The Thing You Remember
Handsome air-and-eventually-space-pilot Will Smith, after being chased by an alien spacecraft, manages to force the craft into a crash landing. When the spaceship opens up and a spooky alien emerges, Smith fearlessly punches it in the face and, like the unflappable badass he always plays, casually drops a classic movie one-liner that can only be described as Willsmithian: "Welcome to Earf." Audiences cheer, aliens tremble and Earf continues to spin.
But Actually ...
He says "Earth," you racist.
I've seen this movie a lot, so if you asked me, I'd tell you that Will Smith obviously never said "Welcome to Earf" in Independence Day. If you ask the Internet, however, he most certainly did:
That's over 40,000 results, and none of them are saying "You know he actually says 'Earth.'" Similarly, Google Image Search is full of images just like this one:
Which is insane, because not only does Smith clearly say "Earth" instead of "Earf," the image that they're using to accompany the caption is from a different part of the movie entirely. Will Smith punches an alien in the face and says "Welcome to Earth" while in the desert; the shot of him with the cigar doesn't happen until he pulls up to an army base carrying the carcass of the unconscious alien.* It's like two halves of the Internet's collective memory are in a race to see who can be wrong first, and they're both winning.
"There are literally hundreds of ways I can be wrong!"
"Welcome to Earf" has been so imbedded in our pop culture hivemind that Urban Dictionary has no problem citing it as Will Smith's actual quote in Independence Day. And Urban Dictionary isn't a meme aggregator or anything, and it's not like UD is saying that people wrongfully attribute the quote to Smith. It very clearly defines "Welcome to Earf" as "The proper way to welcome alien visitors to our planet as described by the great diplomat Will Smith in Independence Day. Usually accompanied by a punch."
I guess people remember him saying "Earf" because people are secretly racist and they assume, since Will Smith is technically black, that he must also be poor and uneducated. Which is ridiculous; Will Smith is, like, the fourth blackest person in Independence Day. Bill Pullman is blacker than Will Smith.
The Thing You Remember
"Beam me up, Scotty" is so iconic that even non-Trek fans know that it refers to the original Star Trek series. It was one of the show's catchphrases, uttered by one of the cast members at least once an episode, whenever they needed Montgomery "Scotty" Scott to teleport them from some alien planet to the ship. "Beam me up, Scotty" was Star Trek's "Book 'em, Danno."
But Actually ...
In truth, it's the exact opposite of that, because they said "Book 'em, Danno" on Hawaii Five-O all the time.
Take a wild guess at how many times "Beam me up, Scotty" is used on Star Trek. If you guessed any number other than zero, congratulations, you're wrong! Members of the Enterprise would say "Scotty, beam us aboard" or "Beam me up" or "Hurry up and beam my shit, boy-eeeee," but never, not once, did anyone say "Beam me up, Scotty."
"Time to get our beam on, Big Scotty!"
Similarly, Darth Vader never once says the phrase "Luke, I am your father." The actual line is "No, I am your father," because Vader is reacting to Luke, who accuses Vader of murdering his father. If you don't believe me -- if, like me, you've lived your whole life hearing Vader say that line in your head so clearly that you know the pitch and cadence of the word "Luke" in the context of that phrase -- go ahead and watch the clip:
You can't get any clearer than that. Even though the line in my head is and always will be "Luke, I am your father," there's no denying that it's a line that has never once been said. Just like "Elementary, my dear Watson" (never used in any of the Sherlock Holmes books) or "Play it again, Sam" (never uttered in Casablanca). It's not just that a few people are forgetting the actual quotes; these are all cases where the misquotes are infinitely more famous than the truth.
There's a new Snow White movie coming out called Mirror, Mirror, despite the fact that the phrase "Mirror, mirror, on the wall" was never used in Disney's Snow White (it's actually "Magic mirror on the wall"). Granted, the original Snow White story as it appears in the Brothers Grimm collection contains the words "Mirror, mirror," but, hell, I've never read that collection and it doesn't change the fact that, until I Googled "Snow White" a few days ago for this article, I always believed that the evil queen said "Mirror, mirror" and not "Magic mirror." It's so ingrained in my memory that, even as I sit here, watching clips from Snow White where the queen is clearly saying "Magic mirror," I'm still inclined to say "No, bullshit, you're saying it wrong."
I would love to fast-forward a few years from now to see what future generations will misremember about our culture. Maybe everyone will remember Homer Simpson's catchphrase as "D'ah!" or "Darp!" Maybe when friends quote Lord of the Rings to each other, they'll say things like "One does not simply strut into Mordor," or "You. Shall. Not. Fuck. With. The. Wu-Tang. Clan!" If, 50 years from now, people think back on the columns I've written here at Cracked, I can only hope that this weird phenomenon of collective pop culture amnesia forces them to misremember my columns as being more eloquent and less typo-filled than they very clearly are.
*Edit: As it has been rightly pointed out to me in the comments, the shot of Will Smith smoking a cigar is not, as I suggested, from the scene where he visits the army base. It in fact directly comes after the moment where he punches the alien. I am leaving the mistake in instead of changing it to remind Future of Daniel of his own stupidity.
If you like reading Dan's writing about Star Wars, you'll love his adventures in a Jedi Academy.
Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's senior writer (ladies) and is shocked that no one ever used the word "zombie" in Night of the Living Dead (Romero).