Monday, November 7, 2011

Toe Pick

My blogging over the years has been a bit of verbal jambalaya. I'm just as interested in the human condition as I am in the week's tv listings. I might blog one day about human rights, and the next about this week's episode of Boardwalk Empire. And why not? Pop culture speaks volumes about who we are and where we are in time. What we read, watch, listen to - it's all about stories, isn't it? And what is the study of human nature if not the study of the stories that human beings share, pass down, are drawn to at any moment in time?

A few days ago, I was flipping channels and stumbled upon a movie I have never been able to resist: 1992's The Cutting Edge. Now, I won't tell you this is a great movie, or even a good movie. It's not. It's cheese. But not just any cheese. It's visual Velveeta. You know the stuff. You laugh at it on the sly but, every so often, when you're all alone - or maybe with a close friend - nothing hits the spot like a grilled cheese sandwich made with Velveeta and Wonder Bread. Or maybe you get stoned (people still do that, right?) and find yourself with the munchies at  2am. You're not going to pull the brie out of the fridge and let it warm up to room temperature. You're not shaving paper-thin slices of imported parmesan. You're not Making toast points and grilling Spanish bleu cheese. You're going to pull out that big, yellow box, peel away the thick foil, and cut yourself a hunk of Velveeeta. Or you're going to turn on the tv and hope that The Cutting Edge is on cable.

It's ok to admit it.
I do.
I love that craptastic movie. If it's on cable, I HAVE to watch it. And I've come to realize that a lot of other people of my generation feel this way. But why? It's not the most interesting movie. There really aren't any laughs. It doesn't even have a memorable soundtrack or theme song. And it was released in 1992 - my teen years were long over by then, so it's not the whole "that's the movie I saw with my first love!" thing. People my age did not go see this movie on their first date. Sooooooo...WHAT'S THE BIG THING ABOUT THE CUTTING EDGE AND WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT GENERATION X?

I think I know.

This movie, although released in 1992, is a nod to the 80s. The last vestige of everything the 80s were about. We initially watched The Cutting Edge because Moira Kelly was hot (I'm a lesbian) and D.B. Sweeney was adorable (I'm gay, not blind), but we watch it again, and again because it's the best snapshot of the decade that preceded it. The decade when, for better or worse, people my age made the shift to adulthood. It's a dumb movie that we can't resist. The 80s?  A dumb decade that, try as we might, we can't resist having a little nostalgia for. And, if you're not resisting this nostalgia, but embracing it and think the 80s were just wonderful, I'm here to tell you that you're seeing that decade through bong-water-stained glasses. The 80s were fucking stupid, and our love for The Cutting Edge is a nod to our love for sheer stupidity. Think about it: it's a heterosexual love story that centers on FIGURE SKATING. It is the swan song to the decade when Brian Boitano told America that he was a straight figure skater from San Francisco, and America swallowed it, hook, line and sinker.

The entire decade was a 10 year tribute to stupidity, poor judgement, and bad taste. Synthesized drums. Acid washed denim. Shoulder pads. Leg warmers. Toni Basil. The Porky's movie franchise.

Stop fighting it.

Duran Duran was a shitty band.
Flashdance was an awful movie.
The California Raisins were stupid.
Max headroom was annoying.
Rainbows and unicorns were corny as shit.
Miami Vice has not aged well.
V.C. Andrews' books were creepy and badly written.
Ronald Fucking Reagan was a terrible, fucking president.

And that's it. That's what The Cutting Edge is all about. It's about how fucking crappy and stupid shit was for 10 whole fucking years, and how stupid we were to buy black rubber bracelets, wear shoes without socks, listen to Flock of Seagulls and think "Where's The Beef?" was funny. The brilliant thing about it - and you have director Paul Michael Glaser to thank for this -  about this silly, cheesy, little that it reminds us of our own stupidity - about the stupidity of an entire nation for an entire decade - and it does it in a gentle way.

I don't watch the toe pick scene and think, "Do they really expect us to believe that a guy who's been playing hockey for his whole life has no idea what a regular pair of ice skates looks like and what a toe pick is? I don't even fucking skate and even I know what it is. This is fucking idiotic!" I don't think that. I don't think anything close to that. I see that scene and think, "Awww...this is embarrassingly silly. Moira Kelly is so haughty and pretty. D.B. Sweeney is so freaking goofy and cute."

Scroll up and look at that picture. They're not fucking idiots - they're sweet and hopeful. And we love them, in all their stupidity, because we don't want to think of ourselves as the tacky, stupid generation who came into our own as conspicuous consumers of  complete and utter horse shit because we had such bad taste and poor judgement. We'd rather look back and think of ourselves as silly, lovable kids who played PacMan, loved Ghostbusters (which, BTW, is a fucking stupid movie), and listened to the Purple Rain soundtrack on our Walkmans until the cassettes snapped.

Toe pick.

Hey, don't blame me:  I was too young to vote for Ronald Reagan.

© 2012 Lana M. Nieves
Limited Licensing: I, the copyright holder of this work, hereby publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution license, granting distribution of my copyrighted work without making changes, with mandatory attribution to Lana M. Nieves and for non-commercial purposes only. - Lana M. Nieves 


Heidi said...

How did I miss this swansong to the decade? Jesus!

I wish I could still eat Velveeta. I would have 4 grilled cheeses right now just to celebrate your post. God, I love them, when they get really golden-burnt-butter-brown crispy on the outside, especially around the edges where the cheese runs out (because I always put too much in. The secret is to cook them super slow so that the whole thing is a melty orgasm.

You know where my heart lies, huh?

I do have to disagree with you at least in part about the eighties. I mean, clearly Pacman, The Ghostbusters, and Reagan are things we all wish we could leave in the past. But there was so much that I loved about the eighties: the excess -- big shoulderpads, parachute pants, those purses that were made from gasmask bags, Williwear, Norma Kamali Clothes, "A Whisper to a Scream," Yaz's Upstairs at Erics album (and a lot of other music I won't go on about). All those were dumb things, nacht, but they were our dumb things that seemed so amazing at the time.

It was also the first time that gay people started to be a real element in society, I posit. Amazing. (Sure, you could talk about the mass hysteria about AIDS, but it was the first time the American public--I'm talking the hayseeds in the middle-- really SAW gay people kissing and had to deal with it.)

To my mind it was a decade of plenty of cultural trash (but see the 1950s and 1960s for the examples it followed). Somehow, though, when New Wave music came on....things like Gary Numan and Kraftwerk...and we started having personal felt like the whole world had jumped forward into modernity.


Anonymous said...

OK Snapper,

When the former host of Death Valley Days trudged on down to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, I felt as downtrodden as I had in 1968 when
Tricky Dick scored that same address. They both wrecked havoc pre and post 1980s. Nevertheless, Chaka told me I was every woman and Diva Ross crooned about "coming out" and I did.

I'm closer to Ma"s age than yours; so yes, I thought the California Raisins were adorable and Where's the Beef was funny. Ya know it's (life)always a floors and ceilings matter.

Tutaonana baadaye or as some of us colored folks say, Later

- mzpiggie