The Cult of Self-Esteem: How Frozen Got it Wrong

Frozen_(2013_film)_poster

The Disney movie Frozen was a mega hit in 2013. It is still a current topic in pop culture. A walkthrough in Target yesterday proved this point. Frozen shoes, toys, books, even cereal and gummy snacks littered all the shelves in every section. My three year old daughter asked through every aisle if she could have something.

I have nothing against Disney making every last penny out of a world wide hit such as Frozen. They clearly know what they are doing, from storytelling to marketing, they know what kids like. But that is where I take issue with Disney. As an adult watching Frozen, I can see the underlying themes and the real life struggles and self esteem issues hidden behind magic and “true love.” They impress these false ideals onto the minds of children, making all evils and failures surmountable by magic and true love.

Without going into every detail of the movie, I am going to give a quick idea of what I am getting at. Elsa has immense powers beyond her control. We don’t know why she has these powers, but coincidently she is also a princess and not a bread makers daughter so she has parents of importance and wealth. Something every young girl can relate to. Elsa hurts her young sister, Anna, with her powers and instead of her parents teaching her, or say, hiring a magic troll to teach her, they put gloves on her hands to hide her powers. The gloves symbolize, to me, the kids soccer game with no goalie, the participation medal, batting gloves, doggy heaven.

For lack of a better term, “kid gloves.”

But it shows how parents avoid the inevitable. That someday Elsa will hurt somebody. Someone will try to hurt Elsa. Maybe someone accidentally takes off her gloves and reveals her true powers to an entire kingdom.

The movie is illustrating the lack of self control and understanding in children, specifically young girls, and how parents fail at addressing the problem, and in turn, deepening the lack of self esteem until one day they aren’t there to witness the unraveling. The parents could have taught Elsa, built up her confidence and allowed her to test her self control. Instead, they hid her from learning about herself. They destroyed Elsa’s self esteem by shunning her and allowing her to hide away in her room. This in turn also alienates Anna, the normal daughter, by not letting her play with her sister.

The top comment on this clip at the time of posting was “Finally a movie where true love is not marrying a handsome prince. But loving your family 😍💗”

I could not disagree more. True love in this film could have been the parents talking to their kids. True love should have been building up Elsa’s self esteem and not hiding her away from being different.

Then, Elsa reveals herself to the world again after being in hiding for years. But, she is “ungloved” and her powers and lack of self control alienates her once again, making her a villain in the movie. The Grammy winning song, “Let it go” which has 414 million views on Youtube, seamlessly allows Elsa to run away from her problems and embrace isolation.  As the song goes, “It’s time to see what I can do/To test the limits and break through/No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!”

By isolating herself, Elsa becomes “free.” Free of what? Free from her parents condemnation. Free from the world not accepting her, the world she was never going to be ready for. Free of self loathing. But she was never given the tools to be accepted. She was never told to learn, work hard, hone her skills.

It comes back to the cult of self-esteem. The idea that if children are hidden from failure, hidden from losing or being different, they will be spared the evils of an unforgiving, win or go home society. But that is not how it works. One must lose, one must learn how to overcome that loss and become better. Frozen says let it go, wait for magic or a false sense of love to save you. I say take off the gloves at the earliest age, heck, never put them on. Maybe then Elsa would never have been angry or vindictive.

But then Anna may never have met Hans.

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The Cult of Brand Loyalty

Brand Loyalty

Brand loyalty is something that has come up in my life recently. As food prices rise, I constantly am trying to find store brand items that can replace name brand items without my family noticing. It is not about being cheap as much as it is about being smart. If there is no change in quality or taste, then there really is no reason to stick with the brand.

I am completely open to eating store  brand food items. It was something I did growing up. I also find the names the stores come up with quiet amusing.

Walmart.com

Walmart.com

Take Wal-Mart’s Dr. Thunder. It tastes just like Dr. Pepper and is $1 cheaper. Even though most consumers know there is minimal difference, what makes them pay extra for a name?

