Posts Tagged ‘comedy’

[Author’s Note]: This article was written a while ago and has been edited for the purposes of keeping up-to-date on the current political climate.

 

I’ve been watching a lot of The West Wing lately. You can probably guess the reason. It’s a comforting show to me, a balm for my anxiety and the ever present empty pit of rage in my stomach. Sadly, the show angers me as well upon rewatch, just not for the reasons you’d think. I miss the fast-paced environment of a White House that never existed. I miss the friendly camaraderie of men and women brought to life beautifully by talented actors. I miss the lofty ideals and passion of a staff dedicated to a United States with a relatively informed populace. If you haven’t guessed, the agitation comes from the fact that The West Wing isn’t real. It’s the product of one man’s imagination that tapped into a need for a governing body to display equal amounts of dedication, determination, and selflessness. It’s an alternate reality that’s painful to watch at times, but I continue to watch because it’s that idealized vision of politics that prevents me from completely succumbing to absolute depression. The kernels of hope and emulation are there as the next generation discovers the show and ponders whether President Bartlet’s America could actually exist.Sorkin on set of West Wing

While there are many and varied critiques of Aaron Sorkin’s work, regardless of how you feel about him, it’s very easy to spot an Aaron Sorkin-created television show. The man has so many ticks and quirks associated with his various projects that there are a multitude of parodies easily found on YouTube. Hell, the man’s even parodied himself on his own shows and on others. Your most basic sign that it’s a Sorkin-joint is that the “action” all takes place behind the scenes. Sports Night, The West Wing, The American President, Moneyball, The Social Network, Studio 60, and The Newsroom are all about the moments leading up to or following an event. Usually it’s something important. One of the easier quirks to spot in this behind-the-scenes world is the “walk-and-talk,” which is fairly self-explanatory. Though walk-and-talks are not an exclusive quirk of Sorkin’s (it’s movie-making 101 to have your character exposit dialogue while moving), he’s definitely become the writer most associated with the trope since every movie or television show since Sports Night has included it.

Coupled with the walk-and-talk is a rhythmic banter between characters often dubbed “Sorkinese” since actors who’ve worked on a Sorkin project have stated that the dialogue is so precise that any changes practically have to be run by him so he can hear how it sounds. And within the banter, whilst doing the walk-and-talk, is an encyclopedic knowledge – by virtually every character – of literature, politics, pop culture (to a degree), and history. If a stanza from Emily Dickinson can hammer a point home, you bet your ass there’s going to be a character who either has an English Lit degree or reads Dickinson for fun so they can throw a line in there and create a profound moment. Pretty much all of The Newsroom’s first season was about quoting or referencing Don Quixote.

West Wing CastWhat this all adds up to, and tends to be the reason people don’t particularly care for Sorkin, is a pretentiously idealized world where every profession is a noble one and all those involved have more passion in their little finger than you’ve ever displayed over the most important event in your life! Unless they’re the “villain” and then they’re just the worst type of person. The easiest example of this is The West Wing. During Sorkin’s four years writing the show, it wasn’t uncommon for a character – any character – to make a passionate speech or a profound statement about the importance of their work in government, the necessity of doing right by the American people, or the almost divine calling that is the office of the President and serving under him.

There was also the occasional history lesson or the quoting of scripture that cemented the show as one of the smartest hours of television during its early seasons. The later seasons were okay after Sorkin left, Season 7 was definitely good television, but Season 5 and half of 6 are hard to get through if you’re a fan of Sorkin’s style and the characters, which I am. The point, though, is that the world of The West Wing was populated by people with passion for their job, who saw what they did as a call to serve their country. Even their “enemies,” both Republican and Democrat, where never entirely vilified, but shown to have just as much passion and a need to do what they thought was best for their constituents. Sorkin essentially elevated government and its employees to a degree that’s nearly laughable when we compare it to how our perception of government has changed within the last decade. Most especially within the last two months.studio60cast

The same attempt was made, less successfully, with Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip where Sorkin attempted to elevate comedy and it’s purpose in American culture. There’s a scene where Tom Jeter (Nate Corddry) is showing his blue collar parents around the theater where Studio 60 is filmed while giving them the history of the theater and its entertainment pedigree. All of this is done in service to highlighting the “culture wars” through Tom’s conservative parents, specifically his father who doesn’t care much for his son’s cushy, “elitist” job of playing in front of a camera while his other son is fighting in Afghanistan. Because…comedy!

As much as I do adore this show, it got really heavy-handed with it’s agenda, more so than most Sorkin shows, which alienated a lot of its audience. It also didn’t help that 30 Rock came out at the same time, on the same network, and was genuinely funny. Sorkin’s writing can be funny, but his humor often comes out of dramatic situations. He’s not exactly a joke writer. But what Sorkin was getting at, I think, is that there is a need for smart television, that the audience doesn’t have to have things dumbed down for them in order for a program to succeed. And comedy, even a variety show, can facilitate ideas or effectively satirize the world we live in. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, Key & Peele, The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver prove that comedy can steer the political and social conversation through the medium of comedy.

The Newsroom, like Studio 60, like The West Wing, is what Sorkin envisions journalism should be; that journalists and news anchors should strive for something more than puff pieces and partisan politics. The opening theme of The Newsroom is a montage of photographs showcasing the history of broadcast journalism from Edward R. Morrow to Walter Cronkite to Dan Rather. Respected and trusted anchors that people turned to for their nightly news. The entire crux of the first episode is MacKenzie Hale’s (played by Emily Mortimer) plea that they can do better, that they are better.

The-NewsroomAnd while some critics may decry Sorkin’s idealistic portrayal of politics, comedy, or journalism, I think what’s important about these worlds he creates is that the characters are imperfect. You’d be hard-pressed to find a character in any of these shows or movies who isn’t fundamentally flawed in some way. Granted, many of these flaws are gendered since a lot of the women seem to have relationship issues and the men are cursed with arrogance and an overabundance or lack of machismo, but they’re still flawed. And yet they yearn for something more. The characters are the ones who create their idealized worlds because they want it to be that way, but it remains unattainable. The West Wing showed it time and time again. No matter how good their intentions, no matter how noble the cause, someone always gets left out, someone always feels betrayed. The Newsroom follows the same model. You can want to be better, you can want to change the world because of some call to destiny, but the world around you won’t shift overnight because you deem it so. You have to change it little by little and fight because you know you have to and it’s the right thing to do.

