In 1989, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” hit the movie screens across America. If I recall correctly, it was an instant favorite among American teenagers. I, however, was horrified with it because even though I recognized that the movie was a huge joke about two impossibly stupid American teens, I knew that fans of Bill and Ted would end up mimicking the two stars—in other words, making the movie a “how-to” cult flick upon which to pattern their own behavior. I was in despair when my own teenagers became addicted to Bill and Ted’s favorite word, “dude.”
Bill: Be excellent to each other.[room murmurs appreciatively]Ted: Party on, dudes![room approves]
Bill: [to Ted] Good one, dude.
[Bill and Ted are in Ancient Greece]
Bill: [approaching Socrates] How's it going? I'm Bill, this is Ted. We're from the future.
Ted: [whispering to Bill] Now what?
Bill: I dunno. Philosophize with him!
Ted: [clears his throat, to Socrates] "All we are is dust in the wind," dude.[Socrates gives them a blank stare]
Bill: [scoops up a pile of dust from the basin before them and lets it run out of his hand] Dust.[he blows the remainder away]Bill: Wind.
Ted: [points at Socrates] Dude.[Socrates gasps]
At that time, I naively attempted to ban the use of that word in my presence by my own children. Alas, to no avail. It was a lost cause. Now, twenty years later, “dude” still has not died a natural death. Unfortunately, to this day, when anyone in my presence punctuates his conversation with, “dude,” I still shudder involuntarily, and the specters of Bill and Ted, the two most clueless teens who ever lived, flash across my mind.
“Imitation is the sincerest flattery,” goes the famous quote. I wonder: what did the kids really admire in Bill and Ted? It couldn’t have been how smart they were. Did kids imitate them because they were basically harmless; essentially good guys; dumb but lovable?
Now, I am similarly puzzled by the popularity of the “Psych” TV series. Season five is due to begin in November. Last night, I decided to watch a past episode to see if I might like to join its crowd of fans. I watched only the first 10-15 minutes of the first episode of season four. I quit watching at that point because I felt intensely uncomfortable with the main character, Spencer. Everything he did was in support of the big lie that he was a psychic. How could I endorse that? In order to keep the lie alive, he has to keep manipulating the truth. One lie leads to the next one and on and on. In real life, eventually but inevitably, the truth will come to light.
My thought was, why doesn’t Spencer just become a real detective and get some respect for his powers of observation? Yes, I know that if he confesses the lie there will be a price to pay. So, this show justifies a continuing lie because the anticipated punishment would not fit the crime. So, the premise of the show essentially teaches that lying is necessary and harmless if it’s for a good cause. All’s well that ends well. Is this a true principle?
Another thought I had was, “why is this program about a guy scamming everyone now in its 5th season?” What does that say about the audience? Do they like the idea of purposely (and semi-successfully) attempting to deceive other people? Do they envy him? Do they wish they could be him? What is it that they admire and want to imitate? What happens to us and our sense of right and wrong when we hope that a character “wins” by cheating? Is watching this show “harmless” fun?