Friday, November 17, 2006

Happy Feet Blues

Yay...Happy Feet! I wanna see it, Mommie! Iwant a Mumbles plush doll!
Penguins. Wasn't it lions a couple of years ago? Then meerkats? What will it be next year--loveable squid? Check out the trailer and official website.

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed today, so you are about to hear me channel Oscar the Grouch on crack. Here it comes...

WTF?! I repeat, WTF?! I started tripping when I realized they'd appropriated Stevie's "I Wish" and Grand Master Flash & the Furious Five's iconic, seminal, "The Message."

Have these white folks ever listened to the words to either? I guess I'm sounding like some sort of dreadlocked, Birkenstock-wearing, red-green-an' black leather medalion pimping activist, but come on--a fat little penquin chick rapping to The Message? Well, here are the lyrics that you likely won't hear in Antarctica:

Broken glass everywhere/People pissin' on the stairs, you know they just don't care I can't take the smell, can't take the noise/ Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice/ Rats in the front room, roaches in the back/ Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat/ I tried to get away but I couldn't get far 'cuz a man with a tow truck repossessed my car

Don't push me 'cuz I'm close to the edge/ I'm trying not to lose my head Uh huh ha ha ha It's like a jungle sometimes/ It makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under

Now, the crowning irony, the Dennis Miller/Bill Maher goof, the pop culture f-up for me is the theme song to the movie--"Somebody to Love," by Queen. This is touted as a "family" film, and no doubt many Red State fag/dyke-bashers and anti gay marriage mavens will load the kiddies in to the SUV and head for the movieplex, and sing along. OK, the original version of this song was penned and sung by the legendary Freddie Mercury of Queen. The band's name should tip you off, and anyone over 30 knows that Freddie died of AIDS and is one of the patron saints of queers world-wide. When he was crooning "can anybody find meeeeee...somebody to love," who do you think he was pining for? hahaha. I can't wait to see all of these suburban mommies explain THAT to lil' Bobby and lil' Suzy. I'm sure Elijah Wood and Hugh Jackman are bi-fans...oops...I mean, big fans of Freddie Mercury.

What is it about our pandering, least common denominator society? Makes you want to drop neutron bomb and start all over again. Lord, NBC's laying off veteran reporters and journalists, yet developing more schlock like "Deal or No Deal" and stuff to compete with "Dancing with The Stars." Insipid soap operas like "Grey's Anatomy" are lauded as fine drama, yet all one needs to do is watch one episode of this season's "The Wire" on HBO to understand exactly what TV drama should be all about.

Publishing, you ask? Surely that's the bulwark, the last citadel of taste? Well, at a cocktail party in Baltimore recently, I was signing books etc, and when a lady from a local bookclub asked me if there was a book I could recommend for her group. They were finishing up their Halloween selections, e.g. Brandon Massey, LA Banks and the like, and wanted something for the Holidays. I said how about Pulitzer winner Edward P. Jones' latest, All Aunt Hagar's Children ? She pursed her lips as if I'd wedged a lemon between them. She said she and many of the members "are Christians." Wow, what the hell does that have to do with anything? I moderated a panel for Ed Jones and he didn't seem like a Satanist to me. Clearly this woman--a dentist, not some chickenhead--had no clue. And then she proceeds to ask me about books from Triple Crown publisher Teri Woods, she of "thug/street lit" fame, or any erotica, and I mean stuff nastier than even Zane could conjure. And she was a Christian, recall.

My unifying point is perhaps the filmmakers, publishers, TV producers, music companies aren't dumming us down or filling us full of pop culture dross as with "Happy Feet." Perhaps we're already retarded, and indeed they are spooning the Pablum into our fat mouths, as that's all we want, and that's all we can handle.

So enjoy "Happy Feet." Enjoy Savion Glover whoring himself out to Warner Bros. for his digital dancing, when he could've held out to also play the voice of Mumbles. Enjoy Robin Williams as the king adelias penguin with a sickening "Jose Jimenez-Tony Montana" accent. Enjoy four otherwise smart and funny Hispanic comedians (Carlos Azuirqui from Reno 911 among them) Uncle Tom themselves in utterly stereotypical vato loco behavior. Well, at least it isn't Snoop, Queen Latifah, etc. playing "urban" emperor penquins. I'm sure that was in the first draft of the script.

23 comments:

Pebbles Flintstone said...