According to Psychology.Wikia, “True brand loyalty exists when customers have a high relative attitude toward the brand which is then exhibited through repurchase behavior.” The main focus of a company or brand is to get the consumer to repurchase. If you’ve ever seen a Shark Tank episode, you know a key word used is “retainment.” It is a similar idea to repurchase. The more you repurchase, the more loyal you become.

For me, if I can find a viable alternative to a product, I will make the leap and try it. I have done this with Fage Greek Yogurt, Triscuits and Almond Breeze. My local grocery store, Market Basket, has store brand options that are interchangeable.

taquitos.net

taquitos.net

But what happens when store brand items (like Market Basket Crunchy Cheese Twists) illicit brand loyalty as well. Certainly, Market Basket and Wal Mart want you to buy their items. But they are also making a profit by getting you in the store to buy big name items too. When a store can have a “house” item that consumers become loyal to, its a win-win for them.

As I move down the aisles to find the best deals, I find myself reaching more and more for the “house” items. Psychologically, I may be telling myself that there isn’t a difference in the item, therefore not second guessing making the purchase. Or, the store themselves have made a more concerted effort to make their products just as appealing, making the decision that much easier.

A friend of mine is a manager at a local Market Basket. He is in charge of the dairy section, so I inquired about my yogurt decision. My main concern was, “Does Market Basket make the yogurt or are they buying it from say Fage and just change the packaging?” He told me that Market Basket will buy their products (not all) from the big names and then change the packaging and lower the cost. He also gave me some insight into my yogurt, which is made by Hood.

I believe many consumers do not know this. They are trusting the big name brands to make a better quality product, merely because they have been the target of incessant advertising. They also may be sticking with what works for them. If more consumers broke out of their loyalty, or cultishness, then they may find better products for less money.

Cult Video Game Director: Hidetaka Miyazaki

Hidetaka Miyazaki

I have been gaming since I first laid my hands on a Nintendo controller. Mario Bros. was the first game I ever played, and the difficulty of that game for a six year old would be put in a rather high rating for next generation games. Its not that newer games aren’t hard, its that the directors and developers are weary of player failure.

Gamers give praise to games that have “replayability.” “Replayablity” is not a word, but it is a word used often in gaming circles. It means that a game has replay value, or a game can be played again after the main quest or storyline has been completed. This can mean a game has side missions, collecting quests or add on features.

But, if a game is so difficult that a player can barely get through the first time, then that game will crumble to bad reviews. From Software director Hidetaka Miyazaki has upped the ante and made his games so difficult that you want to keep playing through your failures.

Dark_Souls_II_cover

Hidetaka Miyazaki is the director of the Souls series. I was not a fan of the series because of the difficulty. I am the type of gamer that wants to sit down, relax and play. I do not want to white knuckle my way through dungeons, fighting to get to the next save point, then doing it over again.

But I have run from Hidetaka Miyazaki long enough. I have picked up the recent releases for Playstation 4 like Destiny and Call of Duty. They were too easy. In Destiny, the difficulty arc was the enemies got more powerful but so did my character. I leveled up with the enemies and it never challenged me. I decided to get FROM Software’s new release, Bloodborne, and face my fears.

Bloodborne_Cover_Wallpaper

I had limited knowledge of what I was getting into. I knew I would die. And die a lot. But that was only from friends who played the Souls series. I had no idea how much I would actually die. Blood borne began with my character, a man who looks more like Sherlock Holmes than a demon hunter, walking the streets of a fictional town that resembles a 19th century London.

There are enemies, other men, walking the streets with torches and meat cleavers. The sounds of the game increased my stress level: men crying, women laughing, a maniacal dog that sounds like its stuck in a cage that I can’t see. And then, my first encounter with a man running at me with a large knife, I died. Then, I was placed back at the beginning of the town and I retraced my steps, fought the man and killed him. I then moved ahead, found two more maniacs and died quickly. But, from my experience with games, I was stunned to see the game didn’t load me into the battle with the two maniacs I just fought, but rather back to the beginning of the game again. I had to retrace all my steps.

