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Pop that culture, pop pop that culture!

September 23, 2010

What? What overly long, unannounced blog hiatus could you possibly be talking about? I have no idea whatsoever, he types, whistling innocently and pretending nothing happened. Okay, you caught me, life got a little extra lifey for awhile and I had other things to focus on besides blogging it up here on the Slug. But hey, I came back, right? And it’s not like pop culture wasn’t on my mind during all of that life stuff. In fact, quite the opposite. Sometimes I think my brain is some sort of antennae/sponge combination that just pulls pop culture information and runs it around on a crazy circuit that finds its way into my dreams at night. I mean, that’s the only reason I can explain why I have some of the crazy-ass dreams I have when I’m fast asleep at night. But I am not complaining at all – it’s something I enjoy. And so, I wanted to share with you just a few of the pop culture obsessions that spend time whirling around in my already busy mind. They are somewhat diverse but share a lot of common traits: diamond-flawless dialog – often going so far as to make an impact on the popular zeitgeist of modern language itself, female characters full of defiance, heroism, flaws and humanity; a surprisingly irreverent or alternate take on death and a lot of being pop culture that references pop culture itself. My obsessions may be tiny, silly little pleasures, but they are pleasures nonetheless. And in the sometimes difficult world we live in, those little pleasures are sometimes the best ones.

Absolutely Fabulous: This TV show was and is a treasure trove of quotes as well as often containing razor sharp, scathing commentary on pop culture and mass culture in general. Jennifer Saunders has confessed to using the characters of Edina and Patsy as ways of venting her own spleen about the media culture we all are so immersed in and she does it with gut-busting hilarity. But really, it’s the little things that Patsy and Eddie say that stick with me. And every once in awhile I find an excuse to quote them in real life and everything, in that brief moment, is extra perfect. Like the time a friend pointed to a guy checking me out at a bar and I got to trot out one of my favorite Patsy put-downs: “Too short, I expect sex with him would be a rather…localized experience.” And let’s not forget how useful Eddie and Patsy are when it comes to in-depth analysis of the cultures of other nations.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: BTVS was like an example of what happens when a pop-culture addled brain explodes into a fully-formed idea and that idea is lovingly shared with the rest of us mere mortals and we get to bask in its glory. It didn’t rock the world ratings-wise but it left an indelible mark on western pop culture and that is no small feat. Since its inception, and especially since its cancellation, I have seen the writing style of Joss Whedon and the overall vibe of Buffy showing up in TV shows, movies and comic books like the whole world was given an assignment to Be More Like Whedon. Sometimes it’s actually a little annoying. But then I go back to the source material and I get why so many people wanna copycat the living daylights out of it. And Buffy has become somewhat of a social litmus test for me – once I find out someone’s a fan, I know we’ll definitely get along.

Clue: I think this is one of the most underrated comedies of all time. I definitely can see why folks may have thought it was sort of cheesy when it was originally released, but to me it has aged so well, like a fine wine. It’s a veritable who’s-who of 80s comedy actors and everyone in it does a bang-up job of bringing the fun. I mean, Tim Curry alone deserves some sort of special award for basically running all over the set reenacting the entire film in order to explain how he knows who the killer(s) is(are).  (And to totally mock the tropes of dozens of murder mysteries while he’s at it.) And, really, if there’s no other reason to love Clue, then there is this truly brilliant, totally improvised moment of comedy gold courtesy of the late, great Madeline Khan that proves what a loss she was to the world of the funny. Any die-hard Clue fan will make him or herself known by quoting this one right out of the gate.

Clueless: There must have been some sort of perfect storm of cinematic magic happening when this film got made, because I can’t think of any other explanation as to why Alicia Silverstone is able to charm the living daylights out of me in it when she clearly has just about nothing else of worth to offer the world in the form of entertainment. But she has more than earned her place on this over-crowded planet with her portrayal of Cher Horowitz, a character we should all find totally loathsome, annoying and beyond intolerable and yet she totally charmed the bejesus out of us all. And yes, a lot of that has to do with Amy Heckerling’s whip smart modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, complete with some totally brilliant dialog. But seriously, this movie is one of my pop culture comfort foods – I can be in just about the worst mood ever, I pop this in and voila, all of my troubles, like, totally melt away and stuff.

