The Promised Land: Texas Written On The Wall

PROMISED LAND,2012, Focus Features

2012, Focus Features

One more interesting tidbit I noticed in The Promised Land (2012) (Matt Damon’s movie about fracking) was the touching scene where Frances McDormand’s character (a landman* securing lease rights for drilling) communicates with her teenage son in Houston via Skype.  When they show her son on the computer screen, there is a Texas pennant (presumably from the University of Texas at Austin) hanging on the wall behind him in his bedroom.

Two things stuck out about this image to me.

Firstly, the idea that the child of a Houston energy company employee would have a Texas pennant hanging on the wall makes perfect sense.  As a UT professor who specializes in energy, I teach hundreds of students annually (mostly engineering students, and at all levels from Freshman through PhD).   Since UT is a state university, a significant number of undergraduate students are from Texas. And, anecdotally speaking (I usually ask my students where they are from and what their parents do for a living) a surprising number of those are from Houston and are the children of energy company employees.   So that little visual decoration struck me as authentic and in keeping with my own experience.

Secondly, the image reminded me of Written on the Wind (1956). That movie starred Rock Hudson as a Texas oilman, and there is a touching scene showing him as a grown man in his childhood bedroom. Sure enough, there is a Texas pennant on the wall behind him (the movie implies he earned a geology degree from UT).  I’ll have to go back to double-check, but I seem to recall that the pennant in Written on the Wind is hanging at a similar angle as in Promised Land.  If so, that would be an elegant and subtle visual reference.

*Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe a landman (short for “land manager” or someone who has a degree in “land management”) is called a landman even if the person is female.

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