OK Chris,
I agree with you. That sort of crap sucks! Why do these filmakers have to take a classic and iconic rap song for the ages such as "the Message" and turn it into a pile of hot steaming schlock? For who?? Why can't they just come up with their own original scores and songs for these movies? Why? Because there are not many original talents left in H-wood anymore. It is a shame. That song was telling a very gripping story. The song by Queen as well was penned for a particular reason, to communicate a particular message. NOT to be used in some cutsie films about dolphins (I am sorry -- I mean penguins). There are so many cute animal heroes out there, I can't keep track. I will make one exception -- and that is for the Meerkats. I actually like that show, but then again they are not animated, but rather shown in their natural habitat and they are not rapping or singing.

I agree Chris. I have not seen March of the Penguins yet, but I would probably enjoy it b/c it is about real nature and not some goofy singing, rapping characters.

SchoolMom said...

You have truly lost your mind. However you do touch on some things I didn't think about. I was cracking up over your Queen comments and I don't think I'll be able to keep a straight face when that song comes on. Ditto with The Message though in the commercial my daughter (who is six and wants to see this movie despite you!!!) and I cracked up when that fat penguin started freestylin'

My second point is that I happen to love Grey's Anatomy, as does my mother and my girlfriends and we are not brain dead nor do we lack taste. My husband and I also watch The Wire. I understand you are being satirical and thus I don't think you are really that mean or elitist. I have been to some of your book panels here in Princeton and at the old store in Plainfield and you are insightful and funny. I don't think people who know you will be offended, but some of your readers or remote fans might be. However you are a writer and I'm sure you don't care LOL.

Therefore, take your Valium and write some novels we can be proud of. I'm sure we all see you in the front row when Happy Feet opens!

Anonymous said...

Chris,

The penguins are fifth columnists. They must be destroyed. Without Rummy, the mission will be difficult if not impossible. The republicans have installed the usual storm troopers into leadership positions. However, as the minority, they cannot defeat this menace.

I want to see a Broadway musical based on Queen hits. They gave us Mama Mia and Jersey Boys. Wayne's World does not count.

When I hear "Bohemian. Rhapsody". on the car radio, I do not stop, no matter how close to home. I just bang my head on the steering wheel.

Plainfield? Pretty close to where I came from. You've been there (The White Party). Plainfield used to kick our butts in sports, but not always.

IndispensibleDestiny said...

Crap, the last comment was me -- IndispensibleDestiny.

Christopher Chambers said...

SchoolMom--I KNOW who you are now!

Andre Kelton's bookstore on South Ave in Plainfield!!!

I apologize for being strident, but the suffocation marketing of this movie is killing me. But yeah...there are a host of little people who have given me death threats if we don't go see this;my wife has reminded me.

Indespensible--they should have made the penguins Iraqis. Actually there are two flocks. One is the emperor penguin flock, of which Mumbles is a member. He can tap dance but he can't sing (all penguins can sing and that's how they attract mates; gee all we have to do is make money). The adelias penguins are South American and shorter. They actually should be Iranian...

IndispensibleDestiny said...

Sorry Chris, but it would be Shi'ite penguins against Sunni penguins. The Shi'ites are black on the left side and white on the right. The Sunni penguins are white on the left and black on the right. I know this to be true because I saw it on Star Trek.

When only one Shi'ite penguin and one Sunni penguin are left, the Turks will send them to a remote place to finish the feud.

sheila adams said...

I was thinking the same thing about the Latino penguins. Is it an attempt to get Latinos to the movie? They don't really speak Spanish, do they? The behavior from the previews is the analogy to thuggishness and cooning for us. I also think you are right that if this movie was made five years ago, it wouldhave been "ghetto" penguins and a "trash-talking" "slick" Will Smith as one of the voices!

P.S. I'm sorry more people can't understand the works of Edward P. Jones. I enjoyed the discussion you moderated with him and the Washington Post editor at Borders last month.

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Steve, and as usual, an inbteresting take on popular culture. I tend to agree with you-maybe it's thay whole angry black man not quite over slavery thing- But f%^&k all that tap dancing, and the selling out of hip hop songs to sell a movie!

There are lots of musicians and writers in Hollywood; write your own sh&%.

Keep writing bra, and stirring the...ahem, melting pot.

Peace.

Anonymous said...

I would hope you are being facetious as device to make your point. However, the saturation marketing is annoying for this film.

Your views on the awful state of pop culture aren't really that extreme at all, however.

Anonymous said...

Are you calling out Teri Woods?

Anonymous said...

Chris, this is hilarious. I mean your writing – the subject matter is so sad it has to be funny. I just ran into a mom of one of my daughter's preschool classmates at the store today and she said they just saw Happy Feet and that it was "very, very, sweet...". I don't have to mention her ethnicity at this point, do I?

