Popular Culture We’re Taking For Granted

Happy Thanksgiving from Overthinking It! We know, there’s plenty of popular culture to be thankful for, but in the spirit of Overthinking It, I though I’d put a slightly different spin on giving thanks. Let’s take a look at the latest trends in popular culture that we should be thankful for, but now just accept as the norm. Dig in for a three-course Overthinking It Thanksgiving Feast after the jump (warning: Synecdoche, New York spoiler follows).

Appetizers: Dark, moody, cerebral blockbusters, otherwise known as the “Nolanization” of franchises such as James Bond and Batman.

When we last touched on this topic, there was some debate as to whether or not this trend is a good thing. Discussion that enfolded in that posts’ comments was more focused on the finer points of this trend, which is why I feel like this new paradigm has passed into “taken for granted” territory.

So in case anyone needed a reminder as to why we should be thankful for this trend:

Exhibit 1A: Batman and Robin: Mr. Freeze Montage. Gives me chills.

Exhibit 1B: Batman Begins: Batman interrogates the Scarecrow. Gives me chills, in a different kind of way.

Exhibit 2A: Die Another Day: Laser fight scene. Perhaps on the cutting edge then.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEEHYmuVi4s

Exhibit 2B: Casino Royale: Bathroom fight scene, with decidedly less lasers.

Joel Schumaker’s apology for Batman and Robin ends with an interesting line: “My intention was just to entertain.” How inadequate those words sound now! We expect our blockbusters not just to entertain us; they must make us cringe at their edginess and think about their deep philosophical implications as well. Now that the Bond and Batman franchises have two films in their current iterations, let’s not take the progress made by these franchises, and by blockbusters in general, for granted. Be thankful–before they go down the toilet again.

Main Course: Chinese Democracy (the G’n'R album, not the aspirations of the Kuomintang)

Most reviewers, after recovering from the mind-blowing fact that they’re actually reviewing this album, gave it lukewarm marks. The consensus seems to be that there’s a lot of things to like, but it’s overwrought with 14 years worth of overproduction and nowhere near the work of staggering genius that Axl Rose seemed to promise. I’m listening to it now, and I pretty much agree. But I still think that we’re taking the release of this album for granted.

Let me put it this way: Thank God Axl was able to let go of the studio dials and finish this thing off. He saved himself from becoming that guy in Synecdoche, New York, who [SPOILER ALERT] endlessly tools with his work of theatrical genius until the apocalypse and his own death stop him short. And he saved you from a lifetime’s worth of speculation.

Fortunately, this will not have to be a part of our apocalyptic future.

Imagine if, thirty years from now, when global warming and war with Iran have obliterated our current way of life, you stop to think about the cultural achievements of the late 20th and early 21st centuries and realize that Axl died while trying to finish Chinese Democracy.  You’ll wonder that maybe, just maybe, Axl really could have released the most incredible musical creation of all time with just a few more years of work. Wouldn’t that be sad? Instead, thirty years from now, in the apocalypse, you won’t have to ponder such things. Chinese Democracy will just be another disappointing comeback album that you deleted from your iPod after a couple of weeks of trying to rationalize the 90 megabytes of space that it took up. You’ll be able to ponder more important things, like scavenging for food and avoiding highway bandits. For that, you should be thankful.

Pumpkin Pie Dessert: Sarah Palin as a Joke

As we now know, Sarah Palin proved to be a disastrous running mate pick for John McCain. Her own performance in interviews, Tina Fey’s lampooning of them on SNL, and the $150,000 clothing bill made her the laughing stock of the political world, alienated moderates, and may have cost McCain the presidency. We should not take this all for granted. Remember those harrowing days after her performance at the Republican National Convention, when the McCain-Palin ticket’s poll numbers were riding high and it seemed like this “fresh new face” would ride a wave of fervent GOP-base support to the White House? When the Democratic Party looked like it was going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet again?  All of that was the case in September, before Palin’s blunders (and some market fluctuations) brought America to its senses.

Now that all of this is behind us, let’s not forget to be thankful for Sarah Palin for turning out to be far less of a political force that we once feared she might become and for inspiring so much wonderful satire along the way. Also, even after she’s left the national spotlight, she still manages to entertain us, this time by doing an interview in front of a turkey slaughter house after giving the governor’s official pardon to a Thanksgiving turkey:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-kjM1asH-8

Bonus Leftovers: The Internet (and Robocop on a Unicorn)

If you think you don’t take the Internet for granted, you’re lying to yourself. Let me just remind you briefly that the Internet has changed lives in ways too numerous to list, that none of this was imaginable just fifteen or so years ago, and that we don’t think twice about any of this in any of the dozens of times we access the Internet every day.

The Internet has made this site possible, and for that I am truly thankful.

The Internet is also how I came to learn about Robocop on a Unicorn, and for that I am truly thankful.

So don’t take your popular culture, or the means by which you access popular culture, for granted. Give thanks for your popular culture this Thanksgiving, somewhere in between your second helping of sweet potato casserole and passing out on the sofa.

Once you’ve recovered from your food coma, let us know in the comments which forms of popular culture you think get taken for granted. We’ll give thanks for those too.

8 Comments on “Popular Culture We’re Taking For Granted”

  1. MisterBixby #

    I don’t get the laughing up the sleeve at Palin at the slaughterhouse. For one, her back is to the slaughter trough, so she surely couldn’t know that the turkey was being killed. Shouldn’t the cameraman or the interviewer, who were obviously capable of seeing the action be bearing the responsibility for catching that on film. Shouldn’t they have either stopped the interview to change position, or, better yet, *not have begun the interview with a slaughter trough in frame*?!

