_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Snakes on a Plane

A few words about Snakes on a Plane.

I can be a bit of a pop culture hermit at times, but there was no missing this cultural juggernaut. When I first heard the title a couple months ago, it was pretty clearly a brilliant title. It was so ridiculously blunt about its ridiculous premise that it stuck with me; it appears to have had the same effect on a lot of other people.

The movie got a lot of buzz on the internet, and somehow managed to gain a lot of fans prior to the movie actually being being finished. As the NY Times review put it, "snakes + plane + Samuel L. Jackson" was really all anyone needed to know. It appears to be the first movie ever to have material re-shot based on what bloggers demanded. (They had Samuel L. Jackson deliver the online-coined catch phrase, "Get these motherf***ing snakes off my motherf***ing plane!")

Because the entire hilariously gripping idea was captured in the title, it kept appearing everywhere I went...people were talking about it at work, it was referenced months ago on the Colbert Report, I overheard people on the street laughing about it. Online forums about audience participation elements (e.g. everybody throws toy snakes in the air when the snakes escape into the plane) were underway for months prior to the movie's release. The media writeups of the movie are already obsessed with what the film and the fuss mean culturally.

This is going out on a bit of a limb here, but I think this phenomenon might be in part due to a mass longing for common experiences. There are so many centrifugal forces in today's society, from suburbia to political polarization to the narrowcasting of the internet (a favorite topic of mine) that something that allows you to connect with a broad swath of other human beings is really appealing. We all get "snakes on a plane," and the opportunity to hoot and holler in a theater along with a bunch of other people feels good; it's nice to have something besides the weather that you can talk about with anyone.

I'm necessarily overstating my point here, and in large part it's just an entertaining movie. But I think the social dynamic is in there, too.

And with that, I'm off to see Little Miss Sunshine. Hah.

10 comments:

doug said...

So ... we're bowling alone but snaking together?

teague said...

Heh, good one. But yeah, I think Robert Putnam might have something to say about Snakes. I see it as a fit of reaction against the social disconnection that he talks about.

lj said...

Last week or so I came home to find a phone message from Mr Jackson telling me to make sure I go and see the movie. I heard later from someone that there's a way to sign up people for these calls. So it looks like I have a little prank mystery of my own....

hannah said...

So now, all this begs the question (to me, anyway) of whether the creators of Snakes knew that people were looking for shared experiences, and would therefore recognize the funny of the whole premise and would go see the movie, or if they are just wacky Hollywood people and just couldn't resist.

ReeD said...

Yes, as lj mentioned, I too was hit (and hit many a friend) with the Mr Jackson "phone call". It was lovely. From my understanding, I don't think the creators had any idea this was going to turn into what it did, although they were extremely quick to capitalize on it once it did. The pure absurdity of the name "Snakes on a Plane" caused people I knew to bring stuffed snakes on planes and take pictures (a simple search for snakes and planes on flickr.com will yield thousands of images dating back to mid 2005) , and the fact that it starred Mr. Jackson just threw it over the top. Once the filmmakers went back and re-filmed a scene to include the line "Snakes on a Mother-f@&#*ing Plane" (which had become a popular online saying, even though it wasn't in the movie originally apparently), you know it was all over. I really enjoyed your take on this from a community perspective, Teague. We're forming these bizarre (inter)national relationships, and things that are identifiable beyond geographical boundaries really bring people together both physically (in the theater) and virtually. And narrowcasting is the best subject ever, btw. :)

gastropodblue said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
gastropodblue said...

Nothing brings people together more than women getting bitten on the boobies by snakes.

It's like the modern-day Esperanto.

lj said...

"...caused people I knew to bring stuffed snakes on planes and take pictures..."

When I got off a plane Sunday night and was walking towards baggage claim with my fellow passengers, there was this one bro carrying a rubber snake along with his rolly. I don't know why I didn't connect this before.

doug said...

Well, now that the opening weekend for "Snakes" has come and gone, it appears that the "Snakes" community, large and active though it may be, is pretty much virtual -- ticket sales were not as high as they'd expected.

http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/arts/entertainment-boxoffice-snakes.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Mind you, it was still the top-earning movie of the week.

teague said...

Well, at least Snakes on a Plane brought everyone together in the comments section while I was away, poor box office performance notwithstanding.

Jesse, I totally agree: that is the stuff of universal human brotherhood (but probably not sisterhood).