Other People’s Words

Do you ever feel like real life gives sitcom writers some serious competition? Some things I’ve overheard in the past week:

In my dorm lobby:
Guy 1: Do you know when Halloween is this year?
Guy 2: Dude, it’s just the same day every year.
Guy 1: Naw, I would have noticed that by now.

The people eating next to me:
Guy: so I’ve seen you around a lot. Tell me a little about yourself.
Girl: let me recite a poem for you.
*Begins to whisper a sonnet*

Guy 1: So you’re like 75% straight?
Guy 2: Woah, too many significant figures.
Guy 1: 80?

Not that living people have a monopoly on “didn’t expect to hear that there” moments. From Saint Augustine’s City of God:

“Such people can do some things with their body which are for others utterly impossible and well-nigh incredible when they are reported. Some people can even move their ears, either one at a time or both together. Others without moving the head can bring the whole scalp – all the part covered with hair – down towards the forehead and bring it back again at will . . .  A number of people produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from that region” (14.24).

I guess this is what they meant by liberal arts education . . .


The Art of Over-Interpretation: Grease

Why do people go to fancy shmancy liberal arts schools? So they can read too much into things. Like this:

Yesterday (after we realized that there were no new/decent shows to watch on Hulu) my parents and I decided to watch Grease on Netflix. You know when you are really familiar with a classic movie because you’ve seen remakes and references everywhere, but you realize that you’ve never actually watched it? While I’ve seen this movie before, it was too long ago for me to have picked up on anything besides the songs (but I really know the songs) so this was, in a sense, my first real exposure.

My reaction:

Me: Well that made High School Musical seem low-key and subtle. But I didn’t remember it being so dark and satirical. I thought the social commentary was interesting. 

Mom: The what?

Me: It takes the typical, romanticized notion of the 50s as a “simpler, more innocent” time in our country’s history and turns it on it’s head, showing a darker, grittier, almost socially dystopian* world alongside the nostalgic imagery.

There’s sexuality which is not only overtly expressed and reckless beyond expectations of “innocence” or respectability, but also grossly violent on the male end. Double standards for male and female sexual expression (slut versus stud) are blown up and clearly juxtaposed. Relationships based on mutual disrespect and power struggles are seen as normal. The ridiculous amount of conformity seems to make everybody into a fairly awful person. And it says something the most seemingly healthy/cute/romantic relationship occurs in the first five minutes when the couple is removed from society–lets not forget that Sandy didn’t “have” to change to be with Danny until their social environment and expectations ruined everything. And those dance moves. They clearly can’t be serious about those dance moves.

(Now maybe audiences were supposed to see all of that stuff as normal/okay (gag), but it all just seemed so exaggerated and contrasting with typical idealized depictions that I was sure someone was trying to make a point.)

It’s saying that the past, despite the cutsy soda shops and sock hops, isn’t this perfect, sunshiny place that most retro films/shows liked to imagine it as, and aiming to return to the past isn’t really a way to fix contemporary problems.

On the other hand, they have school dances where people actually dance, which is pretty awesome.

Mom: No, I think it was just supposed to be fun.

Me: So they actually meant all of that earnestly?

Mom: Yeah.

Me: Oh. Well then it’s just pretty dumb.

What about the dance moves? Did people ever dance like that un-ironically?

Mom: Yeah.

Googling didn’t provide much in the way of support for my social commentary theories either**.

Come on people, is anyone with me? No? I’m just making stuff up again?

Yes, I know my contemporary perspective is different than that of the intended audience. But really, how can you listen to this and then this (Rizzo’s two main songs) and not think that someone was deliberately trying to make a really obvious display of the Virgin/Whore dichotomy for female sexuality, how it hurts women/girls on either side of the divide, and how the same women who help perpetuate these standards can also suffer from them.

No? We’re just supposed to overlook that?

Oh. Well at least the songs are catchy. 

*Slightly stronger word than I meant, but you get the point. Also, yes, I did just use the word “dystopian” to talk about Grease. You’re allowed to laugh.

**Another interesting fact I learned while Googling is that this movie was originally rated PG. Now, there was no PG13 rating at the time, so it was either that or R, but still, imagine these lyrics in a a PG movie today. It’s funny, people think of shows like Glee as being pretty racy, but when they do Grease covers, they have to tone down the explicit content a lot. What were we saying about a simpler past and recent moral decay?

My Laptop and Other Undead Things

A week ago, my laptop decided to stop functioning, conveniently timed before a bunch of paper deadlines. The good news is: after a few trips to the Apple store, a few nights of locking myself in a computer lab, a few other nights of not doing work because I hate working alone in a computer lab, borrowing my friends’ computers to suck out my data, a bit of beginner amateur engineering on my part, and a few emotional breakdowns, the laptop lives! (And so does all my data!)

Turns out it was just faulty software and I just had to erase and reinstall everything. Apparently this is a common thing. I think I’m too relieved to be angry about it–the woman sitting next to me at the Apple store had a similar problem and ended up having to buy a new computer and pay $300 for data recovery. It really could have been worse.

On the subject of things returning from the dead, I came across this gem of a review quote in my research for a paper about the history of Frankenstein. From the Harvard Advocate, 1869:

“The principle moral to be derived by Harvard boys from this book is that dangerous proficiency in chemistry should be carefully avoided.”

I’m assuming that Harvard kids are still employing this lesson today.