IGN

IGN

This is what I was afraid of. Not enemy difficulty, but a psychological difficulty that would test my inner gamer. I do not want to redo all my progress. I am a frequent saver, always afraid of losing my hard earned items and gear. This game, you can’t even pause. If you die, and you do a ton, then all your progress is lost.

But there is a method here. In an interview with IGN, Hidetaka Miyazaki explains the “death system.” He says, “But the main concept behind the death system is trial and error. The difficulty is high, but always achievable. Everyone can achieve without all that much technique – all you need to do is learn, from your deaths, how to overcome the difficulties.”

As my experience with Bloodborne has increased, I have begun to embrace this “death system.” I have found myself trusting the system and the director, mostly because of his past success. I also have seen the “death system” make me better, not my character.  After dying dozens of times, I retraced my steps to get back to where I died. On the way, I am able to kill each enemy I’ve killed dozens of times already faster and easier. I have gained experience, loosened my knuckles, and am learning from death.

Bloodborne is not for the typical gamer. It will test your limits. My wife watched me play for ten minutes and said, “Why do you keep dying there?” She was referring to two monster dog beasts that kept eating me each time I tried to pass them. I told her, “Because I don’t know how to beat them yet.” And I didn’t. But, through trial and error, I found a way. The thought of eventual success kept me going. It was hard, and I had to endure the same trial and error for the next stage of enemies. This game will be stressful, trying and difficult. Its like a bad relationship, but the sex is good.

Here’s a funny walkthrough to get what I am talking about. Warning: Tons of cursing.

Cult Food: Peeps

Every year, when seasons change here in New England or holidays come around, certain foods or spices are introduced back into our diet. Fall brings pumpkin everything, the McRib comes out randomly, and Easter brings Cadbury eggs and Peeps.

Deadline.com

Deadline.com

Peeps are the candy found in your Easter basket where you aren’t quite sure what to do with. They are colored marshmallow in a basket that is headlined by a giant chocolate bunny and surrounded by the always appreciated jelly bean. The Peep never stood a chance.

Or did it?

According to InfoPlease, in 2012 Easter candy out sold Halloween candy. Easter appears to be more of a candy holiday than I thought. And to add to that, Peeps were leading the pack. Americans are buying over 700 million Peeps every Easter.

I used to leave the Peeps in the bottom of the basket, tangled up in Easter grass while I tried to dig out any hiding jelly beans.

Maybe I slighted the Peep. Maybe the Peep just got lost in the shuffle of a sugar rush morning. Maybe I should try a Peep, some thing I haven’t eaten in well over fifteen years.

IMG_0185

My initial thought would be these would be gross. But, after eating one, then two, then another, they were much better than I remembered. They tasted more like marshmallow than I expected, and the sugar coating on the outside was surprising subtle and just enough.

I think maybe I snubbed the Peep for all these years for the wrong reasons. I can now understand the hype, the sales, and the cult status. Each year, the Peep is resurrected, and enjoyed by the millions. This year, I will fill my daughter’s basket with Peeps, and hope she will enjoy them more than I did as a kid.

The Cult Hero in America’s Pastime

This blog post is going to explore the cult hero. And because we in New England are clambering for spring to come as soon as possible, that means baseball is also beginning where the ground isn’t covered in snow. I am a baseball fan and have been my whole life. And for some reason, I was always drawn to the less than stellar players. I liked the “dirt dogs” or hometown hero’s that didn’t get mainstream attention.

I am also a Red Sox fan, and before 2004, that meant something different than what it means now. I had to endure many heartaches and bad seasons. Most of my childhood, I watched a losing team night in and night out, season after season. Being in that atmosphere, I had many favorite players who were fringe players and not very good.

Becoming a cult hero is essentially the same as a film becoming a cult film. The dictionary meaning is “a writer, musician, artist, or other public figure who is greatly admired by a relatively small audience or is influential despite limited commercial success.”