    Secondly, she is only wildly unpopular with Democrats and mildly unpopular with independents. She is insanely popular with Republicans, to an extent that McCain never has or could be. While she didn’t bear up as well as one would hope under the media scrutiny Obama never got, I believe it would be a bad idea to write her off so soon. Had McCain picked someone else, his loss to Obama would have been a landslide in the popular vote in addition to the Electoral College.

    So, I’m thankful for Sarah Palin, and the comedy she brought, but less thankful for this blogs smarmy dismissal of all things right of center.

    And, honest to blog (I listen to your podcasts too), I am thankful for the Nolanization of the Dark Knight.

     
  2. Gab #

    About Palin: McCain didn’t pick her, the Republican party puppet-masters did. He had only spoken to her, what, once? Maybe twice? The Republican Party chose her because they thought she’d give their campaign the momentum it did at first- but they didn’t anticipate the backlash from the left. While I never thought Palin would be good for America, I feel bad for her in how now the same people that put her in the limelight are blaming her for McCain’s loss and doing everything they can to discredit her and make her look even worse. I agree with MisterBixbey about the interview and crew, and I think that serves as a finite example of how she has been treated lately. I feel sorry for her, actually: she was totally misled and duped by people she trusted, and they betrayed her and threw her under the bus to save their own skins. It’s not *her* fault the McCain campaign went so badly, it’s the fault of the people that put her on the ticket; but they won’t ever admit it, so they use her as the scapegoat because she’s an easy target.

    Speaking of being thankful, I’m thankful that I’m staying at my sister’s place in Minneapolis right now and there is a cheap-o theater showing movies between regular theater and DVD release a few blocks away. Guess what I plan on seeing (again) later? Hint: It does NOT involve chihuahuas.

     
  3. mlawski #

    You mean there aren’t any chihuahuas in Twilight? Yet another reason for me not to see it.

     
  4. lee #

    I can has vampire chihuahuas? Pls? Kai thx.

     
  5. fenzel #

    Chupacabra? What?

    Also, MisterBixby, we have plenty of right-of-center content. You have to if you like action movies. If you don’t think we have right-of-center content, you either don’t read the blog very closely, or you’ve gotten so caught up in the horse race that you forget what right-of-center issues (rather than candidates) really look like.

    This site (and Mr. Belinkie in particular) is responsible for a major viral video on the most important right-of-center issue this year –

    http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/09/25/the-dark-bailout/

    Maybe you read my patriotic piece on the 4th of July?

    http://www.overthinkingit.com/2008/07/04/ten-great-things-about-america-i-learned-from-independence-day/

    Maybe you read some of the praise of Rambo that’s been on the site, or maybe you’ve listened to any of our podcasts — it’s really hard to praise action movies or something like the Shield without including right-of-center content.

    We didn’t endorse any Republican candidates for office, but being right of center isn’t the same as endorsing specific candidates. Lots of Republicans aren’t right of center (as actual right-of-center folks know).

    We ran a story calling out a pro-Obama ad sexist. We ran a story making fun of Obama for taxing plumbers. We ran a story about Sly Stallone endorsing John McCain in the very first week this blog was in existence. We made a music video villifying Hillary Clinton.

    We run right-of-center content all the time. It just doesn’t parrot anybody’s talking points, because we don’t serve anybody’s political grist mill.

    We also ran a crapload of McCain ads on our site over the campaign, and refused reader demands to do something to take down pro-proposition 8 banners that ran on our site on Google ads — did you listen to the podcast where we discussed it, discussed the issue of political bias, discussed the role of Google ads? We probably addressed a lot of your concerns there in one form or another, as individuals.

    There’s right-of-center content. Just get the images of the candidates out of your head for a minute and consider what we’re actually writing here. If you’re really writing about America, you have to write about right-of-center things. And we do. But it’s easy sometimes to forget that the political wings actually stand for something other than the specific teams of familiar faces that have kind of drifted pretty far away from their core political missions anyway.

    It’s not our fault that making fun of Sarah Palin has become a national pop culture phenomenon. And it’s the mission of this site to discuss national pop culture phenomena. So you can hardly blame us for participating in the biggest joke in the country.

    And, as for your “charge of smarm,” being duly and thoroughly committed to smarm, we will continue to smarmily dismiss whatever we choose to smarmily dismiss, thank you very much!

    :-)

    Cheers!

     
  6. Ritz #

    Ummm…..to all the people who said it wasn’t her fault they were near a Turkeys getting slaudered, yea it is! She picked the location and she was “Promoting a local buisiness” Yea, and to think she could have been the president. Cough *Dumbass* cough.

     
  7. Gab #

    Ritz, the point I was making is that while yes, she *is* a dumbass, somebody should have told her it was a bad idea to do the interview there/ made sure there weren’t shots of turkeys being killed in the background while she was doing it because she is too simple-minded to understand how bad an idea the setup was.

    And, petty as this will be, I must point out that whilst calling someone else a “dumbass,” you said “they were near a Turkeys” and spelled “business” and “slaughtered” incorrectly. You also forgot a period and had two other capitalization errors in those few lines.

     
  8. Marty #

    “I’m Mr. Kill.”

    Worst line ever, even by previous Bond standards.