Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Milkshakes

A post expanding on something I already linked to on my tumblr blog:

As much as I love the ending of There Will Be Blood, I really, REALLY hope that [“I’ll drink your milkshake”] doesn’t become the next “say hello to my little friend.” Catch phrases are just intolerable, and I don’t want to see the power of that ending diminished by having it pass into pop culture as a campy one-liner to quote with your friends.

-Ed Howard commenting at The House Next Door

Now, I don't think There Will Be Blood is a great movie, but what's so bad about a phrase catching on like this? Will it really diminish the power of the ending? And, playing devil's advocate, if the ending really is powerful, can the line getting turned into a jokey catch phrase really hurt it? Does the pop culture ubiquitousness of "Luke, I am your father" diminish the ending of The Empire Strikes Back?

Even the movie's fans seem to admit that the ending is pretty loopy - as Sean Collins says it "blasts [the movie] into the ionosphere". Surely the milkshake line is meant to be some kind of funny: to provoke, or maybe better, to dare nervous laughter.

1 comment:

nostack said...

A number of one-liners ("I see dead people", "Luke I am your father", "Make him an offer he can't refuse", "Say hello to my little friend") irritate me not because the usage trivializes the original, but because it's simply incredibly lazy on the part of other writers.

If I'm joking around with a friend, maybe we'll end up using one of these phrases. (Well, we won't. But we could.) And that's fine. We're just shooting the breeze and goofing around, and it will be funny because it's spontaneous.

On the other hand, I've lost track of how many sit-coms, parodies, rap songs, commercials, etc. end up incorporating these things not as incidental bits, but as a creakingly unfunny paint-by-numbers attempt at humor.

INT KITCHEN DAY
NARRATOR (v.o.) - With extra-strength Stain Squirter you can spend all day in the kitchen and still be tough as nails!

HOUSEWIFE - Say hello to my little friend! (sprays cabinets)

The writers can't think of an actual joke, so they substitute a pop culture reference. To reach the widest possible demographic the reference has to be well-known and deployed very unimaginatively. So it's not just lazy, but telegraphed.

It's either an attempt to piggyback on someone else's creativity, or an attempt to do Pavlovian humor: you found this stimulus funny before, so we will press that button a million more times.