5 Movie Jokes You Missed If You Only Speak English
Everyone who learns a foreign language eventually has this moment when they realize, "Oh my God! I can now curse in public whenever I want!" People who work in movies and television are no exception and doubtless constantly struggle with, say, wanting to name a fictional character some non-English equivalent of Shitdick von Yogurtcannon. But seeing as that might technically count as juvenile cultural insensitivity, most bilingual filmmakers compromise and season their work with fewer overseas curse words and more actually funny foreign-language jokes, like how ...
Star Trek: The Next Generation Is Full of References to Silly Anime
Saying that there's an anime nod in Star Trek doesn't really mean anything on its own, because the two are really just mediums through which you can tell all sorts of different stories, both serious and stupid. Consequently, having one reference the other wouldn't really be a joke per se, unless you had a more serious Star Trek series reference a cartoon about big ol' floppy boobs, which totally happened in an episode of The Next Generation.
And not just because that set looks like a giant nipple.
In the episode "The Icarus Factor," the Enterprise's first officer, William Riker, has to deal with personal issues concerning his estranged father that he thinks can only be achieved by whaling on him with a stick. Hence Riker challenges his father to Anbo-jyutsu, a made-up Japanese-esque martial art played in an arena with the Japanese character for "star" written in the middle and the words "Ataru" and "Ramu" beside it. There is also a Japanese banner in the back that reads "Urusei Yatsura." I'd make a joke about how that translates to "tits and ass," but it wouldn't actually be a joke.
Together, all that Japanese writing forms a Voltron-like shout-out to the anime series Urusei Yatsura, which features a) the character for "star" in its name, b) two protagonists named Ataru and Ramu (aka Lum), and c) weird shit like this:
A philosophical piece, then.
In Urusei Yatsura, aliens invade Earth and challenge humanity to a game of tag between a randomly selected human (the eternal loser/pervert Ataru) and the alien princess Lum, who, by the way, totally can fly. In the end, Ataru manages to catch the distracted Lum by stealing her bikini top, but he pays a horrible price for it. Due to a misunderstanding, the defeated Lum thinks that Ataru has proposed to her, which she accepts, and she now wants to spend the rest of her life playing "hide E.T. in the closet" with him, because Japan.
It's funny enough to see a cartoon like that being referenced on Star Trek: The Next Generation, a show that explored complex themes of intelligence, diplomacy, and the human condition, but bizarrely, the series also mentions one more anime that mainly explored the nether regions of cosmic strumpets: Dirty Pair, the story of two anthropomorphic sets of breasts named Kei and Yuri who work as bikini cops in space. I ... I need you to stop and think about that for a few minutes.
You can see Yuri's name written in Japanese on the side of the Anbo-jyutsu arena.
There actually are references to the show in at least five TNG episodes, including an element called keiyurium, the only fictional substance named after someone's masturbation material:
"No, honey! It's ... research! Y-yeah, research for my new show!" -Gene Roddenberry, probably
Mulan's Fake Name Means "Eye Candy"
Disney's Mulan is the story of a young Chinese girl pretending to be a man to take her elderly father's place in the army. But let's face it: On the whole, Mulan was about as Chinese as Tank Man T-shirts manufactured in independent Tibet, starting with the movie's most high-ranking characters being voiced by Americans of Japanese descent and ending with Eddie Murphy playing a particularly chatty Pokemon.
And let's not even mention how the Huns' portrayal was on par with that of black people in The Birth of a Nation.
However, there was still one genuinely Chinese (or rather Cantonese) thing about the movie: a joke that occurs when Mulan, disguised as a man, arrives at a military camp, where the unthinkable happens and someone asks her for her name.
(Come on, come on, what do men like?) "Uuuhm, my name is ... Barbecue ... Boob-Truck ...?"
The name she ends up giving them is "Ping," and if you speak Cantonese, that apparently was a pretty hilarious joke. See, Mulan comes from the Fa family, thus making her full (fake) name "Fa Ping," which means "flower vase." But the term is also used to describe a woman whose only real skill is to stand there, look nice, and "Don't you worry your pretty little head 'bout it none," just like an actual flower vase. Or, in other words, "eye candy."
I don't think Disney's ever confirmed that this was an intentional joke, but it definitely would play nicely into the movie's narrative of Mulan trying to be more than a pretty face and make something out of her life. Pfft, women. Am I right, guys? So it is very well possible that in that scene, a Disney princess had basically introduced herself as "Hugh Jass" or "Peter Phile."
Also *sigh* yes, Fa Ping does sound like "fapping." Get it? Masturbation! HAHAHAHAHA ... ha ...
There's a Jerry Maguire Joke in King Kong ... in Morse Code
Disclaimer: If you object to me calling Morse code a language, please state your case in the comment section for a chance to win a horrible Paint drawing of a penguin.
Unless you're filming a Paris Hilton biography, it's near impossible to make a story about a horny monster rampaging through the streets of New York sound in any way serious or believable. Surprisingly, though, that's exactly what Peter Jackson did in his version of King Kong, which isn't to suggest that the original was a comedy or anything like that, but on the other hand ... this:
"So, you get sacrificed here often?"
