When I watch a movie, there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and things that explode, rarely stopping to deeply consider what he’s seeing. We call the kind of movies that guy likes POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who accompanies him. This guy likes some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. POPCORN: TV and movies are nothing but lies, dude. CINEMA: Have you been watching the presidential debates again? I warned you about that. POPCORN: No, man. You ever see something in some flick? You’re like, oh yeah, I got this. I can totally make this happen. But then you go to do what they did in the movie – CINEMA: Since Melies took that first cinematic trip to the moon in 1902, the motion picture medium has been composed of magical realism. Virtually everything you see onscreen is a fabrication, my friend. I love cinema, and I love television, but we’ve learned some of our biggest lies about life from them. POPCORN: Nothin’ but lies, dude. CINEMA: I don’t know that I’d go that far. Some of the greatest universal truths are best revealed in a fictional context. But it is a lie that any problem can be solved in thirty minutes, minus commercials, or in a three-minute song – POPCORN: – with dancing animals – CINEMA: – or that your first kiss will be magical, not an awkward mash-up of saliva, bad breath and uncertainty. POPCORN: Or, like, if you pull the cord on a parachute, an anvil’s gonna pop out. CINEMA: Exactly. Or that there’s an endless clip of ammo out there somewhere, probably sold by the folks at Acme – POPCORN: That you can jump from the top of a building into a helicopter. CINEMA: – or that you can just hang up the phone without ever saying goodbye – POPCORN: Hoverboards . . . and robot overlords, dude. Where are they? CINEMA: – or that you don’t just look stupid during sex. POPCORN: There is the one about landing in a dumpster to break your fall – CINEMA: Obviously, most people don’t believe these things when they see them in a movie – POPCORN: Dude, landing in a dumpster really will break your fall. CINEMA: – but all of these fictional moments, nonetheless, have the insidious tendency to twist our expectations of reality. It starts very early for most of us, with cartoons and children’s programming. There is no neighborhood in any city on earth like Mister Rogers’ neighborhood – POPCORN: The trick is finding a dumpster full of soft garbage. CINEMA: – since Mister Rogers apparently lives in the most utopian town ever, where everyone is kind, tolerant, and prone to break into song. “I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you; I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you . . .” POPCORN: Like the garbage outside a Styrofoam factory. CINEMA: Personally, I’d be wary of spending time alone with anyone named Mr. McFeely. But Fred’s neighborhood was one where goodness prevailed. POPCORN: We didn’t have cable, dude. The only goodness I ever got was DAVEY AND GOLIATH. CINEMA: Oh yeah. Claymation, began in the mid-1960s, produced by the Lutheran church of America. Little Davey Hansen and his talking dog, Goliath. They liked to impart lessons about life, like respect for authority and how to share your toys, usually putting the characters in situations that could only be overcome through faith in God. POPCORN: <in wholesome cartoon voice> See I told you not to worry. You can always count on God and His laws. CINEMA: <in goofy cartoon dog voice> Gravity’s a pret-ty good law. You’re a genius Davey! POPCORN: <wholesome cartoon voice> Gosh, thanks, Goliath. Now help me light this witch on fire. CINEMA: Ha. Actually, I understand that they did a fairly good job prompting the spiritual curiosity of young kids without getting too preachy. Warning them about prejudice, vandalism, religious intolerance. Crap like that. But, to be honest, I barely remember the show. POPCORN: That’s cuz you’re a faithless bastard. CINEMA: Well, why did you watch it? POPCORN: It was the closest thing to a cartoon on Sunday morning. CINEMA: And did it prompt your spiritual curiosity? POPCORN: Went to Sunday School once. There was this big ol’ Partridge Family-lookin’ ride called the Joy Bus that