USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘movie’
Folk speech
Humor
Proverbs

Movie Quote Passes Into Normal Speech

Main Piece

The following is often quoted in the informant’s family: “You fall behind, you get left behind.”

For the origin and correct wording of this proverb–like quote, see Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Directed by Gore Verbinski, Walt Disney Pictures, 2003.

Background

Informant

Nationality: American

Location: Connecticut

Language: English

The informant’s immediate family say this to each other “all the time” whenever someone is moving too slow. The informant’s family first learned the quote together while watching Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, but the quote is no longer a reference to the film, as it has become a regular part of their speech pattern. It functions like a proverb.

Context

The informant and their family misquoted the line. The actual line is “Any man who falls behind is left behind.”

Notes

The interchange between media and folklore is exhibited here and is very interesting. The quote is not really a proverb, but it is not really fakelore either, because the film did not do anything intentional to pass it off as fakelore. It is interesting how misquoted lines are themselves something of a folklore genre; one of the most famous movie quotes of all time, from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is “No, I am your father,” but it is usually misquoted as “Luke, I am your father.”

 

Game

Family Tradition: Guess the Number of Previews at Each Movie

“My family has a game we play when we go to movie theaters.  When we go see a movie, we always guessed the amount of commercials or previews there are going to be and then how many of this video’s we actually want to go watch. So, before the movie starts off, I’ll be like, ‘4:2’, and my mom would be like, ‘6:3’ and that’s like the number of previews you think are going to happen before the show and then the amount of those previews that happened that we would actually go see.”

Background Information and Context:

“I have no idea why we do that or when it started, but as far as I know we’ve done it as long as we’ve gone to see movies. I just know that my family does it, and that Reed [my boyfriend] and I do it. It’s a tradition, and it’s fun, and it’s really dumb.”

Collector’s Notes:

This is a great example of how sharing traditions help continue the tradition and improve one’s connections with others. The game that the informant plays with her family before each movie is fun and has positive associations, but by sharing the game with her boyfriend, she is not only continuing the tradition away from home but also allowing someone else to become a part of a well-loved tradition. More than simply telling someone about a tradition, allowing someone to engage in a personal tradition is a sign of trust and closeness, a sign that you deem them worthy of being a part of something that means a lot to you.

Digital
general
Humor

Gatsby’s Facebook Chat Joke

My informant told me this joke as a piece of humor relating to current events. It references both a Movie (Great Gatsby) which comes out this (May) month, as well as Facebook chat, a  currently utilized electronic media.

Informant: (as a prologue) You know Gatsby right?

Me: Yeah

Informant: All right, well you know that sexual tension you get when you and your crush are “online” on Facebook at the same time, and you just stare at the green light chat button?  Suddenly you realize that you know what Gatsby felt like.

This joke relates Fitzgerald’s classic Great Gatsby, by way of its new movie, to generational issues of correspondence. Just as Gatsby looks out longingly at the green lighthouse light which represents his beloved Daisy, so does this joke suggests those of us with Facebook accounts have a similar experience when looking at the green chat buttons with which we  can start conversations with others. Perhaps most appropriately in light of its digital themes, my informant first heard this joke on the internet.

 

Folk Beliefs
general
Legends
Magic
Protection
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Toy Story Pencil — Japanese Entrance Exam Folklore

In Japan, unlike America, college admission is determined by one’s passing or failing of one entrance exam on one specific day. There are no chance for re-takes, and there is no alternate test. The rules are strict; if you happen to be sick on that one day, if you get into a car crash on the way there, you could either take the exam while sick or injured, or wait and study for another whole year to take the exam the year after. Furthermore, the rules dictate that you may only take one entrance exam per day. If two prospective schools are having their entrance exams on the same day, you are required to choose the one you prefer more. Students in Japan begin to study for their college entrance exams usually as early as their last year of middle school, studying for a total of four or more years (at school, at home, and in cram schools whose classes often go well past midnight) in preparation for one exam on one day. The rules are strict, admission to the four or five most prestigious programs that everyone tests for is notoriously difficult, and all the hard work may come down to being sick on the one day that determines the course of your life. The system, in a word, is merciless.

My informant lives in Nagoya, Japan, and had up until a month ago, been snared in this system. Having completed her college entrance exam and confirmed her entrance to Sophia University, she looked back on the past few years of her life and told me that it must have been the most stressful time of her life, but that she had her “Toy Story pencil” to help her out. Laughing, half-joking, she said that it actually must have been the pencil that had allowed her to pass the exam.

The “Toy Story pencil” had risen out of a legend circulated at her high school. A few years back, a male student from their high school had passed the entrance exam to Tokyo University, arguably the most prestigious school in Japan. This by itself would not have been legend-worthy, except that nobody had expected very much of him; he had begun to study for the entrance exam his final year of high school when everybody else had already been studying for years, and was ranked a little bit below average in his class. People knew of him, however, because of his obsession with Disney and especially with Toy Story. He watched all the movies, went full-out Woody on Halloween, had a Toy Story pencil case, and was apparently very skilled at drawing pictures of all the characters.

When word got around that he had been accepted to Tokyo University, the rumors and the legends began. He apparently had a pen that he had been using for years, a Toy Story pen that he had bought at some local stationery store. It was well known amongst his immediate classmates that he took pride in the fact that he had not lost that pen for his entire final year of high school, the year that he had finally begun to study for the exam. “He took that pencil everywhere,” My informant said. “I mean, it’s really hard not to lose pencils. I must go through at least like, ten or so a year. So it was pretty impressive, actually.” Thus, the younger students at the high school immediately latched onto the pen as a source of good luck magic in exam-taking, making it a sort of folk object–if you could use that pencil and only that pencil for your final year of high school, and you didn’t lose it and it didn’t break, you would be able to pass any entrance exam you took. My informant and her friends, who had not known the Toy Story boy but had long heard of the legend, had dutifully bought their one and only Toy Story pencil at the beginning of their final year. My informant used the Toy Story pen every day, careful not to break it, keeping track of it all times, and eventually passed the exam to her dream school, Sophia University. There were others though, of course, that used the pencil and failed their exams, but then again, said my informant, the pencil was more of a motivational tool than anything else–just having it made one feel more in control. Over her spring break when she visited me, she gave me a Toy Story pencil and told me that if I took care of it, I would probably see good results for the rest of the semester, and I am still using it now.

This intense fixation on an object for good luck, I believe, arises naturally from Japan’s merciless education system. In this system, the students themselves have little to no control. There is one exam per year; there is a pass or fail. “There are,” said my informant, “so many things that could go wrong. I could’ve gotten sick, and they would’ve just said, too bad, come back next year. I tried so hard for the week before the exam not to go out of the house and to eat healthy and sleep a lot, but still. Everyone gets so paranoid before the exams, and there’ve been stories of people sabotaging each other. There’s so much anxiety.” Anxiety, I thought, was the key word. The Toy Story pencil was a small but effective way to soothe anxiety that could give way to more anxiety. It gave people confidence, which perhaps made them study harder.

The Toy Story pencil reflects the intense collective fear and anxiety in the minds of Japanese students concerning the entrance exam procedure. Grabbing at straws, the students at my informant’s high school had clung to this legend, this folk object, to give themselves some semblance of control–and perhaps, strangely enough, it works.

 

 

 

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