There Comes a Point

I’m usually all in support of an artist making money doing whatever. Sure, I respect Springsteen and the U2 guys for not hawking anybody else’s wares, but I hardly begrudge Dylan pushing lingerie or BB King selling Whoppers1. And it’s not the ‘wares,’ the inherent goodness of lingerie or Whoppers, that makes what they’re doing any less of a sell-out. It’s that the commodity that’s ‘them,’ I figure they can do with it what they want. And it’s got to feel good, too, pulling a fat check just for lending your celebrity like that. Or maybe it’s a comment on that celebrity, even, I don’t know. And anyway, for me to look askance — like my askance looks aren’t A) stagey in the first place, and B) below the radar anyway — at their deals with the corporate devils would be the same as saying that I’d never do anything like that, given the chance. And, c’mon. I’ve got to at least be half-honest when talking to myself, I think: given the opportunity, I’d probably wear a jumpsuit with Linens & Things patches all over it. Standards are good to talk about and all, but the way I see it, making a buck, which I could actually maybe possibly do something good with, it’s not the same thing as saying No, no, don’t take me out behind the chemical sheds.3

However.

There comes a point.

For me it was today, a certain promotion that came before the trailers that came before a particularly amazing movie2. And I hesitate to even link it, but — if you haven’t seen it, here. Click at your own risk. It’s Breakfast Club, ‘updated’ in the most insulting way by JCPenney’s, for some “get that look” clothing campaign. It’s even worse than that line of DirecTVcommercials, which finally ending by betraying Misery4. Why worse? The obvious first: because it’s a movie of which I’m made. Like everybody else, I know, I kind of just knew that I was seeing that movie in a way nobody else was, and that I was a different person for having seen it — possibly even a better person. That’s my nostalgic reason for resisting that commercial.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t legitimately bad.

And of course everybody plays with Breakfast Club, right? It’s that kind of iconic, that kind of definition of a generation. And, I mean, Psych, say. Their Breakfast Club episode, watch it, it was tribute, pure and simple. And I’m not meaning to draw a line here between ‘respectful’ and ‘disrespectful’ — send the movie up, please, pastiche it flat against the wall, run it down and lampoon it, whatever. If the movie’s good enough, it’ll not just withstand all this fun attention, it’ll gain even more cultural force for it. Godfather, say? Who hasn’t played with Corleone behind his desk. I even saw it on a Hannah Montana episode the other day. Or The Exorcist. That floating bed and pea soup’s had so much fun made of it in so many places that you’d think it’s maybe lost some of its effect. But that’s not the case. It still kind of freaks you out. I remember reading an article somewhere about how none of us can ever see the Grand Canyon in that pure way that the first ‘discoverer’ (more quotation marks, please) saw it, just because we’ve been so prepped with postcards etc; instead of pure awe, we’re kind of thinking yeah, it’s just like the picture, only bigger. But movies aren’t like that. There’s some essential difference. What it is, I haven’t traced out yet, though I suspect it has a lot to do with how much we’ve invested ourselves in a movie — in a way you don’t with a vista, a landscape, I mean. In a way we’re no longer trained to do, anyway.

I was talking about “KFC” “JCP,” though. And why that commercial spot’s so wrong: because what it’s doing is taking an eighty or ninety minute movie and reducing it — ‘distill’ would be too kind a word here — to a minute or so of redramatized key moments. High points. As if Breakfast Club, just because it can be so easily identified by those moments, that those moments are solely what it’s made of. And it’s more, so much more.

And yes, I suddenly feel very much like an old person, saying all this. And I suspect this argument I’m touching on, it’s really a lot more related to the remake trend than to the artists ‘selling out.’5. And, I suspect this just because, now, I want to relate this all back to some remake of an Eagles song I heard on some radio flipthrough — female singer, supposed-to-be Glenn Frey vocals, no clue which song as I instantly started repressing the whole experience, just on the chance it would ruin me on the song itself — where all the longing was somehow made cheery and light. Kind of like what this slammed-down version of Breakfast Club does.

Anyway, yeah: what I’m obviously setting myself up for here is for Penney’s to call me up, ask if I won’t wear their jumpsuit for a week or two. If I won’t “get that look,” snicker snicker.

Hopefully I’d say something about what I’d rather do, and that it might involve some chemical sheds, and to please please never take me there.

That’s hopefully, though, yeah, I know. Which is perhaps why I’ve always dug Thor: no matter what, that guy just swings his hammer around and makes the right and good decision, the honorable decision.

If only it were so easy.


1. Okay, ‘Big Kings.’ But don’t forget BB King’s diabetes commercials too. Or, yeah, OneTouch commercial, I suppose.
2. You know the oneA: Maggie Gyllenhall was an inspired choice, the soul of the movie, and the dynamic between the bat and the clown were done to pitch-perfection — best I’ve seen since Cloverfield, easily, and I can’t wait to see it again and again, and not just to hear Rorsarch’s voice-over in that trailer our better selves have all been waiting for — and Morgan Freeman’sB exit from the series was graceful and dignified, and Heath Ledger of course absolutely inhabited everything that is the Joker, and and and. Beautiful movie. It never stops escalating, never gives you what you’re expecting, yet never cheats either. A very rare thing. Only recent movie I can think of that does the same would be Casino Royale.
3. I like the Br’er Rabbit possibilities inherent to this construction. Just add a ‘please’ and the meaning’s reversed: “No, no, please don’t take me out behind the chemical sheds . . .”
4. Though, yeah, when it was Star Trek — which I hold a lot closer to my heart — it was kind of campy and fun. Maybe just because Shatner, that guy. With him I’ve lost the ability to tell when he’s being ironic, when he’s not. If he’s ever not, I mean. Not that I would have laughed had Scully or Mulder looked up from an alien autopsy, started praising the quality of the picture.
5. A very dangerous term, as it kind of indicts anyone making money, getting radio time, all that. And that’s not what I want. And I don’t even know who’s to blame for this Breakfast Club/JCPC pair-up, and not that concerned, either. The real victim is . . . not Breakfast Club so much as it is all the people who haven’t seen Breakfast Club, but, in the wake of this commercial, will kind of feel that they have, and now don’t have to.

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A. and, yeah, odd, the Anthony Michael Hall connect there — his famous voice-over’s ‘redramatized’ (kindest word I can think of) in the pre-trailer commercial, then his Dead Zone self’s in the movie. Weird and cool.
B. and I love Lucius Fox’s line about the Joker: “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” Very Lord of Illusions, Nix talking: “I want to murder the world.” But I’ll relate everything back to that movie, given half a chance.a1
C. and, Penney’s: I think about half the shirts I wear are from there. Most of my favorite shirts, anyway.

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a1. example: I often get Jennifer Desiderio confused with Carolyn Polhemous and Amanda Hunsaker. In the most pleasant way, I mean. It’s all the syllables in the surnames, I think. Beautiful, and somehow necessary, as are the initial hard G-sounds for bad guys: Gollum, Grendel, Gargomel, Ganon, Gage, and on and on, evilly. Maybe that letter up-front like that’s been charged ‘bad’ ever since Golgotha, I don’t know.