The Don Quixote metaphor is appropriate because many of Sorkin’s characters could be described as quixotic. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I’d argue that Sorkin’s idealism is necessary for viewing audiences. If we see ourselves in the characters on television and in movies, if we find common ground, why can’t we also find what we’re missing? It’s not hard toHouse Bartlett identify with a character who desires an idyllic President because, deep down, we probably want the same thing. The same is true of our news anchors. We gravitate towards like-minded reporters, but don’t we wish for someone capable of delivering the news without the nagging suspicion that they’re leading us towards their politics? Shouldn’t we instead want someone with the desire to make us a more informed population?

The downside, and there’s always a downside, is disappointment when something or someone doesn’t live up to your standards. We definitely see that happening a lot these days, but Sorkin still leaves us with the tools capable of weathering such disappointments. Yes, you’re going to get kicked down a lot and you may not get exactly what you want, but hoping and striving for something better, even if it seems unobtainable, is just as noble. We may bend, we may even break, but we eventually shake it off, put ourselves together and start over. Maybe we’re a little wiser, a bit more cynical, but even an iota of idealism is enough to keep us moving forward and asking, “What’s next?”

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I feel like that title loses something towards the end…

What would Rufio do?

bang

Eh, whatever!

If you’ve been lucky enough to see Scott Aukerman’s live comedy show turned podcast turned IFC television show turned touring live comedy show, then you know what it feels like when your stomach aches the next morning because you were laughing so hard you pulled a muscle you weren’t aware you had.

It’s one thing to listen to Aukerman and his rotating cast of comedians and “friends of the show” or watch many of the same comedy-bang-652x367-538x301people reprise their audio personas for the television show, but seeing the magic (I know, I’m groaning too) of live improv by people at the top of their game heightens the experience shared among the audience and performers. You laugh more because the people around you are laughing, creating an energy that’s palpable in the theater. The laughs, however, go deeper and last longer as each new guest builds upon previous riffs and alters the group dynamic on stage. Of course a live audience means some measure of interaction, instigated or otherwise, but it speaks to the skill of the performers that they never lose their cool or their rhythm while addressing their less-than-silent observers.

“But who were these hilariously adept comedians gracing the stage for your viewing pleasure?” I hear you asking me over the internet.

Excellent question. I’m glad you probably asked it. To answer it, here’s a brief synopsis of the tour’s second-to-last show in Seattle, Washington at the Moore Theater. If you actually want to listen to the show, which you can, you need only subscribe to Howl.fm where you can listen to all 21 performances. You can also tell me whether or not I’m remembering the night correctly because I love being corrected in a public forum.

Author’s Note: Do not inform me if I’m remembering the night correctly. Let me have my illusions!scottaukerman

Front and center was Scott Aukerman, the creator and host of Comedy Bang Bang. Aukerman practically bounded on to the stage of the Moore Theater and almost immediately focused in on the eleven-year-old boy seated in the front row, between his parents, for a show that was likely to go blue the minute he brought out the first guest. In his own words, “Now I want to swear more!” After making the customary comparisons to Portland, as is the traditional means of addressing Seattleites, Aukerman was very complimentary towards the city since the podcast recorded its first live show, under the Bang Bang banner, at the annual Bumbershoot music and arts festival in 2011. With his complimentary remarks out of the way, and a brief taunting of one of the stagehands off stage, Aukerman called out his first guest: Director Mr. Gary Marshall as portrayed by Paul F. Tompkins.

A regular guest with a plethora of characters in his repertoire (the Cake Boss, Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Werner Herzog come to mind), Tompkins no doubt had his pick of whom to play. As Gary Marshall, the director of all the holiday movies, Tompkins revels in the cranky, pragmatic, yet easily excitable characterization he’s built over the last five years. What’s Marshallfantastic about Tompkins’s status as first guest is the time it gives him and Aukerman to keep their odd couple routine going throughout the entirety of the show. Though Aukerman typically takes on the straight man role as host of the podcast – and to a lesser extent on the television show – whenever Tompkins is a featured player the dynamic changes. Case in point, when Mr. Marshall came out on stage and chose the stool upon which to perch, Aukerman and he engaged in a game of Move-The-Sweat-Rags, which Aukerman commented were there to clean up the guests’ anal seepage. Less than a minute in and the pair quickly settled into their tried and true role reversal with Mr. Marshall acting as straight man to whatever inane thoughts sprang, barely formed, from Aukerman’s mouth. It’s all about the reaction from Tompkins; his bemused stare at Aukerman while the off-color comment gets a moment to breathe and the audience takes it in as well. After several minutes of testing Gary’s tolerance for Scott’s questions, it was time for the next guest to arrive: Manners Expert Carmella Pointe as portrayed by Lauren Lapkus.

Though Lapkus is fairly new to the Bang Bang rotation, she’s definitely earned her spot with fantastic and disturbing performances as Scott’s Nephew Todd, Ho-Ho the Elf, and Murphy O’Malaman. What’s most notable about Lapkus’s guest appearances is her fearlessness in saying the weirdest, darkest, and the most sexually charged musings if only to get a reaction out of Scott or the other guests. During her performance at the Moore, however, she debuted Carmella and quickly solidified IMG_7303her place among her growing list of characters by politely telling Scott to “kiss her fucking feet.” He obliged, of course, getting down on all fours, as is only polite in such situations. Mr. Marshall got a pass because he’s old. As a trio, Scott and Gary engaged Ms. Pointe in conversation over how to avoid being rude and to practice good manners via a smattering of hypothetical scenarios. One had Scott and Gary as gay couple Louie Anderson and Clive Owen, respectively, helping a pregnant woman through a revolving door post-public sexy times. Another revealed the dark secrets of Gary as the adopted son of Louie Anderson still hypothetically played by Scott. With the scenarios concluded, Aukerman moved on to the next guest: Candymaker Peter Finn as portrayed by Mike Hanford.

