Renaissance Online Magazine Column

FEBRUARY 2000 |VOL. 4, NO. 2



CRIS COHEN

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CRIS COHEN is a staff humor columnist for Renaissance Magazine. His work is also published weekly in three California newspapers and four online humor magazines.


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Out of the Loop

CRIS COHEN

Independence Day
SPARE ME Sitting through "Independence Day" is worse than an actual alien invasion.

Have you ever come across something that everyone seems to love except you? This happened to me a few years ago with the movie Independence Day (right), the action film where several well-known actors kill invading aliens by using some of the worst dialogue ever written. Apparently as part of the movie studio's attempt to be an equal opportunity employer, they handed the writing duties over to someone who had recently suffered a potentially debilitating head injury. As a result, you had people in the film speaking lines that to this day might still make them physically sick.

However, for some reason people liked the movie. Actually, a lot of people liked the movie, enough that it made a huge amount of money, despite the fact that it had lines slightly less intelligent than those heard on episodes of Gilligan's Island or on instructional tapes that they give to people who are just learning to speak English for the first time. In fact, had the actors been given dialogue like "The car is red" and "This is my pencil," it might have made the film a lot more interesting.

So I was a little surprised when people kept saying how great they thought the film was. It was like someone had brainwashed the general population, like maybe I had stepped into the bathroom right at the moment when everyone else was exposed to some sort of toxic gas. Or maybe I just happened to be up wind when millions of Americans were hit with those chemicals they use for dusting crops.

There just had to be some explanation, some story that would clear up why people were acting this way. I mean, I would have felt a lot better if someone had just pulled me aside and said, "Here's the deal. The movie studio has everyone bugged and they have a secret offer that every time someone says that he or she loved Independence Day, that person will be mailed a check for ten dollars. Personally I wasn't too fond of the film, but in this case I've been prostituting myself like you wouldn't believe. As a result, I have almost paid off my son's college tuition."

Schoolhouse Rock
NUTHOUSE ROCK These cartoons give off the feeling of impending mental illness.

More recently I've had this same feeling regarding an old series of cartoons called Schoolhouse Rock (right). These were originally on TV when I was a kid. They were an attempt to throw some education at children on Saturday mornings when they were otherwise just watching one animal hit another animal with a frying pan. And I have nothing against educational cartoons for kids. I just never thought the cartoons were that good. In fact, there was something about them that seemed kind of depressing, to the point where each cartoon should have been followed by a reassuring message from a licensed psychologist.

However, apparently I'm the only person in the world who feels this way about the Schoolhouse Rock cartoons. Almost everyone I know thinks they were great. My wife, Michele, even has a cassette tape of all the songs. Thankfully she keeps it to herself, because there's only so many times you can hear a song about the multiplication tables before you want to rip the tape out of the player without first hitting the eject button.

But she's not the only one into it. It's become this huge piece of nostalgia for people from my generation, which to me is just further proof that it wasn't just the baby boomers who went too far in the area of recreational drug use. It's to the point where they've made new Schoolhouse Rock cartoons and for a time there was even a musical based on the original ones. Again, apparently I missed the toxic gas exposure. To me it's the equivalent a group of people creating a musical based on the instructions that come with most products prescribed by your dermatologist. And I just can't picture an entire chorus singing a rousing rendition of "Apply Liberally to the Affected Area."

Thus when the topic of Schoolhouse Rock comes up among people, I just watch in bemused confusion. It's only when they suggest putting on Independence Day that I get up and leave.

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PHOTOS: Independence Day copyright © Fox, Inc.; Schoolhouse Rock copyright © ABC.