came down our road. You know, recruitin’. Mom didn’t really go for all that God stuff, but then she didn’t seem too happy either. She said I could catch the bus if I wanted. I figured it’d be like DAVEY AND GOLIATH. CINEMA: And . . . POPCORN: Dude, everybody on the bus got a cookie but me. Then we got to some church and all they wanted to do was tell me I was a sinner. I mean, come on. I’m just a damn kid. Gimme a cookie, tell me to be good, and let me play with the talkin’ dog. CINEMA: Ah, the first disappointment. POPCORN: Not even, dude. That’d be ROMPER ROOM. CINEMA: Holy crap, I’d forgotten all about that show. There was that creepy jack-in-the-box in the opening segment – POPCORN: Singin’ about popping the weasel – CINEMA: – and some kindergarten teacher would come out, leading all those hyperactive kids in the Pledge of Allegiance – POPCORN: Then it was a bunch of running around and singin’ and that giant bee – CINEMA: Yeah, Mr. Do-Bee! He flew in to teach lessons like “do bee good boys and girls for your parents”. Before he left, he produced a bunch of balloons – POPCORN: Doobie balloons, dude. Kids got all high. Started buzzin’ around the room, hollerin’ about “Mister Music, please!” CINEMA: As I recall, there were lessons here too. They served milk and cookies to the kids, with a prayer before eating. God is good, God is great. It was all right up your alley. Then Miss Nancy would give us the usual tutorial, about being kind and sharing – POPCORN: That show ruined me, man. Thought school was gonna be like ROMPER ROOM. All I was gonna do was go there and ride around on firetrucks all day. CINEMA: Yeah, blame it on the show. But it’s true; they don’t really warn you about algebra, getting nagged at for holding your pencil the wrong way, or being pushed around by the bigger kids at the bus stop. POPCORN: They don’t tell you what to do when your mom says you’re gonna die and rot in the ground either. CINEMA: Wow, that’s harsh. Jeez, man. We all want Carol Brady, but I guess most of us end up with Roseanne Connor. POPCORN: It’s all good, dude. No bullshit with Roseanne. CINEMA: I suppose that’s true. Huh. POPCORN: Then we get a little older, dude. Start sneakin’ into rated-R movies. Tryin’ to get ready to face that ol’ high school, so you check out PORKY’S. Or the one where Phoebe Cates busts outta that swimsuit – CINEMA: Ah, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH – POPCORN: Yeah, and you think everything’s gonna be like that – CINEMA: Lusty females everywhere, and at least one of them actually interested in you. POPCORN: That, and – CINEMA: – and everyone looks like they’re in their mid-twenties. POPCORN: Nothin’ but lies, dude. Tellin’ you. CINEMA: True, these films don’t do much to prepare you for the reality of football players dragging you into the bathroom for a swirly, or getting your gym shorts yanked down in front of the girl you’ve got a crush on. But they do serve as a kind of heads-up for what might lie ahead. POPCORN: Lie is right. CINEMA: Despite some of their flaws, that’s why I appreciate the John Hughes movies even more now. Most of the kids in those films actually looked like kids you might have gone to school with. They had acne and insecurities. The actors might have even been the same age as the characters they were portraying. POPCORN: Like your girl, Molly Ringworm. CINEMA: Ah, I loved her. POPCORN: You and half the world, man. CINEMA: That girl could cry like no one else on earth. It made me just want to . . . to hold her, kiss away all the tears, and . . . POPCORN: – and whack it until dawn. Got it, dude. CINEMA: No, you depraved fiend. It was more like a twisted bundle in my insides, a confused adolescent yearning to both exploit and protect, to kiss away the tears – POPCORN: I was more of an Ally Sheedy kinda guy myself. When she’s shakin’ her dandruff on the table, makin’ art and stuff. That was hot, dude. CINEMA: Sure, but you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment if you think that all women are going to be like that. POPCORN: Yeah, they can’t all be Darlene from ROSEANNE either. CINEMA: Or Olivia d’Abo . . . POPCORN: Jo from FACTS OF LIFE, or Denise Cosby – CINEMA: Winona