Hanford was actually the show’s opening act, taking over the position half way through the tour after Neil Campbell had to drop out. Those familiar with his appearances on the podcast know him for his performance as the very much still alive John Lennon, which Hanford brought out during his opening standup routine. He even managed to almost sing a love song to a girl named Kate. For the show proper, Hanford played Peter Finn, a man who sounds like a more depressed Nicolas Cage. Pining Lennonfor his wife who all but ran away from him, more specifically she rolled away in a giant tire down a hill, Peter could only express his feelings by singing somewhat to the tune of Little Shop of Horrors’ “Somewhere That’s Green.” What became the most entertaining aspect of the show was the interaction amongst the performers and their innate ability to make each other laugh. Lapkus was especially capable of cracking Tompkins with her amazingly foul mouth. Hanford, however, managed to get them both with a combination of the lovelorn candymaker’s wispy voice and his surprisingly fancy footwork. The three combined, however, were nearly overshadowed by the dulcet monotone of LinkedIn Creative Officer Tom Boreman portrayed by Tim Baltz.

Though he was the last performer brought out, Baltz’s Boreman quickly made for a distinct voice and personality in comparison to the other comedians. And by distinct I mean flat and sorely lacking. It paid off in spades, however, when Boreman attempted to explain LinkedIn to the perplexed panel of characters and said the magic word, “Boolean.” If you don’t know what a Boolean search is, I encourage you to look it up, but Boreman’s attempt to explain the Boolean to the others Baltzmade for some of the most intense laughter from both on and off the stage. I’m cracking myself up as I type this because I remember Baltz’s voice and the frequency of him saying “Boolean” in answer to any questions put forth about the excitingly lackluster functionality of LinkedIn. Basically, the last ten minutes of this show would be worth the Howl.fm subscription. Trust me, I don’t say this lightly.

By the end of the night, the show gave me the much needed gift of laughter, a new appreciation for the word Boolean, and something to think about in terms of the proper actions when helping pregnant women into buildings while carrying ten bags of designer clothing. And isn’t that what live podcasts are supposed to do?

I wanna say…probably?

Sixteen years never felt so short, but it’s with a heavy heart that we say so long and farewell to Jon Stewart as he sits behind the desk as The Daily Show‘s host one last time on Thursday August 6th, 2015. It’s bittersweet, for many reasons, chief among them the notion that though Stewart will no doubt go forth and create something of substance we’ll flock back to, but the familiarity and seeming ubiquitousness of The Daily Show with Jon at the helm will be sorely missed. Even when Jon took personal time jon stewartaway from the program, whether it was vacation or to direct a film (go see Rosewater!), and one of the correspondents took over hosting duties there was still this “gentleman’s agreement” between the audience and the show that Jon was coming back. We got to see the proto-hosting abilities of Stephen Colbert and John Oliver emerge but there was always this sense that The Daily Show wasn’t really The Daily Show until Jon returned.

Of course that wasn’t always the case.

While we see The Daily Show as a satirical powerhouse, the original concept of the show was much more in line with Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update – news with punchlines – combined with a Tonight Show celebrity interview segment. Even when Jon took over hosting duties from Craig Kilborn in 1999, The Daily Show didn’t carve out its place as cable’s most trusted news show until the clusterfuck that was the 2000 Presidential Election. The insane yet hilarious coverage and commentary provided by Jon and his team of correspondents featuring Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Vance DeGeneres, Nancy Walls, and Mo Rocca set the new tone for the show and propelled it into the politically-apathetic hearts and mind of a new generation of high school and college students in need of their own Walter Cronkite.

jon stephen star warsThat’s not me being hyperbolic, by the way. Jon Stewart is to my generation what Walter Cronkite was to my parents’ generation. It would have been so easy for Jon to treat the hosting gig as just that and keep it in line with most comedy shows, but whether through his own desires or the demands of an audience in need of an iota of honesty, he and the show’s writers and producers turned it into something more. As the political and media landscape turned dark and ugly, Jon was there to offer a comedic palate cleanser that didn’t resort to condescension or fear-mongering to manipulate the audience. Jon did something news channels like CNN, FOX, and MSNBC didn’t – he treated us like we were intelligent, he respected the viewers as people and respected his position as the jester poking fun at royalty.

I was in high school when Jon started hosting The Daily Show and I can say without any hesitation that, to this day, he’s still my most trusted source for objective discussion of the news and media. Yes, he has his own agenda and his own biases but what I’ve always respected about Jon is his desire for discourse. Some news outlets bring people on their shows to yell at them and attempt to dominate the conversation; Jon Stewart brought people on to talk to them. For him it was about looking at both sides and finding common ground or, at the very least, understand where the other side was coming from. His friendly olive branch, dailyshow_middlehowever, didn’t stop him from turning it into a sharpened spear when certain guests underestimated his intellect and his ability to work the room in his favor.

The three most notorious cases were his appearance on the how defunct Crossfire and guests of The Daily Show Jim Cramer, host of the also defunct Mad Money, and Betsy “Death Panels” McCaughey. In the case of Crossfire and Mad Money, both shows took huge dives in ratings after Jon conversed with their respective hosts. And by “converse” I mean “ran circles around them intellectually”, though it became very obvious by the end of his “discussion” with Cramer that Jon was taking very little joy in using clips from the man’s show against him to make his point. Towards the end, Cramer physically sighs after yet another order from Jon to show footage. Betsy McCaughey’s appearance was one of those rare moments in television, other than watching audition tapes for American Idol, where I started to feel sorry for the guest. Brought on the show to talk about the language in the early draft of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act that supposedly mentioned “death panels”, McCaughey brought a large binder containing the bill, but neglected to mark where the language could be found. As she attempted to find it, Jon talked with her but McCaughey tried to ham it up for the audience by diminishing the importance of appearing on a comedy show to talk about an issue concerning the federal government. The audience wasn’t buying it, but Jon showed patience as she continued to thumb through the bill. Eventually, he had to go to commercial and when they returned, McCaughey still hadn’t found the statement that justified her coining the term. Instead, the two talked around the bill as if she’d come on the show prepared for a real discussion.

jon wavingIn all three example, Jon Stewart was underestimated by the “other side” and in all three examples he showed just how much he shouldn’t be underestimated. Yes, he still maintains that his job is about putting comedy first, and there are certainly plenty of moments that prove him right, but the audience is in on the joke. We know where his passion is because he’s not particularly good at hiding his emotions when it comes to certain topics and people. It’s because of Jon Stewart that we’ve been introduced to so many amazing comedic voices. It’s because of Jon Stewart that more veterans have access to medical care. It’s because of Jon Stewart that Jason Jones went to Tehran to talk to the real people of Iran, not just the religious fundamentalists most news outlets were showing as the only representation of the country. It’s because of Jon Stewart that we had at least one place to go where we trusted someone not to lie and manipulate us for the sake of ratings.