My person intangibles for propelling a favorite player of mine to cult hero status would be: cool nickname, plays for the Red Sox, not a superstar and no off the field issues. I know the last one might seem like something that wouldn’t be important to a kid or a fan but to me it was. My father always read the paper and told me stories about the players as we watched the games.

from thebaseballpage.com

from thebaseballpage.com

Mike Greenwell aka “The Gator”

My cult hero growing up was Red Sox left fielder Mike Greenwell. I was always drawn to the left fielders mainly because of the Green Monster.

Pic from Robertburke.net

Pic from Robertburke.net

The Green Monster is the Red Sox left field wall. My dad always commented on how left fielders “played the wall” and that no one played the wall like Yaz (Carl Yastrzemski). Those were big shoes to fill, as Yaz was the left fielder for the Red Sox from 1961-83. But when Greenwell came up, my dad said he played the wall good, not as good as Yaz, but he was solid. That drew me to Greenwell.

I also imitated Greenwell’s batting stance. We’d play whiffle ball in the backyard and mimic player’s batting stances. My go to was Greenwell. I was a lefty, same as Greenwell and I liked the way he held the bat near his shoulder and bent his front knee.

The Gator

Everyone called Greenwell “The Gator” and I wondered why. So, I asked my dad, and he told me a story about Greenwell catching an alligator with his bare hands and stuffed it in teammate Ellis Burkes’ locker. They nicknamed him “Gator” and it stuck. I loved the nickname and the story, and it only added to the cult hero persona I had placed on him as a kid.

Greenwell never made it to superstar status. He did finish second in MVP voting in 1988 to a reported steroid user, Jose Canseco. Greenwell himself has made a case he should be retroactively given the MVP title from that year due to Canseco admitting he was a steroid user. Greenwell was a career .300 hitter but it ended at the age of 32.

Nutrition: Intermittent Fasting

In doing research for upcoming blogs and past blogs, I quickly realized that I myself am involved in a cult following. I am part of a small, but increasing group of dieters following a protocol called intermittent fasting, or IF. I have been doing IF strictly for about six months, but I have been incorporating it into my daily eating habits for about two years.

Fasting

I took a Nutrition class in college a few years ago and the professor had us do our final research paper on a fad diet. I found a diet called “The Warrior Diet” invented by Ori Hofmekler. The protocol for this diet was to fast while you slept then the following day until night. About 20 hours of fasting. Then, you would eat all of your calories in one mega meal in a four hour window, then fast again.

Instead of just writing the paper, I tested the diet on myself. I lasted about two weeks. My two issues with the diet were 1. I could not eat 2500 calories in four hours. I physically could not do it. The fast itself was no problem. It was the gorging that bothered me. And 2. I could not be social. If we went out to eat or a cookout, I had to stand and watch everyone eat. It was not enjoyable or sustainable.

Photo by EliteDaily.com

Photo by EliteDaily.com

Leangains and The Hodge Twins

I stopped the Warrior Diet, wrote the paper and did not think of fasting again for awhile. I do workout four days a week and eat clean and count my calories. In 2010 I lost around 60 pounds and have been at 180 pounds since. But, I wanted to take it to the next level. I wanted to get the most out of the time and money I spent in the gym and kitchen. I started scouring the internet and stumbled upon my old friend, fasting.

I found The Hodge Twins, or Fasting Twins on Youtube. They explained, rather crudely, how IF worked. They were in good shape and seemed like normal guys. I completely jumped on board. Their schtick, humor, and simplicity of IF spoke to me. I started fasting for 16 hours a day, then I ate for 8 hours. So, a typical day was to start my eating window at 1 pm and stop eating at 9 pm. It was easy because all I did was skip breakfast essentially.

