Monday, March 31, 2008

Ruminations on 80s movies: Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure

As presented in and of itself, the concept of time travel is not the paradoxical undoing of this movie, as is so often the case when time travel is used as a vehicle for storytelling. Rather, it is in the filmmakers' imagination of a utopian future dependent upon two youths struggling against what could only be considered a dystopian present, and the passing of their high school history presentation without the use of wikipedia - a stupendously ignorant oversight. The rise of such sites as wikipedia and has conferred upon each American capable of using the Internet the status of expert researcher, informally. In this piece alone, there are easily twenty separate instances of terms generously supplied with information in the pages of the wikipedia repository, terms such as banana, and the Order of the British Empire, and smallpox, and Otis Redding, and PCP, which I swear I have never inhaled.

An attempt to set the events of the film a mere 19 years past its original occurrence (1989), while leaving the plot to hinge on the singular machination of Bill and Ted's academic achievement, would have met with different, and cataclysmic, results. No one in these cynical times - not even Karl Rove herself - would have believed it possible to round up such a cast of historical figures and keep them on the stage in a California suburb without retainer and appearance fees that, in the face of our current economic climate, would reach far beyond even the deep pockets of Ted Theodore Logan and Bill S. Preston, Esq.

What would be paradoxical is how, given the exposure of that particular bit of financial fallacy, these historical figures could have been sent back to fulfill their appointed roles both in the course of human events, even and up to the eventual passing of Bill and Ted's history test. Circumstance and timing indicate fairly clearly that many of the film's luminaries were abducted in the primes of their careers, prior, perhaps, to the achievements for which they were best known. And that is still to say nothing of the tangential impact of Bill and Ted's excellent adventure (the adventure itself, not the movie) on the world around those people. It is entirely conceivable, for example, that a contemporary of Sigmund Freud (Dude), having witnessed the sudden intrusion of a phone booth into early 20th century Austria, may have been thusly been inspired to contribute to its invention. Only wikipedia, and its inscrutable editorial staff, knows for sure.

What is certain is that, within the clever give-and-take of the movie's protagonists with their historical specimens, there is a balance never before witnessed in film or, tragically, in reality. It is this balance, and not some mysterious occurence, or "strange thing afoot at the Circle K", that was so intrinsic to the plausibility of the future presented herein, a future where George Carlin would truly be the most worthy ambassador, and a black man in a charcoal gray onesie with trapezoidal shoulders could lead us all.

The final sad truth is that what Bill and Ted could never have foreseen - what none of us, back in the brighter and more glorious glow of the thawing Cold War could have seen - were the disastrous repercussions of making a sequel. It was the most obvious possible indication that Hollywood's liberal bias had overreached itself. Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, in the crystal lens of retrospect, was stupid enough to almost singlehandedly reap responsibility for the rise in American conservatism that has led to the bloodied, battered state of the country today. And deservedly so. But it is still ironic - indeed, even a little bit poetic - that the second film could so drastically undercut the immense and hopeful legacy of the first film, and that the intervening years, and all the years to come, would a journey so bogus be.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Brilliant! Only you could link Bill and Ted to G. W. and the state of the country. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure was the movie I saw on my first date ever. It will always hold a special place in my heart right next to macaroni & cheese and Madonna.