When Jon Stewart steps down on Thursday, there’s no telling what the future of The Daily Show will be. We’ve been asked to give incoming host Trevor Noah a fair shot and I’m sure many of us will continue to tune in if only to see how well he fares. That doesn’t mean Jon’s shadow won’t linger. For nearly twenty years he was ours, so getting over his absence might take a while.

But here’s to you, Jon! Looking forward to the next adventure!

And now, your moment of Zen.

 

Sam talks with Ben Blacker, co-creator and writer for the Thrilling Adventure Hour! They chat about the writing process, the stage show turned podcast turned successful kickstarter, and television as a medium.

Ben Blacker

Follow @BenBlacker and @ThrillingAdv
Check out thrillingadventurehour.com

Intro and outro music “French Kiss” by Mrs. Howl

Mabel

Before Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra gave us a glut of charismatic and realized female characters, before Steven Universe brought us diverse, retro-futuristic superheroes like Garnet, Amethyst, and Diamond, and before Gravity Falls and Bob’s Burgers gave us silly yet poignant characters like Mabel, Tina, and Louise respectively (two of which are voiced by Kristen Schaal), there was the first wave of female cartoon characters that influenced a generation of children, girls and boys, and paved the way for the latest Renaissance of animation where more gender and racially diverse casts are becoming the norm. Representation in media may not seem like a huge deal to some, but we often forget (some more than others) that, as children, the media we consume imprints on us in ways we don’t fully understand until well into adulthood. The goggles of nostalgia being what they are, the current generation is benefiting from what my, and the generations before me, lacked.

Animated cartoons as a medium of entertainment have roughly been around since the turn of the 20th century when the 1908 French film, Fantasmagorie, featured the first instance of traditional, hand-drawn, animation. From there, animated shorts began appearing as experimental films themselves or as shorts before features. Walt Disney and Warner Bros. both developed their signature styles and characters through these shorts. But it wasn’t until 1958 that we got the first purely animated half-hour show featured on television, Hanna-Barbera’s Huckleberry Hound. Two years later we got The Flintstones and the rest, they say, is cata_bettyboophistory. But like the history books we read, the figures dominating the scene were mostly male and white – though I have no idea what the racial breakdown is amongst characters like Wally Gator, Snagglepuss, and the cast of Top Cat.

Female characters in early animation and even in the classic cartoons from the 30s on down were largely used as nagging wives, wide-eyed innocent dimwits, or sexual objects. The 60s and 70s gave us some marginal steps forwards with Josie and the Pussycats and Scooby-Doo, but the ad hoc mystery-solving teen plus animal sidekick shows rarely produced memorable, let alone influential, female characters. As for depictions of race in cartoons, yeah we all know why Disney and Warner Bros. keep a lot of those locked away. Though kudos to Amazon and iTunes for adding a disclaimer to the Tom and Jerry cartoons. It’s a necessary step in educating people on how cartoons, like any medium, are the product of their time and what was considered acceptable.

So why am I bringing this up? Why am I adding historical context to what is ostensibly a list of favorite female cartoon characters from the 80s and 90s? Because we need to understand how the cartoons kids and adults watch now got to this point. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still the continuing tropes of the Smurfette Principle and Tokenism in many cartoons airing currently, but now more than ever are audiences likely to voice their opinions and demand change. Furthermore, creators of these cartoons are more likely to purposefully craft these new cartoons because they understand the changing climate and the need for greater representation and character types. And when you start looking at where the seeds of change were planted, it’s only a few decades back when impressionable kids like myself got a taste of what was yet to come.

 

Babs Bunny (Tiny Toon Adventures) and Dot Warner (Animaniacs)

For all intents and purposes, Babs and Dot share very similar character traits. For one, they’re both voiced by the incomparable Tress MacNeille, but they’re also characters who, like their male counterparts, are just as silly, if not sillier. It’s not a case of them being “just one of the guys”, Babs and Dot are active participants in the shenanigans of their respective shows. And they’re funny as hell!Babs

Though Babs is the epitome of the Smurfette Principle on a visual level (right down to being pink), the writers of Tiny Toons made her a character in her own right. She’s obsessed with perfecting her impressions and goes to great lengths to show her mother just how funny she is despite the lack of attention. There was also a very touching episode called “Fields of Honey” where Babs laments the fact that she has no mentor the equivalent of Buster to Bugs or Plucky to Daffy, though she ends up finding a mentor in the made up Honey of the Bosko and Honey cartoons from the 30s. It’s a bit of commentary on the fact that the Looney Tunes lacked female characters save for Granny, Witch Hazel, and the poor cat often harassed by Pepe Le Pew. Tiny Toons may have created some female counterparts to their male characters, but they made sure they were distinctive. Elmira, anyone?

dot and melDot, like Babs, somewhat embodies the Smurfette Principle, but like her older brothers she’s just as capable of being the voice of reason as she is being an instigator of their torturous fun at the expense of others. Adorned in a little pink skirt and a bow on her head, Dot also has the added dimension of acting “girly”, often proclaiming to others how cute she is, but never lacks in hilarity because of it. Her cuteness, the frequent catchphrases of her ridiculously long name, and the monstrous pet living in a tiny box, all create a complete package. And she’s just as prone to exhibiting the “female gaze” on attractive men as her brothers are on women even if the phrase, “Hello, Nurse!” doesn’t apply in Dot’s case, though that makes it even funnier. This was, of course, a play on what male characters in the Warner Bros. cartoons would do when faced with a sexualized female character, but in the case of Animaniacs, Dot could be just as obsessively attracted to someone as Yakko or Wakko. Babs definitely had her moments like this as well, but most of her efforts were put into getting Buster’s attention. Dot had no ongoing “love interest”, she was just interested.

 

April O’Neil (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)april-o-neil

Though she’s gone through as many iterations as her terrapin friends, April is usually the grounding element for viewers in case a title like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn’t completely prepare you for what the show was about. It’s through April (voiced by Renae Jacobs) we learn the origin story of the turtles and it’s through April that the turtles usually have reason to get involved with the plot. Saving April from whatever mess she’d gotten herself into was part of the formula of the show, but that formula also showed us that April was the type of reporter who would do anything to get her story. The whole reason she meets the turtles is because her continued investigation into the Foot Clan puts her face to face with Shredder’s goons, driving her into the sewers to save herself. Though Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was considered a boys cartoon, their main source of information and connection to the city above was an ambitious woman willing to put herself in danger because she believed in doing the right thing or getting the best camera angle.