I still counted calories and was still diligent about diet and exercise. What I saw was not the needle on the scale go down, but stay the same. The eye test though, showed I had lost body fat and gained muscle. This is the Holy Grail of the weightlifting community. It was been sought after (cleanly, with no steroids) for decades. IF, for me and many others, proved it was what we had been looking for.

found on Bodybuilding.com Forum

found on Bodybuilding.com Forum

I found many others following the Fasting Twins on Youtube, seeing their subscription totals reach 900k and they now have three channels. But, much of what they were saying was being labeled as “Broscience.” In other words, science passed along in the gym with no facts to back it up. The thirty minute window is a good example. Or the Broscience argument to work until failure on every set is another. Broscience aside, I could see IF was working for me, and I wanted to know why.

Cartoonstock.com

Cartoonstock.com

Ori Hofmekler used the Hunter-Gatherer argument behind The Warrior Diet. Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers. They spent all day hunting and gathering berries and nuts and plants. Then at night, they’d feast. He claimed our bodies were still made to work this way. So, mainstream nutritional advice told us to eat six meals a day. But mainstream nutritional advice has led the US down a path of obesity. A Gallop poll in 2014 put the obesity rate at 27.7%. Whatever we are doing as a nation is not working.

Ori was ahead of his time. His Warrior Diet book was first published in 2003. He was a pioneer of the IF movement but also maybe too radical. A man named Martin Berkhan took IF to a new level and built a cult following like no one else had. He took IF to as close as mainstream as possible. His website is called LeanGains. Martin has the largest following because he does the research behind IF. If you have any qualms about IF, Martin will ease them. Here is his guide which I highly recommend.

The leaders of IF and who I follow

Martin Berkhan stopped posting on his popular site in May of 2014. Many say it is because he had been promising a book for years and never came through with a book. He has since been inactive in the IF community but others have continued on with the movement. Here are the ones I follow and the books I recommend:

-The Hodgetwins and their 3 channels on Youtube.

-Greg from Kinobody– He uses Martin’s approach of 16/8 and even touts Martin’s reverse pyramid lifting routine. I have never bought one of Greg’s programs but I follow his blog religiously.

eat stop eat

-Brad Pilon’s book Eat, Stop, Eat. Very good read and has the science to back it up. His blog is also a good read but with Brad nothing is free.

This is also a good tool for beginning. It is a calculator to determine your macros.

Why a cult following?

Everything about this diet goes against mainstream nutritional advice. We have always been told breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But by whom? Well, cereal companies, fast food restaurants serving breakfast and nutritionists. There is money to be made in the breakfast meal. Also, studies show those who eat breakfast lose more weight or are healthier. This could be because it keeps you fuller during the day. To me, it all comes down to accountability. An egg Mcmuffin will not keep you lean.

I do not believe IF is a magic heal all. I understand that studies say you will live longer, lose more body fat and be sharper mentally.  But you can still out eat the hours you fast. You still have to count calories and exercise. It isn’t a free pass to eat whatever you want.

The being sharper mentally I can attest too. By fasting, your body gets into a state of panic. It believes it will not eat again. So, it turns on the sympathetic nervous system, or what we attribute to our fight or flight instinct. Your mind works with your body to become sharper, trying all it can to help you find food again. We know we will eat again soon, but your instincts do not.

In a way, when we do IF, we are playing a trick on our bodies. The result is less body fat, a sharper mind and the ability to eat large meals. I like to eat a big snack at night. So, I fast until 1, eat a small meal, workout, eat another small meal and then I eat a 1,000 calorie snack at night. Gobs of peanut butter with no guilt. That is my takeaway from IF. I can restrict my caloric intake in a pleasurable manner. If I only had 30 seconds to sell someone on IF, that is the way I would go about it.

 

 

 

A weekend in the Capital Wasteland

Rhino

After this weeks latest news from Bethesda, I felt a sudden urge to jump back in to Fallout 3. Reading the timestamp on my latest save file, I was so shocked to see it had been at least five years since I last stepped foot in the Capital Wasteland. Five Years! I can hardly believe it’s been nearly seven long years since the game released. Fallout 3 was one of those games that really resonated with me.

I’ll never forget the first time I walked free from Vault 101, finally liberated and unshackled from a life underground. As a player, looking out onto that horizon for the first time ever, and setting eyes on the outside world, that lonesome wasteland that was to become my playground for the next 200+ hours, that instant sense of pure freedom that was captured in that moment – Wow.

