer that thread's OP's question, no, I didn't respect Flagg or the society he was trying to build. But that's because I have the benefit of some direct knowledge of Flagg's intentions, provided by Stephen King.

This may sound cynical, but I think it's just realistic. Many Americans fancy themselves to be spiritual descendants of Washington, Jefferson, Paul Revere, Nathan Hale, et cetera; ready to take up a rifle, man a post, and stand a watch while shouting "give me liberty or give me death!" should anyone attempt to infringe on their freedoms.

I'd like to think (but am doubtful) that many Americans would do that, should anyone attempt a **sudden and massive** infringement on their rights. But I have no doubt that that most will shrug it off provided the infringements are slowly applied, in small steps, each time presented as "regrettable but necessary," with time allowed between each small infringement for the sheeple to accept it as "the new normal" ... as long as they still have jobs, the electricity is always on, there's beer in the fridge, and fresh Survivor episodes on the tube.

Try to put a full set of chains on a real man and he'll fight. But forge those chains over decades, one link at a time, and he might not even notice aside from sometimes yearning for "the good old days."

Of course the time span of The Stand is much shorter, a few months. But on the other hand, the characters have just experienced the end of the world as we know it, and having suffered such huge psychological traumas, who knows what they might do? How malleable they'd be?

(continued below)

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Now, you said in that thread that the people didn't need Mother Abigail to tell them Flagg was evil, their own dreams told them that. Maybe, maybe not. Sure, we know what Stu dreamed, and IIRC we saw the dreams of one or two of the other Boulderites. But among the Las Vegans? No, we don't know that to be true at all. We saw Trash's dreams, but he's such a whack job he can't be taken as a typical case. And we got some glimpses inside Flagg's head and Lloyd's.

But for all we know, those ordinary, decent, friendly Las Vegans, the ones that made Dayna wonder "what the hell are you doing over here," might have been fed dreams that Flagg was building a society where people would work for the common good, a certain moral discipline would be maintained, more than in pre-plague America, and while criminals would be treated with compassion when appropriate, first justice would be applied, they would be held accountable for their actions and would get the punishment they deserve. Something like Andy Griffith's Mayberry, with some tough love when necessary to keep people decent. And then they discovered that in Las Vegas justice, Flagg is not only both judge and jury but is also the prosecutor, grand jury, and appellate court, and in his view justice for addicts is crucifixion, and he considers this to be compassionately putting them out of their misery.

For all we know, in their case it might have simply been that what they saw wasn't what they got. And my memory is very hazy on this, but didn't Whitney's protest hint at this when Larry and Ralph were about to be executed? Didn't he say something like, "it wasn't supposed to be like this"?

Now, I'll add in another observation about Earthlings. People who do nasty things, or even evil things, usually believe that they're not really the sort of people who would do such things by nature. They usually believe that they were compelled to do those things by circumstances, or because of broken backgrounds, and so on. That opens up a whole new set of possibilities for what goes on inside those Las Vegans' heads.

(continued below)

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Alas, we'll never know. Unless I'm very mistaken, King not only never showed us any Las Vegan's dreams, he never -- aside from Lloyd -- used **any** ordinary, psychologically healthy Las Vegan as the POV character.

Sure, he showed us the inside of Lloyd's head. But Lloyd's "choice" was between being freed, becoming a powerful man, and getting back at the sort of people who would leave him to die in a prison cell (with no real specifics given on what any of this meant) ... versus dying in that prison cell. Had Lloyd's choice been between power in Vegas versus an ordinary life elsewhere, and had he taken some time to think it over with us listing in to his musings, it would have been a different matter. But under those circumstances, only a saint or a fool would choose option two.

Whatever else I think of The Stand, this general issue is a grave flaw. If one is going to write a story about a titanic struggle between good and evil, with human characters who have human motivations, conflicts, ambitions, jealousies, etc, then the question I posed -- why would sane, basically decent people willingly align themselves with evil -- must be considered. King utterly failed to do so.

