It Was Meant As a Joke. I Didn’t Get It.


I was never cool as a kid.  I didn’t get the inside jokes most of the time, and unless it was a literary reference or involved movies or music from the 30s and 40s, I rarely understood pop culture references.  I was middle-aged before my time, and I’m not getting any younger.

That being said, I still sometimes try.  For example, I am enamoured of Twitter and so witnessed the trending of what seemed to be an impossible film.  I gave in to my need to be cool:  I watched the re-run of SHARKNADO on Thursday night.

I am not proud of myself for doing this.  It was a dreadful, dreadful movie that the director and others have said was meant to be a bloody, gory, inside joke about horror films.   It took 18 days (that many?  given the quality of the appearance of the movie, I would have said 8 tops, and 3 in post-production) and a million dollars to make (or maybe two, depending on who you read in researching this) and earned lousy ratings (maybe up to 1.4 million people on the debut night) for the SyFy network.  Still, the network and everyone involved in making this piece of purest schlock says it was a hit! People loved it! They’re looking at a sequel, maybe with Johnny Depp!!

If you saw it and enjoyed it for what the network and movie makers say was its purpose — a light-hearted albeit gory summer movie — then good for you.  I have other movies, better movies, with which to take a break from the summer heat, starting with another movie about sharks, a cheap-to-make but easy to look at and frightening as hell little number called JAWS. Still, if SHARKNADO rocks your boat (or your Hummer or your helicopter or your chain saw or your frickin’ bar stool) then… yea??

The thing about jokes is, they’re supposed to be funny.  And inside jokes are supposed to be presented with a wink and a nod to the audience.  Yes, I got some of the references to other movies (not least, JAWS, when they paraphrased “I think we need a bigger boat”) and a couple of other pop culture toss-offs, but it wasn’t enough.  Every plot contrivance possible was built into the story: separated young-ish middle-aged couple with conflicted adult children; slightly crazy best friend who becomes hero blowing up a Hummer & dying; drunken friend who becomes hero saving dog & dying; idiot boyfriend of wife who just dies; orphan waitress, former shark victim, whiz with a shotgun, with crush on husband; bus filled with stranded children; old folks’ home — at an airport!! — in danger of sharks in their swimming pool; husband as Jonah but with a chain saw.

All those stories, with completely mis-matching footage, cheesy special effects and at least six actors who really ought to look into real estate as a different, wiser, career path all added up to 90 minutes of my time I will never get back.  Still, I did learn a couple of things I want to share:  inside jokes are great fun, as long as you’re already on the inside.  They’re not meant for outsiders and it was foolish of me to think I could be one of those people.  And the other thing I learned is

whale shark

when the life guard — or a surfing champion named ‘Fin’ — says get outta the water, get outta the water!!

(photo of whale shark from National Geographic)

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