“It means a whale’s vagina.”
My friend Jaime said that as we drove to work. It was in response — I guess — to the third member of our car pool, who had been talking about San Diego. I sat silently, wondering if Jaime was suffering some type of breakdown.
“Anchorman,” she said. “Remember?”
Oh, yeah. Anchorman.
The fact was I didn’t remember, not at first, not even after she first said Anchorman. How could I not recall that line, one of hundreds from the movie you might hear quoted during any given week? If she had quoted Seinfeld or Airplane or The Naked Gun or Christmas Vacation or any Simpsons episode between 1990-1996, then, yeah, I would have caught on right away to Jaime’s quote and could have offered a quick retort. Instead I sat there, dumbly, staring out the window, wishing she’d said an old Chevy Chase line so I could participate.
Time is passing me by, as are the new movies and TV shows that became fodder for the millions who can’t come up with their own words to describe a situation so rely on the wisdom of screenwriters and actors.
Is this a natural occurrence, can I blame age? Or have scientists discovered that the human brain only has so much capacity for storing one-liners from popular entertainment? If I make room for a whale’s vagina — the one-liner, that is — do I have to eliminate “Well, when I see five weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people, I shoot the bastards! That’s *my* policy” from the memory bank? Is this a zero-sum game?
Or is it more psychological than physiological? Maybe I simply don’t feel the need to fit in anymore — when you’re younger, no one wants to sit silently when Airplane quotes start flying around a dorm room. I don’t feel the need to fit in so I don’t feel the need to keep up. Maybe? Or can I blame Hollywood and the movie and TV industries? Perhaps writers just aren’t creating the same type of shows that conjure the same type of memorable lines? Seems dubious, but let me find a quote from The Godfather that sums up my feelings.
“Women and children can afford to be careless, but not men.”
Wait, no, that doesn’t even make sense. Am I losing more than the ability to store new movie and TV quotes? Is it also affecting my capacity for finding just the right line for the right moment? What kind of blows will my self-esteem suffer if someone says they want to order a steak sandwich and I don’t ask — within 2 seconds — if they’re just going to charge it to the Underhills’ account? Next time I ask someone at work if I can borrow some money — say, 75 cents for soda — will they mock me if I don’t say “about $52,000” when they ask how much I need?
I guess I stopped installing new lines around 1998, the year Seinfeld ended, though that’s surely just a coincidence. But even The Big Lebowski, a legendary movie from that year — a movie that is, as you read this, being quoted by 24,567 people — didn’t make a permanent impression. I don’t have quotes from The Dude ready to go and it makes me feel like a lesser man.
Napoleon Dynamite? I have nothing — although does anyone anymore? In the months after the movie premiered, my nephew quoted it nonstop and it made me question this younger generation, though that may have simply been the musings of a bitter older man. But I think he grew out of that phase and eventually stopped going to it for lines.
What about the Golden Age of TV? Surely Tony Soprano, Walter White, Don Draper and everyone from The Wire said lines that are repeated millions of times each day, by people describing a marriage or their job or a basketball game or a death or an interaction with a sales person. Yet I have nothing to offer my fellow travelers, other than “You come at the king, you best not miss.” But I don’t even know the context, so I’m not sure if I’m using it correctly if I say it when talking about someone challenging Kobe Bryant to a game of one-on-one.
Zoolander, Old School, Wedding Crashers, South Park…nothing comes to mind, or out of my mouth. What are some others I’m missing?
I rely on the same ones as so many from my generation, my predictability as boring as the original lines were creative. Naked Gun, the original Police Squad, Airplane, the Vacation movies (yes to European, no to Vegas), Fletch, Godfather (not III, other than “they pull me back in”), Top Gun, A Few Good Men (not you can’t handle the truth but little lines like how when someone says sir I’m looking around for my father), Better Off Dead. I probably rely on Young Frankenstein more than others but know less Caddyshack than most. The Breakfast Club is a standby for so many people my age, memories of their own sort-of rebellious days dancing in their heads, but much of that movie annoys me so my brain has eased out many of its lines — blame Emilio Estevez’s dancing for this.
Most of the things in my quote library went there when I was a teenager, so maybe younger brains can absorb all of this more, or maybe thinking about those movies and all of those lines somehow makes me think of younger days.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just thinking too much about this. As long as I can pull out a Princess Bride line when I want to convey the fact I will stop at nothing to get vengeance, why do I need to think of any line delivered in a movie since the late 1990s?
Not sure what it all means. Guess I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.