5 Pop Culture Images That Warped Our Psyches for Life
I'm not qualified to tell you how the human brain works. I can't point out various lobes on brightly-colored PET scans, illustrating the formation of memories. I was more of an English major. I can explain how the moon is a classic symbol of melancholy in poetry or how much of a Jew-hating, elitist hump T.S. Eliot was. And neither of those assertions are helpful to my cause here because this is an article about certain images that can catalyze life-long associations in a person. But since I'm not a scientist, I can only tell you how they form associations in one specific person: me. Hey, maybe you're like me. Maybe these same pop culture images have forever colored the way you see the world. But the important thing is, even if you're not like me, even if these images have no meaning for you, then at the very least, I have met my deadline, and isn't that all that really matters? (If you're like me, you'll say yes!)
Vests Are Suitable Only for the Very Cool
Although they don't play a large role in my wardrobe, I love vests. Yes, I only own one vest, and the last time I wore it was four years ago for about 30 minutes while I taped the only "Hate By Numbers" where I wasn't in a suit jacket. I think that's because as much as I love vests, there's part of me that feels I'm not cool enough to pull them off. Y'see, burned into the deepest recesses of my mind, there is only one man cool enough to wear a vest:
Han Solo, the coolest man in the universe, defines the vest for me. Even Harrison Ford isn't cool enough to wear a vest. Only Han Solo. I mean just look at him. That's quite a man. I've spent my whole life as a heterosexual, but that's only because Han Solo is fictitious. If I somehow saw this hunk of a man in the real world, I'd be so excited, there'd be no doubt about who shot first.
Not this kind of shooting. Get it? No? Never mind.
Blond, Feathered Hair and Red Lipstick is Sex
We all have a type when it comes to sexual attraction. Personally, I'm partial to brunettes with light eyes. Black Irish, but y'know, someone a little more dangerous and dark. Also willing to do stuff, y'know, with ... never mind. This is stupid. I like lots of things. I don't want to bore you with a checklist of attractions, but one thing that typically does not do it for me is the blond, All-American, cheerleader, Vanna White type. I guess what I'm saying is, if I had to choose a Facts of Life girl, I would have gone for Jo and not Blair.
You heard right. I would have picked the lesbian. (FYI, Tootie's future hotness was not foreseeable.)
But even though the blond hair, blue eyes look doesn't usually do it for me, there is a huge exception. If you feather that blond hair, '80s style, and add ridiculous red lipstick, then we're in business. And the reason for that exception? Amber Lynn. For you kids not cruising vintage porn on the Internet, Amber Lynn was an '80s porn star and the first one I really saw in my early teens. It doesn't matter if she's my type or not. It doesn't matter if feathered hair is absurd. It was a very potent image that burned its way into my neural pathways, and now feathered blond hair plus red lipstick equals sex. Dirty, wrong, first year of hormones coursing madly, sex.
There you are, old friend.
I don't need to praise her exploits or get into a prurient sex-off explaining why she's the best. I don't know if she is. I haven't conducted a full survey. I'd leave that inquiry to Cracked's Felix Clay who apparently lives in a state of constant chaffing. But I can tell you she's first. And whatever she did to my young, impressionable neural synapses cannot be undone.
Banjos = Backwoods Sodomy
Although its roots go back to instruments formed both in Africa and Japan, the modern American banjo first became popular in the 1800s. It has a rich tradition, and players like Eddie Peabody and Cynthia Sayer have delighted audiences all over the world with finger-pluckin' magic. Yet, when I see a banjo, I think about one thing: backwoods, hillbilly rape. And of course you know why. Deliverance:
If you've not seen the film -- well, then I guess the banjo wasn't ruined for you. But this dueling banjo scene is very famous. Also famous? Ned Beatty getting raped by hillbillies and being told to squeal like a pig while being violated. Now, do the two things happen at the same time? No. But y'know what? The scenes are so upsetting and visceral that you could separate them by eight hours of puppies dancing in a cotton candy factory and the two horrific images would still be linked in my mind forever.
Greatness Comes in Gangs
Anyone reading my column knows that I'm a huge David Bowie fan, but while I'm a huge fan, I never wanted to be David Bowie.
OK, maybe I misspoke.
I guess what I'm saying is, Bowie's greatness was a bit of a fluke for me because normally I'm not drawn to solo stars. I always thought greatness came in gangs. I didn't want to be one man alone on stage. I wanted to be part of something bigger. Part of something huge. What defined greatness like that for me?
There is nothing cooler than being a Beatle. Being a Beatle not only beats being a member of any other band, it beats being a member of anything. I'd rather be a Beatle than a Marx Brother or member of the Animal House fraternity, or a Ghostbuster. But y'know what? If I couldn't be a Beatle, then I would rather be a Marx Brother or Ghostbuster than, say, Elvis.
Yes, even young Elvis.
I'd rather be in Monty Python than be Louis C.K. Is it cooler? There's no point in debating it. I saw Yellow Submarine at 4, and there was no turning back. A member of a gang, but a gang that makes art instead of violence, is where it's at. I could tell you that at 4, and nothing's changed.
Adult-Sized Animal Costumes are Terrifying
For my money, the scariest scene in The Shining is not Jack Nicholson crashing through a bathroom door with an ax, or elevators spilling blood, or even those freaky dead twin girls. No. Without question the scariest scene in the movie is this:
Yeah, what is that? As a child I did not know. As a child, it made no sense. Shelley Duval reacted like she'd seen a nine-headed dragon. I didn't realize the fear came from not being alone in a place she thought she was alone in. And I certainly did not realize that the giant dog costume guy was blowing the guy in the tuxedo. Apparently in the book, that's a more substantial BDSM gimp-type character who performs tricks for decadent, hedonistic sex parties back in the day.
But none of that came into play. I saw the strange image, I saw Duvall's reaction, and I heard the music. And that all mixed with something unknown and sexual that I in no way could comprehend, and that resulted in horror. It's probably why we like making fun of furries now. They're terrifying. In fact, the adult-sized animal costume has become so terrifying for me that not even The Beatles could set it right:
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