 

Lydia Deetz (Beetlejuice)

LydiaBased, and I mean loosely based, on the movie of the same name, the cartoon version of Lydia (voiced by Alyson Court) was a breath of fresh Gothic air in the cartoon landscape. Keeping the bright, pastel settings of Tim Burton’s suburbia, Lydia continued to stick out with her black hair, pale skin, and purple eyeshadow in comparison to the perpetually tanned and blonde-haired girls that populated her middle school. Her story is not that dissimilar from other girls whose interests and looks deviate from what it considered “normal”. She’s isolated and alone and not even the well-intentioned platitudes of her parents make the loneliness go away. Fortunately for Lydia, she has a place she can go to escape the world that ineffectively forces her to conform where a friend awaits who truly understands her and cares about her for the person that she is. In the Neitherworld, Beetlejuice’s home, Lydia can be herself and through her friendship with Beetlejuice she comes into her own as a girl of intelligence and spirit willing to play along with her friend’s schemes and have fun in her topsy-turvy home away from home. It’s what we all wish for, the ability to escape for a while and spend time with a friend who brings out the best in us. Being Goth, however, though it ostracized her from the other people in her cookie cutter community, was never depicted negatively. In fact, it’s what made Lydia distinctive, an individual with a mind of her own. She paved the way for characters like Sam Manson (Danny Phantom) and Marceline (Adventure Time), showing that Goth girls are more than just heavy eyeliner and an interest in spiders. Though that red outfit…man, do I want that for Halloween!

 

Gosalyn Mallard (Darkwing Duck)gosalyn

By all rights, and I swear I’ll fight you over this, Gosalyn Mallard is the perfect example of a tomboy in cartoons. There’s honestly no other character like Gosalyn (voiced by Christine Cavanaugh), that I can think of, who exhibits the same traits and sports the same attitude. A ball of energy and spunk, Gosalyn is the adopted daughter of Drake Mallard, better known as Darkwing Duck. And while most superheroes struggle with balancing home life with their heroic activities, one of Darkwing’s greatest obstacles is keeping Gosalyn away from danger. This is a girl who thinks having a superhero father is the greatest thing ever and isn’t afraid to jump in the sidecar of a motorcycle and follow him into the fray. Gosalyn is Darkwing’s biggest fan, always encouraging him to take down the bad guys no matter how many punches it takes – to them or to him. She’s smart, quick-witted, and ridiculously adorable when she needs to be, which all feeds into her desires to sidestep Darkwing’s rules and be an active participant in taking down the criminals of St. Canard. Gosalyn has even joined Darkwing as a hero in her own right; as Yucky Duck, the Crimson Quackette, and the Quivering Quack, though never for very long. It’s also the father-daughter relationship that maintains the emotional core of the show, another aspect that isn’t explored all that often in cartoons. Many episodes made sure to show how much Darkwing and Gosalyn love each other, including an episode where Gosalyn’s accidental trip to the future showed a darker version of her father obsessed with extreme order and justice because he thought he couldn’t save her. Without Gosalyn, Darkwing isn’t the same hero, showing how important her presence and her encouragement are to the “terror that flaps in the night”.

 

Gadget (Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers)

gadget2Yet another character voiced by Tress MacNeille, this one you could say is my bias poking through because people probably remember Rescue Rangers for the catchy theme song and its titular characters than they necessarily remember Gadget. But if you do remember Gadget as being more than “The Girl” of the group, then you’re also aware of how a character like her could be inspiration to young girls who might have dreams of going into fields like science or engineering. Gadget is a genius and the resident inventor of the group, always ready to MacGyver a piece of machinery out of what we might consider junk to help save the day. Granted, her inventions didn’t always work as planned, but Gadget was always quick on her feet to repair or alter her inventions when need be. Still, she suffered from the occasional bouts of self-esteem, especially when it came to her usefulness and her place on the team. One of the more well-known episodes deals with Gadget suffering from an identity crisis after her inventions repeatedly fail, leading her to join the Cola Cult in order to find a place to belong. Of course, by the end everything works out. This is Disney. Still, episodes like “The Case of the Cola Cult” are important to fleshing out characters, even if we don’t notice it as much when we’re children. It showed Gadget on another level, a girl who could experience self-doubt yet still find a way to overcome it. Despite her failures, Gadget keeps trying.

 

Detective Elisa Maza (Gargoyles)Elisa Maza

Like April O’Neil, Elisa Maza (voiced by Salli Richardson-Whitfield) serves the purpose of being the human connection between the newly woken gargoyles and the modern world. A detective for the NYPD, Elisa is the second human Goliath encounters in New York, but she proves to be the most influential, showing him how Xanatos and Demona are using him and his clan for their own purposes. Though she often acts as the voice of reason and a source of sisterly comfort, Elisa is just as prone to impulsiveness and obsession when it comes to her job in the police department. She’s not afraid to confront those more powerful than her, especially when she sees them abusing their power at the expense of those incapable of defending themselves. Dealing with the mob, monsters, and her own family are just about on equal footing in Elisa’s world, though she’s never one to back down from a fight. And while it shouldn’t be a significant factor, Elisa’s mixed-race heritage was a huge step in the right direction for female characters and cartoons in general. Elisa is half African-American and half Native American, though she and her siblings seem to favor one race over the other instead of an actual mix. The point, however, is that Elisa being the product of a mixed-race family is important for the greater themes of representation in media. The default for female leads can’t be “white” anymore than it is for male leads and children need to be able to see themselves in the media they consume. We can all identify with a character who’s different from us, but we also need to see ourselves reflected back, to know that we’re just as important. And Elisa got to be that character for some kids.

So, yeah, that’s a lot of words about a few characters but they’re characters I believe shouldn’t be discounted for how they potentially influenced a generation of children who would or will grow up to be the next wave of creators in animation and media in general. Their impact, great or small, is still an impact worth noting.

So, who would you add to this list? I know there are more out there, but these were the characters most memorable to me. Let me know who and why!

Sam talks with JoJo Stiletto, Professor of Nerdlesque, about all things burlesque and the show Whedonesque Burlesque celebrating the works of Joss Whedon.

