Wednesday, October 20, 2010

“Bill and Ted’s Joke and Spencer’s Big Lie”

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.
Socrates: Socrates.
[whispering to Bill]
Now what?
Bill: I dunno. Philosophize with him!
[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.
[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?


Rebecca said...

I don't let me kids watch Bill and Ted's - I think it is stupid... I did catch Victor watching it the other night and I left the room...

I have not seen this show...

However, I am bothered by the justifications that happen in television for unethical; immoral or inhumane behavior.

I have found that we have been watching more BYUtv of late

shydandelion said...

As a peruser of "dude," I have to say that I think it is perfectly good word. It is versatile, and with a slight change in tone, it can mean so many other things:

"Duuude.." Indicates that something bad has just happened.

"DUDE!" An attempt at getting the attention of some, or many, individuals.

And...I can't think of anymore.
I think what I liked about that movie was that Bill and Ted were funny. I like it when people (harmless ones, as you indicated) are constantly speaking flow of thought. It's refreshing. You know they're not up to something. :D

As for "Psych," I haven't watched it. My one hope, for such things like that, and other shows, like "Dexter," is that eventually they will get what is coming to them. Unfortunately, most of America is cheering these "villains" on.

We went and saw "RED" a few nights ago, and what was great about it was that the only time the good guys did anything, it was in defense. Nice change of pace, as opposed to all this, "GO OUT AND KILL EVERYONE IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS GOOD (or what we THINK is good...or self-satisfying)! ARRRGGG BLLLAAAAAAAAA!!!!"

Just another reason Jeremy and I are glad we don't have TV.

Zaphod said...

Well, I appear to be the only Psych guy in the room. The only thing that I can say in my own defense is that the show is so ridiculously contrived that it has no connection with reality and is thus a fantasy. That does not justify the lie, obviously, but Spencer is continually hoisted on his own pitard; he pays for his lies in his relationships with everyone. Spencer is no paragon of virtue; he is an extremely gifted man whose weaknesses, his desire to be successful, has sent him down a flawed path. The fact that he ultimately solves crimes should be in his favor, but it isn't. What would the show be like if the hook were taken out of it? A humorless "The Mentalist", which is, for my money, a redundancy. I watch the show because it is funny, most of the humor coming out of the mess that he has created for himself.

Trillium said...

I don't understand what is funny about a person messing up his life at every turn. Similarly, I don't understand slapstick violence either. I never understood the "humor" in The Three Stooges. I felt empathetic shame for how awful it must be to be them.