In Jackson's movie, everything was made darker and edgier. Kong was made more threatening, the fauna of Skull Island more lethal, and the island natives more feral and deranged.
As a result, there wasn't a lot of room for laughs in the 2005 remake. Oh, they were still there, it's just that they had to be hidden away in a brief scene where the ship Jack Black's film crew is traveling on receives a Morse code message ordering Black's arrest for embezzlement, theft, and, while they're at it, Shark Tale.
Except that's not what the message really said. According to people in the know, the Morse code beeps heard in the movie actually spell out "SHOW ME THE MONKEY."
That's right, a movie that features brutal death scenes like this ...
... also includes a 10-year-old reference to Jerry Maguire. And that's funny and all, but even more so when you realize that the two movies are actually kind of similar in that they both feature smooth-talking, con man-esque "geniuses" sucking others into a world of madness with the power of their fiery personalities. But, wait, if Jack Black is this movie's Tom Cruise, then would that make Kong the equivalent of Cuba Gooding Jr.'s character? That's racist, movie. Super racist. Christ, even pointing that out made me feel like I need a shower.
Pretty Much Every Non-English Restaurant Name Is a Joke
Over the years, foreign languages have been used many times to hide jokes in fictional restaurant names. For example, in The Critic, a cartoon you've probably never seen, thus making you one of the reasons for its cancellation, you dickhole, the main character enjoys eating at a restaurant called "L'Ane Riche." However, despite sounding like the sort of place you couldn't even afford to hear about, its name actually translates to "The Wealthy Jackass."
"What? Plenty of restaurants advertise their main ingredient in the name. Look at Chipotle!"
Then, in one of Steve Martin's best movies ever, L.A. Story, we get a hilarious scene where Martin is talking to a French Patrick Stewart in what's possibly a Nazi bank about getting a reservation to a restaurant that he calls "Lee-Dee-Oh." The joke here is that when he actually gets there, we realize that the name is spelled "L'Idiot," or French for "Figure it out yourself, lee-dee-oh."
Even action movies sometimes get in on the fun, like in From Paris With Love, one of the rare films that somehow managed to make John Travolta look intimidating, especially when he's murdering an entire Chinese restaurant that's secretly a front for cocaine smuggling. The name of that restaurant? "Le Lotus des Neiges," which means "The Snow Lotus."
What, "Cocaine Bar" was too subtle?
Finally, there's a Spanish restaurant joke in Anchorman, in the form of a Mexican joint called "Escupimos en su Alimento," or "We Spit in Your Food." Classy, San Diego. It's like you haven't been listening to Ron Burgundy at all.
But what do you expect from a city whose name literally means "a whale's vagina"?
A Character From Game of Thrones Recites a Monty Python Joke
I kind of hate Game of Thrones, because after each season finale, I find myself unable to enjoy any other serious show out there, always thinking stuff like "Man, GoT would have done that better" or "Man, GoT never made me use Google to see the cast naked." So the only things that I can watch in the summer are comedies, because comedy is the one thing that Game of Thrones doesn't really do ... intentionally, at least.
Ha! It's funny because he's going to die in agonizing pain.
That is, except for one instance. During the third episode of Season 4, Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the Unburnt, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Scourge of Starbucks Baristas Everywhere, arrives at the gates of the city of Meereen, intending to conquer it. In response, the city sends out a champion to fight her best warrior, but not before he taunts Daenerys in the fictional low Valyrian language by suggesting many unorthodox things she can do with/to her genitalia.
"And your taste in men is questionable at best! What the fuck's wrong with Jorah?!"
At any rate, that's what Daenerys' translator tells us. But according to David Peterson, who created Valyrian for the show, the Meereenese champ is actually saying that Daenerys' mother was a hamster and her father smelled of elderberries. And yes, those insults do sound awfully familiar, because the guy is actually quoting the famous scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when a French soldier hurls taunts at King Arthur and his knights.
Peterson explains that the idea to sneak that reference into the show came from series creator Dan Weiss, who probably reckoned that no one would ever catch an obscure joke like that. But after the episode aired, Peterson immediately started getting tweets from apparently-Valyrian-proficient, definitely-unemployed people who caught the incorrect translation given in the show, forcing the man to come clean about the little joke, because Internet people are exactly that frightening.
Interestingly, no one ever seems to mention the episode's other Monty Python reference about Ser Davos Seaworth mispronouncing the word "knight" as "ka-niggit," which, oh, would you look at that, also comes from the rude Frenchman scene (starts at 1:27).
Of course, now that you know that, you'll never be able to watch Joffrey's funeral scene without wishing that Cersei and Jaime re-enacted the dead parrot sketch with his corpse.
"He's just pining. What a lovely boy. Lovely hair."
Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist and editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more from Cezary, check out The 5 Most Insane Examples of Chinese Counterfeiting and The 5 Weirdest Things That Control the Global Economy.
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