One of the most popular things to do on the Internet is look at older movies and see them in a different light. Tropes like Alternate Character Interpretation and Jerkass Has A Point often pop up when examining these older titles. I also view movies in a different way, and that way often clashes with interpretations both popular and unpopular. With that, I’ve decided to look at several movies that have been looked at in a different light, and offer another alternate viewpoint. I would like to mention beforehand that these are my opinions…I’m not proclaiming them as truths.
1.) 1984’s “Ghostbusters” has the character of Walter Peck (William Atherton). Although he is viewed by many as the villain of the piece, there are other schools of thought that view him as just doing his job or even as absolutely right, making the Ghostbusters the real bad guys. I view it this way: In a drama with a basis in reality about the usage of nuclear power and environmental troubles, Peck would be the hero, since it’s the job of an EPA official to keep these things in check.
“Ghostbusters”, though, is a fantasy involving ghosts taking on various forms from satanic mongrels to gigantic food mascots. The Ghostbusters themselves know what it takes to defeat these demons. They know what equipment they need, how much power it takes, and how things should be done. Granted, there’s a lot of trial and error along the way, but they eventually get things right.
Peck is the villain in this movie because the EPA has never had to deal with ghosts. Nuclear power? Yes. Natural disasters? Yes. Ghosts? No. When Venkman (Bill Murray) says, “Back off, man. I’m a scientist” to the library administrator (John Rothman) early in the film, it’s because he and his fellow Ghostbusters have spent the time doing research on ghosts and otherworldly objects. While Peck is right to worry about the nuclear issue, he’s the villain of the piece because the nuclear issues he deals with are everyday things, and ghosts aren’t typical things to worry about.
2.) 1986’s “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” gives us the title character (Matthew Broderick) and his arch-enemy Principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones). Some have said that Bueller is the real bad guy of the piece for the way he treats those around him and breaks rules, and they say that Rooney is the real hero because it’s his job to make sure the students get a proper education without any distractions and to properly report attendance of his charges.
The way I see it, if you’re watching this movie through an adult’s eyes, then naturally Rooney will be the good guy and Bueller will be the bad guy. Whenever I watch a movie, I not only keep in mind the MST3K Mantra, but I also enter the movie with the mindset of the protagonist(s) of the movie. In this case, I view “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” through the eyes of a teenager.
When you’re a teenager, although you’re forced to follow the rules, you don’t want to. You see adults acting in a certain way, and as you get closer to adulthood, you want to do the things they do, or what you think they do. The people standing in your way are authority figures, and chief among them are principals and teachers. When you’re in elementary school, you may have a good bond with these authority figures, but as you get older, you rebel against them.
Principal Rooney would be the hero in a movie from the adult’s perspective, but in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, he’s a villain because that’s how teenagers tend to view authority figures. They view them as villains preventing them from doing what they want to do. This also extends to the late John Hughes’ other films based around teenagers.
3.) 1989’s “The Little Mermaid” was seen as Disney’s return to the forefront of animation, garnering extensive critical acclaim and quite a few awards. Over the course of the past quarter-century, though, the movie’s reputation has taken quite a few hits as Ariel (voiced by Jodi Benson) has become viewed as a variety of epithets from selfish to sexist. Even Disney itself seems to have taken this view, as evidenced by movies like “Enchanted” (which made fun of all the Disney animated movies of its’ first seven decades, including taking swipes at “The Little Mermaid” with the help of Benson) to “Frozen” (whose principal cast and crew in press interviews, while talking about enjoying “The Little Mermaid” as young people, viewed the movie as having a horrible message and not wanting “Frozen” to have that message).
I view this movie in the following way. As a man with Aspergers’ Syndrome (now often classified under the rubric “autism spectrum disorder”), I view Ariel as having several Aspergers’ characteristics. For one, there’s the matter of an intense focus on one particular subject. For those with Aspergers’, it could be anything from dinosaurs to trains to traffic lights. For me, it’s the pop culture of the 80s. With Ariel, it’s life on land. She collects things from humans, ranging from paintings to statues to everyday objects. The classic song “Part Of Your World” is all about wanting to be on land. Most people with Aspergers’, if you ask them about their particular interest, will wax rhapsodic about it, maybe not singing, but definitely speaking at length.
