Thursday, May 1, 2014

Thoughts of the Future

Our culture today seems to revolve around mass media.  There has always been a circular connection between art and life, and that connection is clearly visible in today's society where what we see in television and on film become things we covet in life, and likewise things that happen in life become fodder for television and film.  But, do we ever stop to think about those things from the media that on in popular culture and how they might be used to study our society today?

Right now, I work full time at a small professional photo lab.  One of the services we offer is the transfer of hold home movies recorded on VHS to DVD.  Of course, for those of you old enough to remember what a VHS is, or the many benefits we used to reap of having a VCR at home, you will surely recognize that on occasion home movies might have been erased and recorded over for any of the great media of the day.  I can recall taping over my 5th grade choir recital (the only time I was ever part of any sort of extracurricular activity in school) so I could tape a couple of episodes of "Saved by the Bell" (what can I say, I wanted to be Zack Morris - but I was too much like Screech to make the change).

Legal issues aside, I think we can all safely say that this was common practice.  As such, it was no surprise to me when a home video of a church choir I was transferring to DVD suddenly stopped and gave way to a scene of two bikini-clad women rolling around in an inflatable swimming pool filled with mud.  My first thought was, "That's fitting.  Tape over the church choir for Porky's."  Alas, I was wrong.

The film in question, the film that was deemed worthy enough to record over the church choir...the film that was deemed worthy enough to record period, was not Porky's, but instead a barely known film called...wait for it..."Prayer of the Rollerboys", staring Corey Haim (interestingly enough without Cory Feldman - didn't they do everything together?).  Here, we have a story about a mafia group of, what can only be seen as high school-aged boys rolling around town on roller blades, wearing white trench coats and black t-shirts, and extorting money from local business owners and selling drugs on the street.

Granted, the film is supposed to take place in the "not too distant future" of a bankrupt Los Angeles.  But it isn't the film's plot that drew my attention, it was the wardrobe.  If, for some unforeseen reason, some global catastrophe occurs and the only historical document of our society is this film (or those like it), what will future generations think of how we lived?  Will they believe that we all wore super wide bandannas on our heads to keep our floppy-cut hair out of our eyes?  That all the "cool kids" wore some sort of strange uniform of trench coats, sunglasses, and roller blades?  Or that the women (police women, for that matter, - and Patricia Arquette in this instance) wore short leather jackets over their bras?

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that the wardrobe cast-offs from "The Wedding Singer" were used as costumes for this movie.  Just to drive the point home, check out the film's trailer.  If that entices you enough, it looks like, with a little digging, you could watch the whole film on YouTube.

Back to my original argument:  do we think about how we will be seen by future generations when we come up with crap like this?  I realize it's a style, after all, what did Neve Campbell say to Matthew Perry in "Three to Tango"?  "It was the 80s, they made you look like that."  But still, I can't think of another time period when we made ourselves look so horrible, and yet thought we were so fashionable.  Or, maybe, we never thought it was fashionable.  Perhaps some studio executive somewhere thought it would be a good idea to dress actors up in the tackiest clothing possible, hoping that it would catch on.  Perhaps said executive had stock in the clothing companies that made the tacky clothes.

I don't really have a point here.  I saw this snippet of a movie today, and this was the first thing that popped into my head.  I think I am going to find a way to watch this entire film though - just to see how bad it really is (I guess I like to torture myself - and to prove it I will admit that I have watched a film entitled "She-Wolves of the Wastelands" from beginning to end even though I wanted to turn it off during the opening credits).

Perhaps I only want to bring to attention this notion that mass media affects popular culture so dramatically.  As an example, this film is a documentary about film and fashion and how they feed off of one another.  In it, there is talk of how the sales of men's undershirts plummeted after a film as released where Clark Gable sits topless on a bed.  The manufacturers of men's undershirts went to Hollywood and begged them to put Clark Gable back in an undershirt - which they did, and sales went back up.

So, maybe I just want to bring awareness to all of those people out there in pop culture land to understand why it is you want to purchase a product, or look a certain way, or dress a certain way.  Is it because that is who you are, or is it because you are trying to be someone else?  (Not that we are in as extreme of a situation as the events of "Josie and the Pussycats", however.)