3O6LH

That Incredible view from the…

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Video Game: Zombies Ate My Neighbors (Snes 1993)

Cult classics are not limited to movies. The term can also be used for other mediums such as novels, how to books, nutritional advice (hi paleo) and video games. The idea behind this is that a cult following can spring up within these mediums. Cult followings can be beneficial for video games and franchises, which may open to financial failure but receive high reviews and gather quite a following, which results in delayed financial success.

SNES

Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) was the next platform after the original Nintendo and was a competitor with the popular Sega Genesis. When I was growing up, either you were a Sega user or a SNES user. The arguments between the two got heated and created console wars.

At the time, I attributed it to kids going straight to SNES because Sega was an unknown. But looking back, I realize it was not about what the kids wanted, it was whatever system your parents bought you. I didn’t know any kids with two consoles, so the loyalty to a console was due to whatever system you were able to get your hands on.

OpenEmu and Emulators

I am going to review Zombies Ate My Neighbors on SNES, although I was a Sega kid. The game came out for both platforms, and in the USA they played exactly the same.

Now, I was not able to get my grown up hands on an SNES. But, a rather unknown gem for MAC users is OpenEmu. Open Emu is a video game emulator. It plays ROMs (read only memory) of video games for many of the early platforms (NES, SNES, Sega, Gameboy).

But once you get into platforms that used CD’s, like PS1 and Sega Saturn, the emulators get tricky and downright do not work.

OpenEmu is great because it holds all the Rom files in a library (get ROMS here), saves games (which you could rarely do on early platforms) and allows you to configure the controls for each system. I use my PS4 Dual shock controller through the Bluetooth attachment on my MACbook Pro. It hooks up wirelessly and allows me to play all systems easily. Same goes for Xbox One controllers which have bluetooth technology.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993)

I do remember playing this game as a kid, so I was familiar with the gameplay. But even if you hadn’t played it, it was easy to get. It’s a top down shooter that plays out like a B Horror flick. Save the humans, kill the zombies. Humans were depicted as a guy BB-qing, babies running around and as cheerleaders (highest points!).

Save the cheerleader, save the world

Save the cheerleader, save the world

The weapons ranged from exploding cans of soda, a gun, fire extinguishers and silverware (for werewolves obviously).

There are potions where you can change into creatures and punch your way through walls. The game is setup in a maze format, so navigating and remembering your path is the hardest part of the game. Killing zombies is easy, especially with the array of weapons you have at your disposal.

Odd Enemies

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 11.17.08 AMMy favorite part of this game is the enemies. Level three was set in a grocery store and I was confronted by the usual generic chasing zombie. Then, two babies wielding hatchets jumped out of the cereal box aisle and sliced me to death. Awesome.

ZombiesAteMyNeighbors-TitanicToddler

There’s also mummies, zombies, giant Baby bosses, guys with huge knives, it is mayhem and it is hilarious. The gameplay is fun, surprisingly difficult and the soundtrack is even better. It is a homage to horror films with the gore and silliness of it all.

I would recommend this game to old and new gamers alike. If you have a way of getting an old console, find this game, although I have a feeling it won’t be cheap (price range from $30 to $198!) Your best bet is the emulator.

Cult Classic?

The game was released to poor earnings, high critical reception and censorship. According to Gamesradar, the game had to change the red blood to purple ooze in order to be released in the US. And in Europe, the game had to drop “Ate My Neighbors” and release just as “Zombies.”

Credit to Gamesradar

Credit to Gamesradar

And lastly, the following behind this game is real and dedicated. I will leave you with this Youtube video of what I mean.

