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insert witty movie reference here

March 23, 2010

do you ever have those moments when you realize that your childhood was kind of odd?  it’s sort of like realizing that your parents are insane, but that it’s really a factor of the lack of boundaries in a family, and it makes you wonder what kind of craziness your own kids will roll their eyes at one of these days.*

what brings this to mind is that i was just reading that article on dwight yoakum, which of course brought up buck owens. now, for a while i was convinced that buck owens was in a movie i saw a ton when i was a kid, but i was wrong – it was roy clark. along with mel tillis. nevertheless, thinking about buck owens leads to thinking about mel tillis for me.

i should stop here and mention that while i have a lot of the 80s pop culture knowledge that everyone else of my generation does, i also have enormously glaring holes. i’ve never seen E.T., for instance. on the other hand, the movies i would have listed as my favorites and/or my most watched in the mid-80s, most people–certainly my cohort–have never even heard of. see, back in the day, we didn’t have cable, but we did finally get a VCR. of course, we didn’t have any tapes. so we ended up borrowing a bunch from an older friend of the family with eclectic taste in enetertainment. there were maybe a dozen. these included:

  • the aforementioned uphill all the way, starring mel tillis and roy clark.
  • the impossible years, starring david niven (i caught this on AMC a few years back and was ridiculously delighted, not least because i finally got all the references that went over my head when i was 8).
  • the road to bali, with bing crosby. 
  • sabrina, the original version. for years, all i remembered of this movie was the scene with the champagne glasses–i didn’t even know the name of the movie, just that someone sat on glasses.
  • the sound of music. mom’s best friend’s favorite movie. i saw it about a bajillion times between the ages of 8 and 12, and maybe once in the years since.
  • and, of course, my very favorite random movie: the best little whorehouse in texas. and yes, i was allowed to watch this when i was in elementary school. no, i don’t know why. although it did lead to a discussion between my mother and i about how rape is about power, not about sex. which is an interesting conversation for a ten year old to be having, but there you have it. this is also where my love of dolly parton started. 

these are not the movies one generally associates with an 80s childhood, and i was conscious of this at the time. i already felt like an outcast in many ways, and my lack of pop culture knowledge made me very nervous. and given our current tendency to make every aspect of culture some hugely nostalgic thing, i think it’s easy to buy into this idea that Everyone has seen certain movies, or heard certain songs, or what have you. and sure, that’s true to an extent. pop culture is what holds us together and gives us fast and easy ways of identifying others of our kind. 

but as i’ve gotten older, i’ve realized that everyone’s childhood was odd in some way. i have friends who grew up all over – the Marshall Islands, Germany, Taiwan, Russia, Armenia. and even among my stateside friends, there are a surprising number who didn’t have cable, or who weren’t allowed to watch anything but PBS. they certainly don’t have the “standard” cultural knowledge that our generation supposedly does. 

we treat culture like a monolithic entity, and yet it’s not. we allow ourselves to think that we’re outsiders because we can’t instantly recognize simpsons quotes or we haven’t seen heathers or we’re missing some other seemingly vital piece of pop culture knowledge.** but honestly, there’s a lot of culture to be had, and no one has partaken of each and every bit of “approved” culture. we’ve all been exposed to some whackadoo movie or book that few others have. and that’s awesome. because if my life had not been shaped by dolly parton and burt reynolds singing and dancing with hookers, if i hadn’t been exposed to weird movies and allowed to discover my own tastes, i would be much less interesting than am i now. 

*like the way my mother dances. seriously embarrassing white lady boogying. i can still envision it whenever i hear certain songs (or even types of songs), in particular “bad, bad leroy brown.”

**although, really, you should see heathers. get on that. you know who you are.

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One comment

  1. […] E/O pop culture, academia, navel-gazing, and the like « you won’t believe me if i promise again [random pop culture reference] April 6, 2010 to follow up on my post from the other day… […]



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