There’s a better than average chance you may have guessed this by now, but I am a man obsessed by pop culture in all its myriad forms.
I love movies, cartoons, cartoon movies, books, music, plays, and the way society is reflected through them and I am more than happy to shout that fact from the rooftops, virtual or otherwise.
But of course when you’re as obsessed with pop culture as I am, it isn’t enough to just watch it, read it, listen to it, or naturally, write about it.
You have to subsume yourself in it.
Now this could go any of a number of ways.
Colourful tattoos of the entire roster of Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters up and down both my arms … nah, too painful.
Or a giant felt mural of the entire cast of Friends, Fringe and Game of Thrones on the large wall in my living room … hmm tempting but a little too tacky even for my tastes.
Or even a giant statue in my front yard made out of pasta of the gap-in-the-freeway scene from Speed … evocative but it would only last till the next time I need a base for my famous Spaghetti Bolognese and couldn’t be bothered going to the shops.
So casting aside all those highly attractive options (trust me it wasn’t hard), I have opted instead for decorating my Christmas tree in all manner of pop culture ornaments.
Yes no pretty silver bells, gold garlands or wisps of snow-like tinsel for me.
No, my tree is covered top to base in characters gleaned from the world of TV, movies and books and I’ve decided once again to share with you five of those fun ornaments and why they scored a spot on my tree.
I know what you’re thinking. (Actually I don’t but for the purposes of this post let’s pretend I am going all NSA-ish on your a** shall we?)
What about Mickey Mouse? What about Donald? How can you pick Goofy over them?
Well the fact of the matter is I do have Mickey and Donal ornaments but there is something about Goofy, clumsy and idiosyncratic as he is, that has endeared him to me like few Disney characters have.
He isn’t all Pollyanna sunshine-saturated smiles like Mickey, or a duck with massive anger management issues like Donald, simply bumbling along, doing the best with what he is.
And I think that’s why I like him.
For an anthropomorphic dog, he is awfully, fallibly human and you can help but empathise with him.
Created in 1932, not that long after Mickey, and originally known as Dippy Dawg, Goofy debuted in Mickey’s Revue, and spent most of the 30s starring with Mickey and Donald before breaking out as a solo star in the 40s and 50s.
After four shorts in the 60s, things went a little quiet for everyone’s favourite vest-wearing canine until he re-appeared in Mickey’s Christmas Carol in 1983, with his most appearance in 2007 in How to Hook Up Your Home Theater.
I am hoping he gets his chance to shine again but should he not, he will always have pride of place on my tree.
Sorry Mickey and Donald …
I think what made me fall in love with Bugs Buggy first was his cheeky ballsiness.
Growing up in a Christian household which, while very loving, didn’t tolerate speaking out of turn or pushing the boundaries too much (and certainly not exercising the kind of sass that Bugs uses routinely), I found Bugs Bunny’s overweening confidence every bit as thrilling as it was intended to be.
Here was a character who refused to toe the line, who pushed back at every turn with the sort of wisecracks and subterfuge that confounded everyone who took him on.
Regardless of whether it was Daffy Duck, or Elmer Fudd, or pretty much anyone else, Bugs who first appeared in 1940 and soon became known for his brash New Yorker accent and catchphrase “What’s Up Doc?” (with carrot in hand), always bested them and did so handsomely.
He was devilishly clever, able to thwart everything thrown at him no matter how capable his opponent and I love the way he managed to come out on top every time.
He was all the things I wished I could be, and acted in the way and said all the things I wished I was able to, and for that reason he became my hero.
In a world of constraints and maddeningly binding rules, he did as he pleased.
I can’t say I have quite reached his level of insouciant devil-may-careness but I am still trying.
In the meantime I can only hope that the promised live action/cartoon mix Looney Tunes reboot, announced on 19 September 2012, comes to pass. (Here’s an update.)
I will be in the cinema opening day cheering on my childhood pal, and free-wheelin’ role model, all the way.
What’s not to like about Hanna-Barbera’s take on the future?
(Well apart from a rather 1950s take on gender politics.)
They had flying cars! Hooray!
Moving walkways … robots with personality and a predilection for OCD levels of cleanliness … flat screen TVs and interactive computers … and trips to space, which as routine as catching a train into town.
Not everything in the show may have come to pass, but the show which aired initially from 1962-63 with a few add-on seasons in the less idealistic 80s (1984-87), managed to engender a sense that the future would be remarkable, and every bit as exciting as we hoped it might be.
George and Jane Jetson, together with kids Judy and Elroy, dog Astro and member of the family Rosie the Robot, lived a very good life, with little or no effort thanks to technology which was still seen in the 1960s through utopian rose-tinted glasses.
Granted we are little more worldly-wise these days, all too aware that for all of technology’s upsides, there are downsides too, but even so, there is still something incurably romantic about thinking life could be this much and this uncomplicated.
And what’s wrong with a little wishful thinking now and then?
Tiggers are most definitely wonderful things.
I’ll be honest – I probably gravitated most closely to Tigger out of all the Winnie the Pooh characters because I am Tigger.
True I don’t have bright orange and black striped fur, nor a fabulously bendable tail, but I have that same joie de vivre, that bouncy sense that life is an amazing, captivating thing even with the dark times might suggest otherwise.
In fact I was often referred to as Tigger growing up, with pretty much everyone I knew agreeing I was the human personification of A. A. Milne’s creation, who first saw the light of day in 1928’s The House at Pooh Corner.
However the version of Tigger most familiar to people would be the one brought forth by Disney, who in 1961 acquired the motion picture rights from A. A. Milne’s widow Daphne, and other rights such as merchandising and TV from the widow of Stephen Slesinger, who bought them from Milne in 1930.
Since 1966 their take on Tigger, with a rambunctious personality and an infectious love of bouncing (“Bouncing is what Tiggers do best.”).
He’s impossible not to like, and while I also have Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Owl, and Piglet ornaments on the tree, Tigger will always be my favourite.
It makes sense – after all, he’s FUN, FUN, FUN, FUN, FUN!
If you don’t find the first 20 minutes or so of UP to be some of the most profoundly affecting cinema you have ever seen, then I can only assume someone stole your living, breathing, beating heart and replaced with a concrete block.
Watching Carl Fredricksen (voiced by Ed Asner) and his late wife Ellie meet, fall in love, and together dream of retracing the steps of their hero, explorer Charles F. Muntz back to Paradise Falls in Venezuala only to have it all stymied by the demanding day to day realities of life is heartbreaking.
It is uplifting, touching and so impossibly sad all at once and you feel so deeply for Carl that when he decides to set sail, by tying a gigantic number of balloons to his house, for Paradise Falls, accidentally taking a young Wilderness Explorer, Russell, along for the ride, you cheer him on, happy his dream is being realised.
Admittedly it’s a bittersweet accomplishment since Ellie isn’t there to share in it with him, but at least he has made it. and Russell’s presence turns out to be fortuitous setting off a transformation in Carl, a man who assumed that with the passing of his beloved Ellie, that life has ceased to hold any hope or wonder for him.
It is the sort of story that Pixar excels at – heartwarming, deeply human, and whimsically offbeat simultaneously, and I took it to my heart very quickly.
So when I saw this ornament of Russell in the Disney Store in Vancouver the year it was released (2009), it took me about 2-3 nanoseconds to decide to buy it.
It reminds me that animated movies are no longer the step children of “real” movies and are more than able to tell stories that can affect us in ways we never thought possible.
And besides Russell is adorable, the beating heart of a story in which we realise life is over till you allow it to be.