Friday, October 2, 2009

Bye Bye Birdie: I am deeply disturbed!!!

I'm not joking! Some people refer to this 1963 film as a "satire." I think there is a hidden agenda, but that doesn't make the film's excesses tongue-in-cheek. The fact that so many people who review this film enjoy it as something that "takes them back" to the "good old times" proves that if the filmmakers were attempting to seriously question or subvert 1950s pop culture, they widely missed their mark. "Parody" would be the better term. This film exaggerates and thereby gently pokes fun at numerous aspects of 1950s suburban culture: Elvis, the nuclear family, the Ed Sullivan Show, teen consumer culture, teen "rebellion" (as in kissing your boyfriend/girlfriend).

I couldn't even get through more than 15 min. of the movie, truth be told, it was so grating. I'd like to finish it now though, just to understand it better. I guess what I'm interested in figuring out is what kind of a society would create such a thing and enjoy it as somehow being wholesome, uplifting, and entertaining. I know it seems like I'm over reacting, but this film creeped me out. I get a dark feeling in my gut when I embrace their premise that naivete is a thing to be praised, particularly when that message is targeted at women. The women were especially dumb, but the men were half-brained too. This movie is all about never wanting to grow up, get older, and engage with the world. It, and other entertainment like it, functions like a giant megaphone shouting: "Happiness is being dumb, in love, and 16. Or remembering when your were dumb, in love, and 16. That is the great climax of life." I've enjoyed a lot of chick flicks and silly movies in my day so I promise I don't always take things so seriously, but there was something about this movie that was very sinister.

Many people are reviewing this film as capturing an era that we have lost that was somehow more mature? Somehow more about "family values"? What in the hell do they mean by that? Is it a good thing if people's worlds revolve around a rock star coming to town, getting "pinned" by their boyfriend, or, um . . . what's for dinner? Is it just me, or is the whole Shriner's men's club association thing downright weird? Did anyone else feel antsy after seeing female after female after female wearing what looked to be very uncomfortable dresses and bras? I guess Stepford Wives sums up the vibe of that movie for me. I've never seen so many vapid women. Honestly, the mother goes ga ga over the rock star, too? And we're supposed to chuckle at that? It's disgusting.

Yes, the movie does have an adult edge to it . . . but not the right kind. Sure, they lampoon the Soviets in what could pass as very light political satire. But the adult edge comes in the Britney Spears for middle-aged men effect. One reviewer at pointed at the film's under-handed glorification of Anne Margaret's burgeoning sexuality. Several, in fact, have discussed feeling rather, um, "aroused" by her performance. It's true, the opening and closing credits where she sings her little guts outs like a true vixen in front of the blue screen are provocative. And whoever dressed her seemed to favor outfits that tended toward . . . tight. So they snuck in a little sex for the adults. Gross.

I'm glad that whole 50's thing got shattered because it wasn't real anyway. And if it was . . . then what a nightmare . . . to live in an all-white community where everyone is in harmony because they have the exact same lifestyles and values. Sounds racist, classist, sexist, everything bad. Why do people feel so threatened by growing up? Why shy away from complexity and waste adult minds on wanting to be 16 forever? Talk about a mental trap. I hated being 16, I didn't know who I was, I didn't have an adult perspective on things. Wisdom and experience are to be prized, not regretted.