Two other aspects are difficulty with social interaction and difficulty with speaking. For Ariel, these problems are magnified when the deal she makes with Ursula (voiced by Pat Carroll) to get legs involves losing her voice. Her having to use body language and hand gestures to describe what she’s feeling is equivalent to how many with Aspergers’ have difficulty communicating their thoughts and feelings. Although they can speak, they may speak in a manner where the other person or people in the conversation will ask them to repeat themselves (that happens to me a lot) or they may perseverate on a subject when the other people involved want to move on to something else (I’ve done that as well).
When critics attack Ariel for the way she behaves and her actions, it’s like going after people with autism spectrum disorders (Aspergers’ or otherwise) for the way they behave and their actions. They don’t do it on purpose…It’s just how their brains are wired. Of course, as stated before, this is just my viewpoint.
4.) “The Last American Virgin” is a cult classic from 1982 (the year of my birth) that starts out as a teen sex comedy and takes a sharp turn into heart-wrenching drama…Heart-wrenching, that is, if you believe that “nice guys” truly are nice. The movie is about three male friends, Gary (Lawrence Monoson), Rick (Steve Antin) and David (Joe Rubbo), and the girl that both Rick and Gary love, Karen (Diane Franklin).
The movie’s first half is assorted hijinks as you might find in typical teen sex comedies. In the second half, Rick gets Karen pregnant. and the two have a very nasty argument about the pregnancy. Gary, who has loved Karen for a long time but hasn’t bothered telling her, helps Karen out by spending most of his money to pay for her abortion and caring for her afterwards. With the last of his money, he buys Karen personalized jewelry as a birthday present, but when he gets to the party, he sees Rick and Karen back together. Shattered, he drives away crying as the credits roll.
Sounds like a real tear jerker, right? It makes you feel sorry for Gary, and it makes you hate Karen and Rick, right? Well, here are a few things I didn’t mention. For one, Gary lets the air out of Karen’s bike tires without her knowing so he can give her a ride to school. That’s somewhat creepy. Creepier still, and probably illegal, is Gary playing Peeping Tom and watching Rick and Karen have sex. Do these sound like things that a “nice guy” would do? Not to me, they don’t. As for Rick, he and Karen have one argument. It’s a verbal argument, the type of argument that happens in every relationship, even the happy ones.
When I hear men complaining about how women like “bad boys”, I think that they should look at both their own behavior and those of the so-called “bad boys”. It’s not about being nice or being bad…It’s about being confident. Confidence is what attracts people, be they friends or lovers. Rick had confidence…Gary didn’t. When you have confidence, things work out for you. When you don’t have confidence, you wonder why things don’t go your way. You have to make them happen. Things don’t magically happen…You need to make them happen.
5.) To end this article, I’d like to return to John Hughes again, this time to his 1985 movie “The Breakfast Club”. This movie is loaded with different ways to interpret the characters and the ending. There’s one character in particular I’d like to focus on, and that’s Allison (Ally Sheedy).
When we first see her, she’s a Goth-looking girl who rarely communicates with the others. She gradually starts opening up, and near the end of the day, Claire (Molly Ringwald) gives her a makeover that transforms Allison into a more preppy-looking girl. Some have said that this was an unnecessary change for her, and ruined her character.
The way I look at it, the movie has an open ending. We don’t know what happens to the couples that are matched and we don’t know whether they stay friends or not. By that same token, we don’t know if Allison’s makeover will be a permanent thing, or if she’ll be back to Goth style by Monday.
When it comes to The Breakfast Club themselves, some have said they didn’t learn anything in detention, while others have said that all they learned were new ways to attack each other when the school week began again. I think they did learn something…What they learned is that the concepts of “a brain”, “an athlete”, “a basket case”, ” a princess” and “a criminal” are in all of them. They have all these elements in their minds and their souls, as we all do.
In summation, it’s interesting how we interpret movies. Some look at movies as diversions. Others look at them for advice on how to live their lives. No matter how you view these movies, though, they get you to thinking, and that’s what art does. Whether it’s high or low, art makes you think, and film is art. What I have written are merely my viewpoints. You can watch movies however you want, and although I may disagree with your interpretation, it doesn’t mean I think you’re wrong. It just means I view it in my own way. Opinions aren’t right or wrong…They’re just opinions.