Holland, MI: The Movie


Hollywood wants to make a movie set in Holland. Uh oh.


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Jeffrey Polet grew up in an immigrant household in the immigrant town of Holland MI. After twenty years of academic wandering he returned to Holland and now teaches political science at Hope College, where he also grudgingly serves as chair of the department, having unsuccessfully evaded all requests. In the interim, he continues to nurture quirky beliefs: Division III basketball is both athletically and morally superior to Division I; the Hope/Calvin rivalry is the greatest in sports; the lecture is still the best form of classroom instruction; never buy a car with less than 100,000 miles on it; putts will still lip out in heaven; bears are the incarnation of evil; Athens actually has something to do with Jerusalem; and Tombstone is a cinematic classic. His academic work has mirrored his peripatetic career. Originally trained at the Catholic University of America in German philosophy and hermeneutical theory, he has since gravitated to American Political Thought. He still occasionally writes about European thinkers such as Michel Foucault or the great Max Weber, but mostly is interested in the relationship between theological reflection and political formation in the American context. In the process of working on a book on John Marshall for The Johns Hopkins University Press, he became more sensitive to the ways in which centralized decision-making undid local communities and autonomy. He has also written on figures such as William James and the unjustly neglected Swedish novelist Paer Lagerkvist. A knee injury and arthritis eliminated daily basketball playing, and he now spends his excess energy annoying his saintly wife and their three children, two of whom are off to college. Expressions of sympathy for the one who remains can be posted in the comments section. He doesn’t care too much for movies, but thinks opera is indeed the Gesamtkuntswerk, that the music of Gustav Mahler is as close as human beings get to expressing the ineffable, that God listens to Mozart in his spare time, and that Bach is history’s greatest genius.


  1. Hollywood shouldn’t make movies about people. It should stick to subjects it knows about. (If you want movies about people, there are a lot of good Russian ones from the last couple of Soviet decades and beyond.)

  2. Errol Morris has never, as far as I’ve seen, written or filmed a word or moment that was “ham-fisted”. His sensibility is rich in subtle nuance and the complexities of human choices, both hopeful and disturbing.

    I was a classmate of Ethan Coen’s throughout our childhoods, and though he and his brother enjoy using hometown names of people and places in their many films (even those films not set in the Midwest), I’d say most of us didn’t take ‘Fargo’ personally; we recognize the power of their storytelling and the humanity beneath their sometimes dark, open-eyed exploration of human nature — even if their exaggerations sometimes reveal cultural traits and constricted views that are worthy of caricature.

    I have never been to Holland, Michigan, but a good friend spent most of his childhood there after emmigrating with his family from The Netherlands as a boy. From his many stories I can anticipate a perceptive artist like Morris will find, as in all human communities, mud amongst the tulips.

  3. Any film that claims to be an “exploration” isn’t, at least not in any normal sense of the term. The term used in this way is misleading, maybe intentionally so.

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