When I was a kid I thought Robin Williams was hilarious (who didn't I guess). But the only thing I can remember liking him in lately was One Hour Photo and that wasn't even a comedy. He's so busy worrying people will think he's falling off that he has to resort to using dialect all the time and it's really quite annoying. Not even offensive to me anymore, just annoying. So your comments about him aren't surprising!

I noticed in Chicken Little (such a piece of crap my daughter almost walked out) they were over gratuitous with the Patti Labelle and other voices from our past. I was like, enough already! But I have yet to sit in a kid flick that appropriates my Stevie. I don't think I could handle that.

Again, great post. Mind if I link to it on OKP tomorrow? More people should know about this! Not that we parents can actualy get out of having to go sit through it...but at least we should be warned.

Keith said...

Hip-Hop, classic or not, has long since gone Hollywood. Sad but true. The fact that they took a true ghetto anthem and turned it into a children's ditty is not surprising. What amazes me is that they couldn't find an actual Latino to voice the peguins in that darn movie. Perhaps no self respecting Latino would do it (yeah right). As a father I have to take what I can get in terms of children's entertainment because the pickins are slim. What my son likes has to take priority over my own personal beliefs about what constitutes a good children's movie, at least for now. I'm just biding my time until I can teach my son (he's 3) about the real Christopher Columbus and the great African Dynasties of the past. Until then... it's dancing (shucking and jiving?) penguins.

Christopher Chambers said...

who are all of you anonymous folk? LOL

Mrs. J said...

That was actually me yesterday (sorry - I ticked anonymous by accident) so that's one mystery solved. Still wanting to know if I can link to this scathing review...

field negro said...

Sorry for the anonymous post Chris, I was #8 down. Second mystery solved:)

Christopher Chambers said...

Mrs J--by all means link to review...but in return you must ask hubby where he got the inspiration for the projectile tummy problems on pp. 152-53 (Bloomsbury editon)...I will never eat Beefaroni again. LOL

Anonymous said...

I was an extra in "March of the Penguins" and it was a cold, scary shoot. That was real ice, man. And don't think those whales didn't want to eat us. Have some respect for my people. And we do like to dance.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Re the Queen song-Hey, no one realized that Tinky Winky was a homosexual, (although wasnt it obvious with his little red purse and the triangle over his head?) so I doubt they will pick up on this ;-)

I'm there with you on the Ed Jones thing. There are some black people that won't read Ed Jones (excellent writer by the way) because they are "christian" or Toni Morrison because she is "too difficult" and they won't read Alice Walker because she "hates black men too much" but they will pick up trash like "Wifey" and "Her Baby's Daddy" (Actual titles)and proclaim it great literature and glorify these authors who are just out to make a fast buck and these writers are praised for "encouraging black people to read literature".

I get very annoyed reading the Essence Magazine best sellers list and seeing the same garbage on there week after week. Karren Stephen's book is the top selling non fiction (The self proclaimed "video vixen" prostitute who dated Bill Maher and wrote a book about how she whored around with rap stars),
and the top five fiction are all urban lit. I think the "Coldest Winter" is still on there, and that trashy, poorly written book is something like 8 years old. Sorry if I am ranting-it is a pet peeve of mine.

plez... said...

I can't believe it... my daughter wants me to take her to see this *ISH again! She's only 5 years old, which must explain why she doesn't see a problem with the only blue-eyed penguin that doesn't turn black in the whole damn movie is the one who saves the world! GEEZ!

Anonymous said...

Actually, all of the Emperor Penguins had differing eye colors - even the Elder characters, who had the widest range. Also, while you're trying to draw out some sort of Aryan subtext, there's a) nothing else in the film to back that up, and b) knowing that the character was voiced by Elijah Wood, it's probable that the animators chose to incorporate his icy blues into the character and c) Aryans don't hold a monopoly on blue eyes, and - so on. D through G.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Reading the other responses, and posts throughout the blog, it's just a bunch of angry black guys railing against The Man. Which is fine, and I'd be right alongside you, if your posts didn't all sound so ridiculously over-the-top. "Wait'll I can tell my kid about the real Columbus, till then he'll have to enjoy these shuckin' and jivin' penguins!"

Also, wasn't it "kind-of" obvious that the use of "The Message" throughout the film was a motif? It appears throughout the film, and only once by a young baby penguin - much like all the other songs in the film, it's used for a specific purpose, coupled with Stevie Wonder's "I Wish" which has a similar meaning, as well as the rest of the songs they used - aside from, maybe, "Heartbreak Hotel" and it's undeniable. I mean, Jamalski's even featured! When was the last time you heard him?

Anonymous said...

It's hysterical because it's true, just like most of FG's musings. I live in a predominantly black neighborhood and 95% of the people around me all sound EXACTLY like this.