(continued below)

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Chaos versus order is a powerful reason, IMO. Glen said so when he speculated that Vegas would get most of the "techies" because they like order and discipline. But it seems to me that a necessary caveat is that chaos and order have to be understood from the standpoint of the individual person. One man's chaos is another's free-and-easy. One man's order is another's brutality. Add in the possible "what they saw wasn't what they got" factor, and ...

Barry might have started off believing that pre-plague America was decadent, that Vegas would be a little repressive, but free-spirited Boulder was unacceptable. Another person might have thought pre-plague USA was just fine, but Boulder was building itself irresponsibly and headed for disaster and that Vegas was the only other choice. Another might have thought, "I'll just park in Vegas for the winter and work for my keep while I'm there," then excuse any bad deeds with "if I don't do it someone else will anyway."

But again, we'll never really know, because King never showed us. And I think I've blabbed enough now.

Oh, FWIW, I think the OP in that thread was a blatant troll.

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Bull, I think I like you. I don't always agree with you mind you, but you are all right!!

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> Bull, I think I like you.

Err ... OK lol

> I don't always agree with you

I wouldn't expect anyone to always agree with anyone else. I'm interested, though; what do you agree or disagree with here? You did ask me for my reaction to that thread, after all.

Now, let me add in another thought about the motivations of the people in Vegas. The superflu had a mortality rate of 99.4%, and was set in a time when the USA population was about 200 million. Let's keep the math simple and say there were 1 million survivors.

Then there was the post-flu "aftershock." Accidents, suicides, deaths of people who couldn't care for themselves (children, etc). Let's be unrealistically brutal and say that killed half the survivors.

Then there would be some who wanted to go to Vegas or Boulder but were unable to because of distance or some other reason. It seemed that any healthy person who wanted to could make it long before winter, but there must have been some who couldn't. Again, let's be unrealistic and say that's 50%.

That leaves 250,000 Americans who could have gone to Vegas or Boulder. It doesn't seem like the combined population of those cities was anywhere near that high. I'm guessing that there must have been quite a few people who decided, "The world just ended, and now those two groups of religious fanatics are fighting it out? Screw that. I'll find a few acres of land in south Georgia, raise a garden to feed myself, and pretend I'm Henry David Thoreau for a while." At least that's the only way the numbers make sense to me.

So what's the difference between them and the ordinary, nice, Las Vegans? Or the ordinary Boulderites, for that matter?

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IMO, there had to have been some post-flu survivors who decided to stay away from Boulder and Las Vegas altogether, because of the dreams, they knew there was going to be a showdown between the good group and the bad group, and just elected to stay out of it.

Granted, though, had Flagg had emerged victorious, I'll wager he would have sent his group of followers to scout around the country to capture or kill any and all of the very few people still alive at that point

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> IMO, there had to have been some post-flu survivors who decided to stay away from [the Boulder-Vegas conflict]

Agreed. My numbers estimates above were intentionally overly conservative. I'd think a 25% mortality rate for the aftershock would be more reasonable, as would 10% for those who wanted to go to Boulder or Vegas but couldn't. Still, no matter how the numbers fall out, I can't come up with any other conclusion than that *most* of the survivors intentionally stayed out of the conflict. "Big battle between good and evil? Count me out!"

> had Flagg had emerged victorious, I'll wager he would have sent his group of followers to scout around the country to capture or kill any and all of the very few people still alive at that point

I can't see that. First, there wouldn't be "very few" people still alive. Even if they used nukes on each other, a big battle between Vegas and Boulder would probabluy have little or no impact on anyone east of the Mississippi, or in the Dakotas, Montana, etc. The "count me outs" would greatly outnumber Flagg's minions before the conflict, and afterward, with Flagg's forces having suffered some casualties, this would be even more true. And 3.8 million square miles is a lot to cover; and that's just the USA, doesn't include Canada or Mexico. Any good dictator knows to not try to grab something he can't hang on to.