Ryder, but really only in BEETLEJUICE. POPCORN: – or that SQUARE PEGS chick – you know, not the one from SEX IN THE CITY, but the other one – or that one girl from WHIZ KIDS – or maybe Johnny Depp, just a little – or the blind chick from LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE – CINEMA: Oh yeah, her. Maybe Christina Ricci . . . or Angela Bassett . . . or Angelina in that photo with the blood on her lip, when she was still just a little crazy – POPCORN: Dude . . . Michelle Rodriguez! especially in MACHETE – or any of the Hammer girls, or Mrs. Doubtfire – CINEMA: Wait, did you say Mrs. Doubtfire? POPCORN: Yeah, dude. I know that she’s a little older, but I hear the roar of the cougar – CINEMA: You know that she’s also Robin Williams, right? I mean, I’m not judging. Be and love whoever you want, but as an object of adolescent desire . . . POPCORN: No way, dude. Robin Williams was in that movie, but Mrs. Doubtfire was played by, like, Angela Lansbury or something. Angela Lansbury was kinda hot. CINEMA: Did you completely miss the entire premise of that movie? Okay, okay. Whatever. The point – if there is a point to this anymore – is that our young minds absorb all of these stories and images, filling in this ideal of the perfect mate, and most of it is built on fabrication. It’s all a fiction that helps to shape our reality. No one is ever going to match up to what we are seeing on the television or the big screen – POPCORN: Just like dudes can’t all be Duckie from PRETTY IN PINK. CINEMA: Um . . . sure. Because that’s what women of any age want. POPCORN: Even then, man. Duckie doesn’t get Molly Ringworm, but he ends up with some random chick he meets at the prom? Come on now. CINEMA: Like that would ever happen. POPCORN: I know, dude. That’s why they have dates you can rent. Impress your classmates, increase your chances. CINEMA: Do you mean you would have considered hiring a escort? POPCORN: Some of ’em start running a prom special at the end of May. CINEMA: Wait, you took a hooker to the prom? POPCORN: So, you were sayin’ something about those John Hughes flicks . . . CINEMA: Despite how well-drawn his California kids were, I’d have to say there wasn’t much diversity beyond them. You had the wealthy white preppies or the poor white outcasts . . . and you’re not going to tell me about the hooker, are you? POPCORN: What about Long Duck Dong in SIXTEEN CANDLES? CINEMA: An anomaly, obviously. He was a foreign exchange student, from the Land Where People Aren’t Caucasian, and mostly played for laughs. Even then, the Donger was given the requisite John Hughes happy ending. POPCORN: So why do they do that, dude? Make us believe all those lies. CINEMA: They don’t make us do anything. POPCORN: Not all hookers have a heart of gold. Actually, dude, none of them do. But in, like, every movie ever . . . CINEMA: And in space, no one can hear you scream . . . because there is no sound in space. It’s called manipulation, my friend. Okay, it’s time for my soliloquy. POPCORN: Naw, man. CINEMA: Thousands of years ago, we were all living in tribes and trying not to get trampled by woolly mammoths. No one knew how to read, and there wasn’t any Facebook to tell us how to behave. The guys in charge needed more than just runners fast enough to catch a gazelle, they needed everyone to fight for the tribe. So you tell them a story – POPCORN: Is this, like, QUEST FOR FIRE? Am I gonna see naked cave-boobs? CINEMA: You tell them a story, about how your tribe is the best and all the other tribes roll around in poop and eat babies. It doesn’t matter how much truth there is to the story, as long as it gets the job done. The tribe’s leaders weren’t necessarily liars, but they needed everyone to conform enough to preserve the tribe. Think of these myths as more efficient versions of the truth. They had Grog the Great, we have Superman – POPCORN: – and geeks who get the girl. CINEMA: That’s the modern version, yeah. Writers and directors are always manipulating us. That’s what they do. If you are thrilled by JAWS, it’s basically because you’re being played by a young master manipulator. POPCORN: Devious bastards. CINEMA: Not really. They just don’t want us to