Clichés You Watch…
I cannot sit in a chair for much longer than fifteen minutes. Too painful. I have advanced, gross degenerative osteoarthritis in my lower back. This condition has been developing for thirty-some years. I spent a fortune on chiropractors—to no avail. First, I had trouble standing while I cooked dinner. After my second floor apartment in New Orleans, I lived in a big beautiful house in Thunder Bay. This house had stairs going up and stairs going down. I began to have trouble climbing all those stairs. Then it became difficult to sit for long at my computer–a serious problem for a writer. So I sold the house and moved into my current apartment–no stairs. To get around the sitting problem I bought a hospital-type bed and reclined upon it with a new MacBook Air laptop. I could write all day, if I so chose, with minimal pain. So what all this is leading up to is: when I’m not writing, I watch a great deal of television. I have a 50” Samsung Smart TV and I get Netflix, Crave, Roku, Acorn, Amazon Prime, and Starz. I watch television series (two great ones: Breaking Bad and Rake) and movies, foreign and domestic. (Great foreign movies come out of Norway and Great Britain). After many hours of viewing I noticed frequent occurrences of several things.
First, chickens. A car drives into a dusty yard and chickens scatter. A woman exits a house to cross a dirt yard and chickens scatter. I came to know chickens meant either a rural setting or a poverty-stricken one. Or both. They are found in Third World countries and a few First World. You can tell a lot just by seeing chickens.
Next, tooth brushing. Over and over and over. And it is so unattractive to watch someone, even a gorgeous movie star, brush and spit. Why do directors use this when it is so boringly common and only shows a lack of ingenuity?
Another too-frequently heard cliché is the barking dog. Always off screen. People are sitting around a kitchen table conversing and from outside, in the distance, you’ll hear a dog bark. Or, they’re in their living room. Another dog barks, off-screen. You barely notice, if at all. But in most movies, there’s the distant, barking dog, and you never see this dog.
A man and a woman meet for the first time. They flirt, then take a taxi to her home. The front door slams open, and the couple, madly embracing, fall across the threshold. Inside, while kissing and frantically undoing each other’s buttons, the man slams the woman up against a wall. Wall pictures go awry. Objects on a table smash to the floor, but the couple doesn’t notice. Discarding clothes in a trail behind them, they find the bedroom and fall on the bed. Guess happens next. I call all this “slam up against the wall sex.” And you see it over and over and over. Does no one ever make slow, tender, love anymore? Not that I'm against wild, mad, passionate love-making. Au contraire. But—all the time?
Then there’s the cemetery scene. Mourners gather around a gravesite, surrounded by tombstones. Or a solitary man, woman, or child stands sadly pondering a grave. They lay down flowers or put a small stone on the tombstone. What!? Isn’t everyone getting cremated these days? Cemeteries are on the way out. Most now vote for cremation. And there are scenes where ashes are scattered, but nothing has the impact of sweeping green lawns erupting tombstones, even though they are an anachronism.
Whenever I see a pet in a movie—cat, dog, hamster, rabbit, guinea pig, or other innocent little creature, apprehension seizes me. I’m tense watching the movie until the story sweeps
me up and I forget my worry about the pet. Then, of course, the pet disappears. A terrible chord of music sounds. The family is frantic. My stomach is in knots. I know what they’re going to discover. They search everywhere until one person finds Fido mangled horribly and dead. One of the most appalling instances of this gambit is in the film Fatal Attraction. (Glenn Close, Michael Douglas—don’t miss it! It is a perfect study of Borderline Personality Disorder, so true, that it is shown to psychology students in University.)
Of course there’s also the car chase, brought to its zenith of perfection in the movie, Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen. It contains the quintessential car chase, up and down the narrow, hilly streets of San Francisco. No car chase since competes. Bullitt won the Oscar for Best Picture. The great car chase scene has been done. Why do we keep trying (and failing, boringly) to top that?
I’m sure there are more clichés you watch. And now, quite probably, you’ll be watching for them also. But cliché or not, let’s keep the chickens. They're so cute. And chickens need work, too.