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But Flagg wasn't human....because of his powers, I have no doubt he believed he could easily dispose of any neutral survivors around the country. Even if the folks outside of the Free Zone or Vegas outnumbered Flagg's group altogether, a lot of them could easily be scattered away from each other among the other states, all Flagg would have to do was dispatch a few of his minions to dispose of these small bands one at a time as not to give the non-Flagg survivors an out.

Flagg's biggest mistake was not dealing with Mother Abagail and the small bands of groups heading towards her, one at a time, immediately after the plague had wiped out 99 percent of the world. He bided his time when he should have moved for the kills almost immediately.

Flagg's ego, along with wanting to move in with the slow kill, outdid him in the end.

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Here is something with which I may not agree with you on.

Now, you said in that thread that the people didn't need Mother Abigail to tell them Flagg was evil, their own dreams told them that. Maybe, maybe not. Sure, we know what Stu dreamed, and IIRC we saw the dreams of one or two of the other Boulderites. But among the Las Vegans? No, we don't know that to be true at all. We saw Trash's dreams, but he's such a whack job he can't be taken as a typical case. And we got some glimpses inside Flagg's head and Lloyd's.

Granted that Flagg would not come out and say 'I am evil' (you give the example of Trashy) as that would be counterproductive. No; he would appeal to their weaknesses. Trashy, for example, wanted acceptance. Harold Lauder wanted female companionship, Nadine wanted HIM.

But a very strong undercurrent in Boulder was a fear and loathing of Flagg. Remember in the book, the second or third mass meeting? Their tales of the dreams show me that they thought of Flagg as an evil being. That, if memory serves, took up a great chunk of time and there were a lot of tales told.

Besides, (and this is directed at the OP of the other thread) I don't recall Mother Abagail saying that Flagg was Evil to anyone beyond Nick and Ralph and a few others.

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Looking at that earlier thread, it seems to me now that you were referring to the Boulder residents only when you said they didn't need Mother Abigail to tell them Flagg was evil. If that's the case, I apologize for the misunderstanding. I'd agree with you all the way on that one; if there hadn't been a Mother Abigail and only Flagg, their dreams would have sent them scurrying to Alaska, Newfoundland, Argentina, etc.

I was, and still am, thinking of the ordinary, decent Las Vegans. Dayna got to know some of them while she was there; here's her reaction (condensed):

Dayna was musing on how much she liked the people she was working with, particularly Jenny Engstrom. She was the type of girl Dayna would have wanted for her best friend, and it confused her that Jenny was over here, on the dark man’s side. The others were also okay. She thought that Vegas had a rather larger proportion of stupids than the Zone, but none of them wore fangs, and they didn’t turn into bats at moonrise.

I think that prima facie they couldn't have been fed the same sorts of dreams the Boulderites were. If they had been, they might have found Boulder too sickeningly sweet, but they wouldn't have gone to Vegas.

So what drew them there? Order instead of chaos? Hey, there is a lot of appeal in a society where the trains run on time, children are going to school again, etc. Tempting some people according to their weaknesses? I'd agree with that. But I'd have to think there were other things at work. For example, if one does a deed that's a little nasty, it's that much each to be a little more next time, then a little more the time after that. Maybe Paul Burlson started out as an ordinary beancounter and slowly evolved into Vegas's version of Adolf Eichmann.

I'm also wondering about the massive number of people who deliberately chose to stay clear of the conflict, not going to Boulder or Vegas. What sort of dreams, if any, did they have? How did they differ from the decent Las Vegans?

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I don't think anyone expected to see Trashman again around this time. He was considered too much of a liability by this point....didn't Flagg give the order to have him put out of his misery if he was spotted?

Flagg probably assumed the job had been done, and then to have the guy arrive, with the bomb in Flagg's domain, just before he was about to carry out the gruesome executions of Larry and Ralph, put the fear of God (literally!) into him, as well as into Lloyd and all of Flagg's devout followers.

Trash wasn't my favorite character but I do love the irony that Flagg's ultimate downfall comes at the hands of his most devoted minion.

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