tear ourselves away, so they give some things we want while they’re giving us what they want. We watch hundreds, probably thousands of hours of manipulation each year, and some of it can’t help but be more effective than the rest. Younger people, particularly teens, are much more likely to be impacted because they are still shaping their worldviews. They are still absorbing all kinds of influences, with music and film being way at the head of the class. But no one is really immune. I mean, how many people were afraid to take a shower for years after they’d seen PSYCHO? POPCORN: Nothin’ but lies. CINEMA: There’s another problem with all of this. Getting history wrong in Hollywood can affect how some people see real history – POPCORN: You mean Leo wasn’t really on the Titanic? CINEMA: – since we live in a world where Wikipedia and memes are considered informative. Say, for instance, you watch GLORY . . . and the 54th regiment is composed of mostly slaves in the movie – POPCORN: Yeah, like Denzel. He was all pissed, then they were whippin’ him and, like, that one tear was comin’ down. Like he was cryin’ for every slave ever, but he was only gonna give those bastards that one tear – CINEMA: Yeah. Well, not only was Denzel not in the Civil War, but the 54th was actually composed of nearly all black freeman from the North. So if you love the movie, but you never get around to reading about the real 54th . . . years later, when someone asks you about this event in history, you’re going to say “Oh yeah, the 54th. It was made up of nothing but slaves.” POPCORN: Dude, I’m not teachin’ a class. I just dig the movie. CINEMA: Here’s the thing. The human brain does not see the world as it really is. From the beginning of our lives, we make sense of the everything through our senses, applying meaning to what those senses tell us. Then, to save time, the brain continues responding to new stimuli based on past experience. It’s really efficient, in a way, but it’s also like basing our image of the world on an old episode of I LOVE LUCY. POPCORN: Everything’s in black-and-white and you’re tryin’ to catch a bunch of candy on some kinda conveyor belt. CINEMA: Fighting a losing game, yeah. It’s all good until something new gets added. Have you ever heard of Viktor Frankl? POPCORN: The old dude who sells hotdogs downtown? CINEMA: No, he was a Jewish psychiatrist. He spent three years in a concentration camp, realizing that he only had one freedom left: the power to determine how he responded to the world around him. He wrote about it in his 1946 book, MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING. He said that human beings are deciding beings. Between stimulus and response there is a space, and in that space is our power to determine our response – POPCORN: Yeah, yeah. We figure out what we’re gonna believe. And the beginning of seeing everything different starts with one question, man: why? Like, soon as you stop watching ROMPER ROOM and THE BREAKFAST CLUB, you can check out some new flick. Got it, dude. CINEMA: Well then. So, why’d you bring all of this up anyway? POPCORN: Ain’t seen me all week, have you? CINEMA: Thankfully, no. I assumed you were busy with something. Possibly in jail. POPCORN: You know that scene in SAY ANYTHING? The one where what’s-his-face stands outside that chick’s window with the ghetto blaster? CINEMA: Uh . . . yeah. POPCORN: What happened when the dude did that? CINEMA: Ione Skye got all dewy-eyed, remembering their moment of love and passion in the car. Ultimately, it led to John Cusack joining her on the airplane at the end of the movie, scared but optimistic about the life ahead of them . . . POPCORN: Dude, no. That ain’t what happens at all. CINEMA: Oh no, you didn’t. POPCORN: You show up at some chick’s house in the middle of the night, crankin’ some tunes so she thinks about you – CINEMA: At your age, seriously? Were you – POPCORN: Arrested? Yup, sure enough. Dude, my life’s a blooper reel. “Romper stomper, bomper boo. Tell me, tell me, tell me, do. Magic Mirror, tell me today, did all my friends have fun at play? I can see Davie and Norman and Nate and Dana . . .” Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.