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Blades of Glory’ column

Sean Sweany | Wednesday, April 4, 2007

“Ladies and gentlemen, can I please have your attention. I’ve just been handed an urgent and horrifying news story. I need all of you to stop what you’re doing and listen. … Cannonball!”

While this is only a quote from “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” an urgent and horrifying news story to go along with it is how conversation in our society is slowly disintegrating from intellectual dialogue into a constant stream of quotes gleaned from Hollywood’s most successful comedies.

I’m not necessarily saying this is a bad thing, but that could be because I was sucked into the trend and began quoting movie lines many years ago. I am saying those not familiar with the above quote should pick up a copy of “Anchorman,” lest they have no material to use in everyday conversation.

The phenomenon is actually quite amazing. No longer do movie quotes serve as filler material or as examples to use in the midst of a “real” conversation, but they now make up entire conversations by themselves, sometimes just starting with a simple “I love lamp.”

It seems this trend started becoming popular earlier this decade with nostalgic comedies like “Old School” and “Super Troopers.” Incantations of “I see Blue, he looks glorious,” or repetitions of “Littering and …,” quickly proliferated thanks to their hilarious associations within the respective films, making each an instant classic.

Fans quickly memorized other lines in the movies and had quotes appropriate for any situation ready at their fingertips.

Have a section-mate who misses the weekly section dinners?

Quote “Anchorman”: “It’s the section dinner. We do it every week.”

Mystified by all the time your mother spends in the kitchen?

Quote “Wedding Crashers”: “I don’t even know what she does back there!”

Having a philosophical debate about the intrinsic properties of nature?

Quote “Super Troopers”: “Nobody owns the water, man, it’s God’s water.”

These films provided perfect source material for the eager “quoters” because of their outrageous, memorable one-liners and fun plots.

Financial success led actors like Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Steve Carrell, the Wilson brothers and Ben Stiller – the so-called “Frat Pack” – to make dozens of other films in a similar vein to their early hits. The best lines from films such as “Wedding Crashers,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Anchorman” – and even smaller films like “Harold and Kumar go to White Castle” – entered into the popular vocabulary, expanding the base from which people could draw to speak in quotes.

This craze is not understood by everyone. Why do we (and by this I mean the college-age generation) speak in quotes? Maybe we are not imaginative or funny enough on our own. Or perhaps the writing of comic geniuses like Ferrell and Vaughn are so good and applicable to our own experiences that we feel compelled to use it in order to express ourselves, even if we are in a “glass case of emotion.”

The most hardcore “quoters” can hear a quote and continue reciting a particular scene from memory or conduct an entire conversation in quotes, plucking and pulling from different films as is necessary. I like to think of this not as a mindless way to avoid serious conversation, but an opportunity to display a skill in textual analysis by determining which quotes are appropriate for which conversational situations.

With more people jumping on the quoting bandwagon with each Frat Pack film, those who refuse to quote movies are quickly getting lost in translation. With no middle ground in this situation, all it takes to be able to converse in the modern world is the time to watch these films – and a good memory.

So start memorizing, but most of all, “Stay classy San Diego.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Sean Sweany at ssweany@nd.edu