After an oddly unprecedented summer full of mostly sunshine, the first day of Bumbershoot, one of the largest music and arts festivals in America, kicked off with weather more familiar to the citizens of Seattle, Washington: rain. Undeterred, people were ready and prepared for the three-day event with jackets, plastic ponchos, and, yes, even umbrellas so as not to miss any of the music, comedy, and art spread out over the Seattle Center in the shadow of the Space Needle.bumbershoot-2014

In many ways, Bumbershoot is indicative of Seattle’s cultural vibe. Have an eclectic taste in music, well there are several stages set up with musical acts ranging from up-and-coming artists to established acts topping the Billboard charts to veterans who show no signs of stopping. Traveling from one end of the Seattle Center to the other I heard new artist, and winner of the Experience Music Project’s (EMP) Sound Off!!, Otieno Terry perform a beautiful cover of The Eurythmics “Sweet Dreams” only to have the music eventually taper off until the heavy beats of Sam Lachow‘s hiphop set took over at Fisher Pavillion. This is a festival where Bootsy Collins gets driven around in a golf cart and everyone watches him drive by and goes, “Yup, there goes Bootsy Collins!” And I consider myself a winner on all levels when I can sit outside and eat a Skillet burger while members of The Presidents of the United States of America, plus some male audience members, shake their butts on stage as Luscious Jackson sings “#1 Bum”. I also understand that a lot of this is filled with local references, but maybe that’ll just entice you to make your way to Seattle one of these days.

"Finger Power" by LET'S

“Finger Power” by LET’S

The arts are also heavily emphasized at Bumbershoot, which says something when you consider the amazing talent brought in from the musical acts alone. Peppered throughout the grounds were booths from local and out-of-town artists selling hand-crafted jewelry, clothing, and ephemera. The great thing about walking the grounds and hopping from booth to booth were the varied conversations people were having with the artists and sellers over their wares. Even if they didn’t buy anything, people were genuinely interested in how the artists created their products. The level of engagement between artists and festival-goers is, in my opinion, what really makes Bumbershoot stand out. Not only are there the outdoor booths, but several art installments were inside various buildings. Flatstock is a staple of the festival with artists gathered who mostly specialize in creating posters for many of the bands and comedy acts featured. But there are also several interactive art exhibits that truly required the full engagement of those participating. Seth David Friedman’s “Black Poem” requires viewers to create a narrative by feeling their way along a series of oblong sculptures without the use of sight. And “Finger Power” by the Seattle art collective LET’S encourages people to interact with the piece by controlling lights, sounds, and video. And because Seattle is ensconced in a region well versed in technology, the Bumbercade offered several games that engaged the senses and morality of the people playing. The most touching exhibit, however, was the tribute to photographer Jini Dellaccio who passed away in July. Selected photographs were displayed to show Dellaccio’s ability to produce striking images through the faces of her subjects. In many of the photographs it’s the eyes that draw you in as if you’re meeting the person face to face.

To top it all off, Bumbershoot pulls in a staggering lineup of comedic acts as well as shows that play on the traditions of storytelling, variety acts, and civil interrogation. The Words and Ideas section of the grounds featured a wide array of performers who, like the musical acts and artists, relied on engaging the public to emphasize the greater meaning of community and the shared experience of those in attendance. One such show, The Failure Variety Show, featured several performers sharing stories of how they failed – whether through relationships, jobs, or reliving past failures from childhood – while two technicians attempted to build a Rube-Goldberg machine for the grand finale. The irony being that the machine wasn’t finished by the allotted time and the technicians madly scrambled around the stage triggering sections one-by-one. Whether intentional or not, the failed attempt at building the machine brought the audience together through laughter and the knowledge that failure isn’t the end of the world and good things can happen as a byproduct of failure.

Paul F. Tompkins and Rory Scovel

Paul F. Tompkins and Rory Scovel

And as far as the comedic acts go, it’s hard to fail with solid performers like Paul F. Tompkins, Janeane Garofalo, Pete Holmes, Rory Scovel, Michelle Buteau, and Doug Benson, just to name a few. Even if you’re not familiar with their standup, going to see one of the comedy shows can quickly create new fans. I got to witness such an event at the first Dead Author’s podcast where H.G. Wells, as played by Paul F. Tompkins, spoke with Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, as played by Rory Scovel. Watching the improvised interplay between the two kept the audience, if not the performers, on the edge of their seats. Or literally out of their seats as Scovel’s Carroll wandered the stage in fear of the tablet Tompkins’ Wells used to record a promo for the podcast.

Three days just doesn’t seem like enough time to cover everything Bumbershoot has to offer, but luckily there’s so much to explore and discover. Even when you think you’ve done everything, something or someone surprises you with something they’re selling, a joke told with perfect timing, or an old song played with as much passion now as it was when you first heard it. One visit to Bumbershoot will never be enough. By the end of the weekend a year almost seems too long to wait for the next festival.

And here are some more photos for you to check out!

Typical Day in Seattle

Typical Day in Seattle

Neighbor Girl by Jini Dellaccio

Neighbor Girl by Jini Dellaccio

The Failure Variety Show

The Failure Variety Show

Flatstock

Flatstock

Me and Rory Scovel

Me and Rory Scovel

Me and Janeane Garofalo

Me and Janeane Garofalo

Me and Pete Holmes

Me and Pete Holmes

posterFor those who haven’t been watching The Pete Holmes Show on TBS, or perusing the YouTubes lately, prior to the show’s premiere Holmes released a video entitled “Ex-Men” in which Holmes, dressed as Prof. X, fired fan favorite mutant, Wolverine, from the X-Men for essentially being useless in a fight with the team’s main villain, Magneto. Why? Because Logan’s skeleton is made of metal, that thing Magneto’s really good at manipulating. The skit also painted Logan as a bit dense, probably because of the metal but that’s just a personal theory.

The response to the video has been overwhelmingly positive with Holmes’ joyous glee at making fun of Marvel’s darling cash cow coming across instantly. The follow-up saw Prof. X firing Gambit, Jubilee, Angel, Iceman, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Storm (technically she quit), and ended with Cyclops after the show finished its initial order of episodes from the network. As the videos continued, there emerged a particular brand of commenting, one that isn’t new but tends to rear its ugly head when comedic videos go after a particular franchise or fandom. These are the people who love that thing so much that even a joke at the expense of a fictional character gets their panties in a twist. All you have to do is look at the comments and you’ll find them. They really seem dead set on trying to school Holmes on the complexity and history of whichever character he’s “attacking” with his jokes.