Eraserhead: Exploring David Lynch’s Nightmare Film

From Impawards.com

From Impawards.com

I decided against  scouring all of the top 100 cult classic lists and run the risk of stumbling across reviews or spoilers (I know the film is from 1977). So, I turned to a co-worker. Everyone has the stereotypical film buff co-worker. Stereotypes exist, especially in the work place (I’m looking at you cat lady). There is always the quirky film buff that recommends weird films and you nod but never watch them. Everywhere I’ve worked there has been one. So I asked Alex, a young, smarter than he should be high school student, which cult classic film I should start with. He quickly, almost without thinking responded, “Anything by David Lynch. In fact, Eraserhead.”

I should have known just by his sickening smile just what I was getting myself into.

Saturday night, quiet house, I turned off all electronics and gave Eraserhead my total attention with a notebook and pen in hand. I had no knowledge of the film or what was coming. The movie began and I soon saw that it was in black and white. It immediately had an industrial feel, with the opening of Henry’s (Jack Nance) large head floating, big hair and odd looking, then a cut to a scarred and decrepit looking man, toying with levers and looking out a window. The landscape was barren save for tall buildings and pile of stone.

I realized I was watching a horror film with the infliction of noise. The sound throughout the opening scene was a loud humming or buzzing then seemed to be louder outside than inside the apartment but it was always there. It became all I could focus on. Even the bizarre things in the apartment such as dirt and hay in a dresser drawer and then a plant and a pile of soil on the nightstand didn’t stand out as much as the humming did.

Anyone want dinner at the X’s?

This is where the movie completely lost me from my idea of an ambitious viewing before it began. This scene will forever be engrained in my brain and I can honestly say I will never eat a cornish hen again (I wasn’t much of a cornish hen eater to begin with but…). The loud machines, sweeping steam outside of Mary X’s house, followed by the slurping and disgustingness that was the unseen sound in the living room, only to turn out to be puppies feeding off their mother, made me trepidatious of what I was getting into.

I was still slightly on board. I was watching closely, hoping not to miss any subtle symbolism or meaning in each scene. It is a cult classic right? There has to be something there. But the sounds, images, desolation, the industrial slum that they all resided in, brought a sense of despair and angst to my viewing.

My anxiety began with the dogs and I noted it. It was the last note I took. Then, Mr. X served the cornish hens and the scene played out and my angst turned to nausea and for the remainder of the film I felt like I were going to be sick.

http://gph.is/Vwwdha

Just cut it like a regular chicken?

The rest of this scene and film then played out like a bad dream. There seemed to be no reason to how character’s were acting. The movie was bizarre and grotesque just to be bizarre and grotesque. I understood immediately what Lynch was exploring and degrading: parenthood. It was obvious from the fetus stomping blonde with bubble cheeks to the incessant crying of the mutant baby. Lynch had a bad childhood and wanted to disgust anyone that was to ever choose to be a parent.

Oh, and the baby

But Jerry, you gotta see the baby!

But Jerry, you gotta see the baby!

The baby is a mystery to everyone, because Lynch is keeping quiet. Lynch says it is because he doesn’t want the mystery to ruin the film. Some say it is because it’s a calf fetus and illegal as a prop. But regardless, the baby is so strange for me that it takes away from any comment Lynch is making on childbirth and parenthood. It’s perverse.

Henry has a soft spot for the baby, changing it’s bandages and staying up at night to it’s cries. But he is unhappy, and does not appear to be happy again until he kills the baby (out of mercy apparently).

A word I want to use for this film is pretentious. I think it is because of the success it had in the midnight movie realm. The film grossed $7 million during midnight screenings and other theaters. And with the added influence it had on many successful films and directors, there has been this aura around it that makes it more than it is. The film is revolting, at times unnecessarily disgusting. It lacks any followable plot, acts more like a prolonged dream sequence and also has a poor script. The movie is a fantasy, a bad dream.

