DID YOU READ

The “it’s just mindless entertainment” excuse.

The “it’s just mindless entertainment” excuse. (photo)

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It’s been eight years since The Onion published “New Roommate Has Elaborate Theory About How Kenny Rogers Is A Genius,” and it’s still a painfully accurate skewering about how it’s become increasingly acceptable for people to overthink pop culture. It’s basically the birthright of anyone who came of age in the ’80s or later.

As long as pop culture’s the dominant texture of a lot of people’s daily life, the tendency to overread it will be with us. Kudos, then, to The Playlist‘s Jessica Kiang for going off on the “Twilight” movies and their unique gender relations: “How long before a self-help book hits the shelves that encourages us to divide our menfolk cleanly into vampires or werewolves?” It’s depressingly plausible.

Absolving teenagers (who never know any better) of blame, her ire is for the older women who come to see things they should’ve grown past:

The desire to be desired without reason; to have one’s life made remarkable by the men who fight over you; to define yourself entirely in terms of someone else; all this may sound thrillingly romantic to some, but it’s also just fucking stupid, and if you’re over 15 and still buying this crap, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

07072010_ts3.jpgBut of course, there’s always someone in the comments section to say “Women need their mindless entertainment too, and that’s all this is and I think there’s little to fret about in terms of social implications.” This is true, but it’s also an evasion. It dismisses the validity of a viscerally angry response, and it denies that something this freakishly profitable might tell us something about why people are watching it.

It’s a symptomatic comment that comes up every time someone wants to read depth into material that doesn’t overtly aim for it. It was hilarious that Jordan Hoffman offered up a reading of “Toy Story 3” as about the Holocaust (the three other readings of the film as existentialist, Marxist or panoply-of-religions should’ve been a tip-off) — and it was even funnier that critic Marshall Fine couldn’t tell he was joking, nor could a bunch of other people.

But it resonated with other writers, who expanded on it. A joke became a valid way for people to think about the movie, and that’s a good thing: any kind of weird read you can make on a film is worthwhile.

Of course, that’s not precisely what Kiang is doing when she’s beating up “Twilight,” but it starts from the same place: a response to mass culture that puts more thought into potential readings than those making it.

07072010_twilighteclipse.jpgWhen you do that, you can begin to think about ways that “Twilight” might be socially important besides merely theorizing that girls think Robert Pattinson is hot and want to swoon.

Every Hollywood movie stars the ridiculously genetically lucky and panders to some kind of stupid emotional reflex. Overthinking these kinds of things may be the only way to really engage with them; otherwise, you just end up screaming defensively about how it’s just harmless stupid fun with no resonance whatsoever, which is an awfully disingenuous way to discuss one of the weirdest, most profitable phenomena of the last few years.

[Photos: “Twilight,” Summit Entertainment, 2008; “Toy Story 3,” Disney, 2010; “Twilight: Eclipse,” Summit Entertainment, 2010]]

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Inauguration Alternative

Bill Murray On Repeat

It's a movie "Murray-thon" all-day Friday on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs courtesy of GIPHY

Democrats, Republicans and Millennials agree: 2017 is shaping up to be a spectacle — a spectacle that really kicks into high gear this Friday with the presidential inauguration. Not only will the new POTUS swear in, but all the Country’s highest offices will be filled. It’s a daunting prospect, and to feel a little anxious about it is only normal. But if your anxiety is snowballing into panic, we have a solution:
Bill Murray.

He’s the human embodiment of a mental “Happy Place”, and there’s really no problem he can’t solve. So, with that in mind, how about we all set aside reality for a moment and let Bill take the pain away by imagining a top-shelf White House cabinet filled exclusively by his signature characters. Here are a few hypothetical appointments for your consideration…

Secretary of Defense:
Bill Murray from Stripes

His incompetence is balanced by charm, and dumb luck is inexplicably on his side. America could do worse.

Secretary of State:
Bill Murray from Lost In Translation

A seasoned globetrotter steeped in regional traditions who has the respect of the whole wide world. And he kills Costello in karaoke, which is very important.

Press Secretary:
Bill Murray from Ghostbusters

“Cats and dogs, living together. Mass hysteria.” Dude knows how to brief a room.

Secretary of Health and Human Services:
Bill Murray from What About Bob.

A doctor-approved people person who knows that progress is measured in baby steps.

Secretary of Energy:
Bill Murray from Groundhog Day

Let’s be honest, this world is going to need a lot of do-overs.

Feeling better? Hold on to that bliss. And enjoy a healthy alternative to the inauguration brouhaha with multiple Murrays all Friday long in an IFC movie marathon including Kingpin, Zombieland, Ghostbusters, and Ghostbusters II.

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Home Run

Hank Azaria Gets Thrown A Curve Ball

Brockmire Premieres April 5 at 10P

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Unless you’ve somehow missed every episode of the Simpsons since 1989, then surely you know that Hank Azaria is one of the most important character actors of our time. He’s so prolific and his voice is so dynamic that he’s responsible for more iconic personalities than most folks realize. Basically, he’s the great and powerful Oz — except that when you pull back the curtain the truth is actually more impressive. And now Hank is coming to IFC to bring yet another character to the TV pop culture hive mind in the new series Brockmire. Check out the trailer below.

Based on the following Funny or Die short and co-starring Amanda Peet, Brockmire follows the story of imploded major league sportscaster Jim Brockmire as he tries to resurrect his career by calling plays for a floundering minor league team in a podunk town.

The series is written by Joel Church-Cooper (Undateable) and produced by Funny or Die’s Mike Farah and Joe Farrell, meaning that there’s funny in front of the camera, funny behind the camera–funny all around. Sounds like a ball to us.

Brockmire premieres April 5 at 10P on IFC.

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Car Notes

Portlandia On People Who Can’t Park

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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If flagrant bad parking takes nerve, then retaliatory note writing takes neuroses. Watch Fred and Carrie take passive aggression to next level in Car Notes, the new Portlandia web series presented by Subaru. The first episode is yours right here and now, and you can see every installment of Car Notes anytime online, on the IFC app and on demand.

Portlandia returns tonight at 10P on IFC.

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