Never mind the fact that the whole point of the skit is distilling each character down to the most obvious traits people would know about them. Wolverine’s metal skeleton, Gambit energizing an object and throwing it, Rogue can’t touch people, Angel…has wings, etc. It’s about getting the cheap laugh because it’s really about the reactions of the characters to Prof. X that are enjoyable. That and Holmes hamming it up as Prof. X and oh does he milk it for all it’s worth! The same is true of Holmes’ Batman (or Badman) parody videos that he and frequent collaborator Matt McCarthy started doing for College Humor. The comedic take on Christian Bale’s Batman became less about the buffoonery of Batman and more about how the other characters reacted to his stupidity. But you still get comments where people try to defend the character out of a weirdly placed sense of loyalty, as if Holmes’ mockery will somehow topple the whole system and no one will ever take Bale’s Batman serious ever again.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand having a deep, unabiding love of a particular fandom, but there comes a point where the intensity of that love and loyalty is destructive. It prevents you from seeing that there are inherently silly things about comic book superheroes, television shows, movies, and the like. Humor is important because it lets us embrace the silliness without losing the enjoyment. It’s okay to laugh at the things we love because there are always going to be flaws. Nothing is perfect, nothing is so sacred that it’s above being mocked. I love The Dark Knight. I love it so much I saw it multiple times in the theater and have a few copies of it at home, but the first thing I did when it came out on DVD was gather my friends together so we could watch it with the RiffTrax commentary. I refused to let myself be so taken with the movie that I wouldn’t allow others to voice a dissenting opinion or make fun of something during the film. In fact, a lot of great discussions have come out of a funny comment or someone pointing out an error in logic. You can’t take something that seriously because, at the end of the day, it’s about a person who doesn’t exist. I have a lot of other things in my life that require a higher level of intense thought, movies don’t always have to be one of them.the-pete-holmes-show-angel-gets-fired

I understand, however, that humor is subjective. Not everyone is going to get the joke or see it as a joke in the first place. It’s why Honest Trailers and Cinema Sins come under fire depending on the movie, even though both teams have stated that just because they make fun or point out the flaws of whatever movie doesn’t mean they hate it. They’re pulling back the curtain and showing you the cogs in the machine. Some people just don’t want to see the cogs. If you happen to be one of those people, I have to ask, “Why?” Why do you watch videos you know will only piss you off? Do you like being angry? Do you fear the overwhelming number of “likes” on a video will invalidate your personal opinion? Personally, I’d rather laugh at something than pout and glare at a YouTube video.

Now that The Pete Holmes Show has been picked up for a second season, I hope he keeps doing the Ex-Men skits because there are a lot of X-Men. Like, a lot, and some of them could definitely use a dressing down from Prof. X. Hell, I hope he goes after the whole DC Universe as well. I’m sure the Lantern Corps. could use some humor levied at them.

Prof X Giving the Bird

A good laugh can get you through a whole day. A maniacal laugh lets you siphon off all those “crazy” plans stewing in your brain and gives those around you a slight pause to consider just how far they’re willing to push you.

So, start wringing those hands and grinning like a Maniac and belt it out!

Its time to go with an oldie but a goodie. The first Austin Powers movie took the maniacal laugh to it’s logical conclusion. What exactly happens when the villains laugh keep laughing? Turns out, they just kinda stop. Anyway, it’s a great gag and an even greater laugh!

the_princess_brideBefore we start, I want to be clear that I’m not asking if The Princess Bride (1987) is a perfect movie. It isn’t. The movie can be very dated at times. The setting of the grandson’s (Fred Savage) bedroom practically screams 1980s and for all the efforts made in having real locations, the set where Westley (Carey Elwes) and Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) duel is very clearly a set complete with jungle gym accessories. There are also the less than stellar special effects in the Fire Swamp, the Rodents of Unusual Size (ROUS) come to mind, but that kind of adds to the charm of the movie even now. No, what I’m really asking is if The Princess Bride is the perfect movie; as in does it have universal appeal regardless of gender, age, and genre?

This is, of course, my biased opinion, but I think The Princess Bride is the perfect movie. It’s actually one of my favorite movies, one that I watch whenever it comes on television or pop into the DVD player if I’m feeling low and need a pick-me-up. When I told a friend that it was my favorite movie, he responded, more or less, with, “All girls say The Princess Bride is their favorite movie.” His response stuck with me because I think it’s too easy to assume that only women like The Princess Bride. Is it because it has the word “Princess” in the title? Because the genre is fantasy? Because there’s a romance at the center of the story? None of these potential responses predetermine who will and who won’t like the movie. It’s just easier to assume that these factors will draw women more than men, especially by Hollywood’s standards of what will attract certain groups to certain movies. Look at how Disney whittled down John Carter‘s title or the change of Rapunzel to Tangled after The Princess and the Frog didn’t do as well. Based on specific parameters, people assume what the demographics for certain movies will be, but The Princess Bride rises above all that.

So how about we look a little deeper and see how?Westley and Buttercup

Obviously The Princess Bride has a fantasy setting, but to entirely describe it as a fantasy movie is too simplistic. Fantasy, like Science Fiction, is a sponge genre capable of absorbing other genres into its setting. So while the overarching genre of the film, adapted for the screen by William Goldman, also the author of the book, is fantasy, the movie also includes action-adventure, comedy, romance, and drama. Getting the white elephant out of the room, yes, at the center of the story is a romance between the titular princess bride, Buttercup (Robin Wright), and Westley. The whole premise is the idea that true love can conquer any obstacle, even death, which our lovers prove over and over again as Westley rescues Buttercup from the nefarious Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon). Romance, however, is too specific. The story should really be examined through the concept of love and what that means romantically and platonically. It’s a given that Westley and Buttercup love each other. There’s a reason the story, as read by the grandfather (Peter Falk) to his grandson starts with the two pretty much falling in love on the spot. The rest of the movie is about earning their happy ending through the various trials they go through together and separately.

