Yesterday I was talking to a friend about the experience of watching Clerks when it came out in 1994. I couldn’t believe I was watching a movie with characters who talked about the same dumb shit my friends did. I’m pretty sure there were no films of note that referenced geek and pop culture in the same way.
Kevin Smith’s second film, Mallrats, wasn’t well received by critics, but I loved it and still think it’s funny. Ben Affleck will always be the Fashionable Male dickhead in my mind. The film is riddled with comic book references and even has a cameo from Stan Lee. This is basically the formula for all Marvel franchise movies. I don’t think it would be possible to have Deadpool without the ground breaking dorkiness of the View Askewinverse.
Today, everyone’s all meta and trying to get their Joss Whedon on with easter egg references to the nerd canon. The fancy pants academic name for this sort of thing is “intertextuality.” Work like the Flash Gordon sequence in Ted or even the entire plot of Cabin in the Woods rely on and reward an immersion in pop-geek culture.
In last week’s episode of the new AMC series, Preacher, based on a comic book that was very intertextual, two characters have a brief and inebriated exchange over The Big Lebowski. Cassidy, a 119 year old Irish vampire, tells Jesse, an ass kicking Southern preacher with a weird power, that he considers The Big Lebowski overrated. Jesse disagrees, but passes out seconds later after drinking a fairly volatile chemical moonshine Cassidy cooked up.
So why is this interesting? Today we care a lot about pop culture. The comic series was also extremely referential to its inspirations. John Wayne makes several appearances, possibly as a ghost, possibly as a figment of Jesse’s imagination. There’s an issue where Bill Hicks, well before the major revival of interest in his work came around, makes an appearance.
There are allusions to brands as well. Marlboro and Jack Daniels are consumed in heroic amounts. On the TV show there’s a brand of whiskey that keeps popping up. It’s named after a town that plays a big role in the life of another character who we’ve seen, but has not been named; The Saint of Killers.
Another reason the mentioning of The Big Lebowski is interesting is that it tells us something about Cassidy. How do you not like that movie? He is not to be trusted.