Who Drops the Death to America Leaflets in Leave the World Behind?

While trying to make sense of the national emergency in Netflix’s disaster filmLeave the World Behind,’ Ethan Hawke’s Clay Sandford comes across an enormous number of red leaflets with Arabic script, which are dropped by a drone-like flying object. Upon taking a look at the same, Clay carries one of the leaflets to his vacation house to show the rest of his family and the Scotts, who own the place. While G. H. Scott fails to read what’s written in the leaflet, Clay and Amanda’s son Archie lets them know that the title of the same reads, “Death to America.” The leaflets are an integral part of the chaos that erupts in the country in the apocalyptic thriller! SPOILERS AHEAD.

Spreading Misinformation

The Arabic leaflets are dropped by the attackers behind the coup d’état that happens in the United States. For an overthrow of power to happen, it is important to make the population of a region vulnerable and senseless. In the film, spreading misinformation is a procedure the attackers employ to turn the American population into headless chickens. When Clay encounters the leaflets, he theorizes that Iran is behind the attack. The Arabic script and the country’s intricate and polarizing relationships with the Middle East lead him to such a conclusion. However, the leaflets Clay discovers are not the only ones that exist.

While G. H. Scott and Clay talk to Danny, the contractor lets the others know about such leaflets appearing in other parts of the country but with Korean or Chinese script. Those leaflets make Danny think that either Korea, China, or a coalition of enemy nations are behind the attack. Through these posters in different languages, the attackers succeed in manipulating the senses and rational of the citizens of the country, making them rally behind theories of their own. The more individuals stick to their respective theories, the further they are from the truth about what’s really unfolding in the sovereign state.

“I tried to follow the guidelines out of the playbook of how coup d’etats actually work, especially when it’s a foreign actor. Propaganda misinformation has been used before contemporary times. It’s an old tactic. I just took that and magnified it and heightened it to this situation,” Sam Esmail, the screenwriter and director of the movie, told Rolling Stone about the significance of the leaflets. “For me, what was particularly risky about it is that when you get the first flyer and it is written in Arabic, the movie sort of lets that linger. Is this now announcing who the villain is in the film? It’s inviting you to follow that misinformation,” he clarified.

Following the Unknown Villain

The “Death to America” leaflets do not lead one to the identity of the attackers of the country. However, it does expose the prejudices and biases present in one. Clay’s conclusion that Iran is behind the national emergency is based on his prejudicial views concerning the Middle Eastern country. “I noticed the audience’s reactions around that in the film; their own biases started to get involved. But later, when you realize that other flyers with different languages are being dropped, you start to see that component. So, it plays on your own biases and your own beliefs about who our enemies are, who could be behind this, as much as it does with the characters,” Esmail added.

Ultimately, Esmail used the leaflets to explore the aspects of race and xenophobia. “It’s really about the human side of it. What happens when we are giving into our worst instincts about race, class, and xenophobia? What is that part of humanity that makes us triggered and starts to divide us? That’s what I wanted to explore,” the director told Vulture. The attackers gain authority over the country by dividing the citizens and making them follow false leads concerning the disaster with the help of the leaflets.

Read More: What is the Significance of the Deer in Leave the World Behind? Theories