Friday, July 24, 2009

Quoted Confessions

Airplane!I have a drinking problem.

Because of the hot weather, I've switched from a small water bottle with a sippy-top to a larger Nalgene-type with a wide mouth. Every once in a while I'll toss back a ton of water, forgetting that I don't have a child-proof cap on the bottle. The result is that I splash water all over my face or shirt, resulting in embarassment and trauma. On the brighter side, it reminds me of the comedy Airplane!, when Ted Striker is always pouring an iced cocktail on his face. Sometimes after deluging myself I'll turn to the person next to me and say, "I have a drinking problem." They either get the joke right away, or they surreptitiously research 12-step programs for me.

To some, communication via movie quotes and pop culture references is a harbinger of our declining literacy. After all, trading classical allusions or quotes from Keats and Kipling used to be the hallmark of the educated classes. Nowadays, you're more likely to hear a Star Wars or Monty Python reference to sum up an experience. Perhaps it's more difficult to assume that we've all read and absorbed the same books, while many people have seen Star Wars.

HeathersMovies also have a way of burrowing into your brain long after you've seen them. Having recently watched Heathers for the first time in ages, I was shocked at how many phrases that I've heard or said over the years that had originated in this film. I told a contemporary about it, and she had the same response. It's as if seeds were planted 21 years ago when it came out, and the plant has been flowering unattended this entire time.

Princess BrideSpeaking in pop culture code has its uses. My younger sister and I will often comment about a family situation by saying, "We are men of action. Lies do not become us." Now, neither of us are men, and our lives have not been consistently action-packed, and sometimes we look just fine while telling little white lies. I don't know if either of us could explain what this means, but we both know the meaning anyway. A little shorthand goes a long way.

Alas, if the day is stressful, I've found that the quote, "Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue," is even more frightening to folks than the "drinking problem". So please, if you must use quotes from movies and other pop culture artifacts, carefully consider the circumstances and your audience before you speak!

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