Heathers: Every now and then I will meet someone who has never seen Heathers and the first thing I say is “Wow, how does it feel to know you’ve been walking around so empty for so long?” I still remember being so excited to see this movie as my good friend Sara Breveleri and I sat in the darkened theater that was converted from an old town hall building in Wilton, New Hampshire. The theater was sparsely filled but it didn’t matter – we filled that place the fuck up with so much unbridled, hysterical laughter. And we were just about the only ones, too. Apparently the denizens of that small New Hampshire town just weren’t ready for an ultra-dark, ultra-smart teen comedy that took jabs at suicide and mocked the mourning process as a way for people to feign depth, popularity and the general having of any redeemable human qualities. It was during Winona Ryder’s heyday of teen angst roles and is one of the main reasons I can forgive all of the horrible drek she participated in while trying to play adult roles. I have heard horrible rumors that this might be remade or that an ill-advised sequel could be in the works. But I say all we need is the original forever and ever. And if you really haven’t seen it yet, seriously, you have been walking the earth with a gaping hole inside of you. Go fill it up with some Heathers right this second!

Auntie Mame: I realize it may mean doing things out of alphabetical order but I had to save the best for last. I was around 25 when I first saw this film and I honestly felt like I had been given a little missing piece of myself back. It is pure and utter joy in cinematic form and would most likely be able to pull a suicidal person back from the brink and encourage him or her to “live, live, live” like there’s is no emm-effin’ tomorrow. In a weird way, I feel like a lot of the pop culture obsessions I listed before this wouldn’t exist if not for the stupendous-ness that is Auntie Mame: they all display the same flare for sharp, memorable, hilarious dialog and an irreverent humor around death; Patsy and Edina are forever in debt to Mame and her friend Vera; Clue and Clueless shares a debt to the glitzy, vibrant wardrobe and, well, you know if Mame Dennis faced some of the trials and travails of Veronica Sawyer of Buffy Summers she would most certainly be capable of brandishing a loaded pistol or dispatching the undead with the swift thrust of a wooden stake! Okay, so maybe that last part is a bit of a stretch, but if you’ve seen Auntie Mame then you can understand why it’s hard to imagine there’s anything she isn’t capable of.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah Goodwin-Nguyen permalink
    September 23, 2010 10:09 am

    As you know, you and I share many pop culture favs. IIRC, when we were teens and rented movies,we rotated between Heathers, Beetlejuice, Clue, Witches of Eastwick or…damn, what was that movie with Bette Midler and Shelly something from “Cheers” where they were both in love with the same guy who turned out to be a spy or mobster, I forget which? I watched that again a few years back and it did not hold up as well as the others.

    And of course, you know my fuzzy feelings on AbFab and Buffy. I also adore Clueless (and, in the same vein, Bring It On, which I watch over and over.)

    A more recent pop culture “must have” in my book is Battlestar Gallactica (the new one.) I was blown away by the intelligence, imagination and character development of that series.

    And of course the Star Wars movies.

    God, I am a dork.

    • September 23, 2010 7:07 pm

      Outrageous Fortune is the Bette Midler and Shelley Long comedy you’re thinking of! Where they’re both aspiring actresses who date Peter Coyote who turns out to be some evil secret agent and they have to follow him all over the country to try and get some deadly toxin back from him. And it contains such gems of comedy dialog like “You’re too weird to hit” and “Nine years of ballet, asshole!” We watched the hell out of that. I also recall Grease and Annie being in heavy rotation. So much so on the latter that we would call and leave each other messages saying “We got Annie!” from that bit where they do the dorky song about being able to adopt her.

      I started watching BSG and liked it but I need to finish the series. It was on during the end of me and Ryan’s relationship and we basically did a lot of TV watching to distract us from how bad we were together. Hah! And we were watching so much stuff it was hard to keep up. But I loved me some Starbuck – she’s so badass!

      I just realized we should watch an episode or two of Buffy together when I visit – we’ve never had the pleasure.

      We are dorks united in our dorkiness.

  2. September 23, 2010 10:18 am

    Spot-on! I need to watch Heathers and Clueless again soon. And some AbFab. As they’re big favorites of Snarky’s, Clue and Mame have been in rotation for some time now. Frankly I’ve never been a huge Buffy but 5 out of 6 is pretty darn good!

    • September 23, 2010 7:08 pm

      Heathers and Clueless are the kind of films that, when I re-watch them, I find myself wondering why I don’t do so on a monthly basis.

  3. September 23, 2010 11:50 am

    I realize it may mean doing things out of alphabetical order but I had to save the best for last. I was around 25 when I first saw this film and I honestly felt like I had been given a little missing piece of myself back.

    Me too. Of course, we won’t be needing these words for months and months!

    • September 23, 2010 7:08 pm

      Yes, as we are both barely over 21, right? 😉

      • September 23, 2010 10:40 pm

        Hahah. We are mere children. Babes in the woods. Oh this post was so perfect. It goes without saying that I love all of those things with the same passion as you!

  4. September 23, 2010 10:42 pm

    Well, except for Buffy. Though I love the OG Buffy movie.

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