Bright Light Films Score

I know I said in my Intro Post that I wouldn’t always be using this “checklist of attributes” by Dan Bentley-Baker of Bright Light Films, but I wanted to test it out against my first cult film viewing. Heres how Eraserhead would have scored:

1. Marginality Content falls outside general cultural norms       Yes
2. Suppression Subject to censor, ridicule, lawsuit, or exclusion      No
3. Economics Box office flop upon release but eventually profitable       Somewhat (did not open to major theaters)
4. Transgression Content breaks social, moral, or legal rules      Yes
5. Cult following Generates devoted minority audience      Yes
6. Community Audience is or becomes self-identified group      No
7. Quotation Lines of dialog become common language      No
8. Iconography Establishes or revives cult icons       Yes

4 out of 7 meets most of the criteria, which would make it a cult film. But we already knew that. I wanted to try the checklist out against a known cult film. I personally did not enjoy the film, and I would not watch it multiple times. I would not recommend it to friends or family or readers. But, I can quote from it and I will definitely never forget it.

Introductory Post

big lebow

What is a Cult Classic?

That was my first question when I prepared myself to dive into the unknown of cult classics. I am not an expert on this and will not claim to be. I think that is why I was drawn to exploring the cult classics. I can start with a fresh palette. I have no dog in any fight. And from what I’ve seen in my early research, there are many fights. I also won’t be limiting myself to film. I want to explore all things that have obtained a cult following; novels, graphic novels, tv shows, video games, even food and drinks (remember Surge?). The term “cult following” is at the crux of how one could label a film or book as a cult classic. As Ian Haigh of BBC News says in this article, “Cult film is a tricky term.” That seemed weird to me. If a film has a devote following, followers that are rabid about quotes, themes, create websites dedicated to characters or films, then call it a cult classic and move on. Who cares, right? Well, the following themselves care.

(Not Really)

(For Now…..)

It is a Dichotomy

In order for a film to become a cult classic then it must have a cult following. There are many characteristics, articles, arguments, but this one about the following is a consensus view. I have seen other characteristics, such as what Robert Pearson writes in this informative article that the art has a “post-modern intertextual awareness.” But many did not set out to become cult classics. The lore of the classics appear to come from a counter culture perspective, a group that wants to participate in something out of the mainstream. This appeal gives fans a feeling of obscurity, a togetherness in the films that were unappreciated or didn’t pass a critic’s muster. The fans can unite by reciting quotes or entire scenes in rarely seen films, let alone films seen enough to be memorized. This obscurity and counterculture is at the heart of the rabidity and defensiveness of the followings. But the following itself becomes large, creating an aura around the film or text that makes others want to see or read it. The following increases, and re-releases happen, and midnight showings become films with multiple showings. Or a show like Arrested Development gets new season after being off the air for seven years.

That is what I am struggling with. If the fans want to revel in the obscurity or counterculture, then what happens when their beloved classic becomes a mainstream novelty? This is what bothered me the most when searching for my first classic to review. I found many “Top 100 Cult Classic” sites and other countdown lists. But, while scrolling through, I found books such as A Catcher in the Rye, shows like The X-Files and the films Donnie Darko, Fight Club and Clerks. I have read and seen all of these titles, and they are all now mainstream hits. I am not exclusively confused. Many critics, authors and students of film are also confused. Dan Bentley-Baker of BrightLightsFilm.com put together a “checklist of attributes” to clear up much of the confusion. It is as follows:

Checklist for Determining “Cult Film” Status

1. Marginality Content falls outside general cultural norms
2. Suppression Subject to censor, ridicule, lawsuit, or exclusion
3. Economics Box office flop upon release but eventually profitable
4. Transgression Content breaks social, moral, or legal rules
5. Cult following Generates devoted minority audience
6. Community Audience is or becomes self-identified group
7. Quotation Lines of dialog become common language
8. Iconography Establishes or revives cult icons

#3 helped me understand my confusion. “Eventually profitable” explains why I have knowledge of a few cult classics. This list is thorough and can easily (or possibly) discern whether a film, book, video game or tv show is a cult classic. I don’t intend on using this list as a Holy Grail checklist for my own reviews, but it is a rather clear and straightforward way of examining an introduction into a subculture that I am not one hundred percent comfortable with. I look forward to the process I am undertaking, and not only exploring the obscure, or wildly fanatical, but also maybe encountering a following I myself will become entrenched in.