Fezzik, Inigo, VizziniButtercup’s journey is one of believing in true love on a psychological level. Her biggest obstacle is her own doubt and her reactions to the two “deaths” of Westley show her growth from passive to active, for the most part. When she believes Westley died while at sea, she falls into despair allowing Prince Humperdinck to sweep in and offer marriage as a means of masking her grief. When Westley returns, the first time, she’s practically brought back from the dead herself, stepping between Westley and Humperdinck outside of the Fire Swamp to save Westley’s life and talking back to Humperdinck when she finally wakes up and realizes what kind of man he really is. Even if she needs a second reminder when Westley technically doesn’t save her from her wedding (he’d just recovered from being mostly dead), one could interpret her suicide attempt, though overly dramatic, as a sign that she’s taking her life into her own hands. Stretching, I know, but work with me here.

Westley, on the other hand, goes through the physical trials of earning his happy ending with Buttercup. We only hear about his time with the previous Dread Pirate Roberts, but the story itself is one of a man willing to do anything and become anything to return to the woman he loves. His love for her pushes him to best Inigo’s steel, Fezzik’s (Andre the Giant) strength, and Vizzini’s (Wallace Shawn) genius. Westley never doubts his love for Buttercup, he literally dies for her and manages to come back (with help from a little miracle), but it’s all due to how strongly he feels for Buttercup. Even a pesky thing like the Fire Swamp, an area most people never come out of alive, doesn’t faze him so long as he has the love of his life. Westley’s at his worst when he believes Buttercup threw away their love for Humperdinck because he’s a prince. He’s bitter, testy, and rude towards her until he learns she doesn’t love Humperdinck and then he’s all about true love conquering everything.

Inigo MontoyaSo, yes, there’s romance, but it’s about what love does to a person and motivates them that elevates the film and the story. This similarly applies to characters like Inigo and Fezzik. Inigo is entirely motivated by love for his father, but it’s been twisted into an obsession for revenge because of his hate for the six-fingered man. Recently, Mandy Patinkin revealed his favorite line in the movie during an interview for his show Homeland on CBS News. It’s actually one of Inigo’s last lines: “I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it’s over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.” Patinkin explains that it’s a very powerful line and emphasizes the all-consuming negativity of revenge and what it can do to a person, Inigo being the primary example. I would argue that Inigo is the greater hero of The Princess Bride because his emotional journey is more visceral to the audience. When we learn his plight, what happened to his father, and his search for the six-fingered man, we understand him and we’re on his side so much that when he gets his revenge we feel the same satisfaction. It helps that he has a badass line to emphasize the point (pun intended). Fezzik, more than any character, is purely motivated by the love of friendship he feels for Inigo. Possessed of great strength and an almost child-like view of the world, Fezzik pretty much does what he’s told until he finds Inigo at his lowest low in the Thieves’ Forest. Seeing the man who treated him like a friend and equal suffering so much, he nurses him back to health out of friendship, which is its own kind of love. It sets Inigo straight and reinvigorates him in his purpose, leading the two to Westley and the remaining events of the film.

Humperdinck and RugenOther than being a romance or love story, The Princess Bride is just as action-oriented with revealing moments of intense drama. As noted before, Westley goes through several trials just to retrieve Buttercup from Vizzini and then Humperdinck. His duel with Inigo is one of many highlights in the film for the swordplay and the banter exchanged between the two. Moving about the top of the Cliffs of Insanity, they get to one-up each other, display their skills, and the audience gets to know them a little better. The scene is vital to Inigo’s character arc and the payoff from this one scene is monumental when we get to Inigo’s duel with Count Rugen (Christopher Guest), the six-fingered man. It’s an intense fight, made more so by Inigo’s repetition of his mantra, but also because we understand the importance of this duel and what it means to Inigo. Contrast this with Westley and Humperdinck’s “duel” where Westley never gets off the bed till the very end. It’s a psychological duel in which Westley has to so thoroughly convince Humperdinck of what he’s capable of doing to him, and the events that will transpire afterwards, that Humperdinck willingly allows himself to be tied up out of fear.

princessbride-miraclemaxThe comedy of The Princess Bride is top notch. It shows how skilled William Goldman is as a writer that he can take his own material, a very dry and witty book, and turn it into a comedic tour de force. There’s as much subtle wit in The Princess Bride as there is overt humor with almost every scene infused with some form of comedy. Half of it is the script, but the other half is director Rob Reiner’s decision to cast wisely. While he did use comedic actors in specific roles (Billy Crystal and Carol Kane as Miracle Max and Valerie, Peter Cook as the Impressive Clergyman) Reiner also filled the main cast with mostly dramatic actors, giving them the freedom to play the roles straight and let the comedy come through the dialogue. Do they ham it up every once and a while? Of course, but there are as many small moments that display as much humor as the entire Miracle Max scene. The albino (Mel Smith) clearing his throat so he doesn’t rasp dramatically, the quick shift of arms on the chair between Humperdinck and the Captain of the Guard, even the casual conversation between Rugen and Humperdinck about plotting to kill Buttercup and blame the rival kingdom. It’s all there, blending in with the drama and the action so seamlessly you don’t quite realize it’s there.

The-Princess-BrideAs I stated earlier, there is an assumption that The Princess Bride is mainly popular amongst women. Whether it’s the silly idea that the word “princess” will automatically draw girls in or the fact that the story primarily focuses on Westley and Buttercup’s romance, the idea that The Princess Bride is a movie for girls persists. If that’s the case, why is the story being read by a grandfather to his grandson? If Goldman and Reiner had really wanted to pigeonhole this movie as a “girls only” affair, they would have had a grandmother read the story to her granddaughter. Instead, they went in the opposite direction. Part of the decision appears to be a way of emphasizing that kids are too caught up in modern technology (the grandson is only interested in playing his video games, which is itself another gender stereotype for another day) to appreciate a book’s timeless story. The other half of the decision opens the movie up to all ages and all genders. The grandson resists, at first, but at about the midpoint he’s been sucked into the story, even the romance. He worries for Buttercup, dreads that Westley might actually be dead, gets angry when he learns 25th AnniversaryHumperdinck lives, and, in the end, he wants his grandfather to come back and read it to him again. It’s the filmmakers’ way of telling the audience, “This is for everyone. You can all enjoy it because it has everything.”

That, I think, is why The Princess Bride is the perfect movie. It has everything you could want from a movie. Everything. Creating a timeless classic, something that lasts longer than anyone ever intended it to, is obviously difficult and even though The Princess Bride is only 26 years old, it has the timeless quality of a much older film, like a book that gets passed down through the generations. The story remains the same, but we fall in love with it regardless. The themes and genres are transcendent, luring us in before we even realize we’re hooked.