“I had to stop teaching in the film school at USC,” he said, his rubbery face twisting as if he’d discovered a cigarette burn in his favorite shirt after bringing is back from the cleaners. “I couldn’t take it any more. None of the students knew my references. I had to explain to them was ”˜Notorious’ was.”
At the time it seemed he was making a mountain out of a cultural reference molehill. But as time has creaked on, I have come to know that feeling the gentleman had. It really trips up a conversation when you have to stop and explain who Liberace was. I mean, how do you explain Liberace? On a recent date, a younger woman had the cheekiness to turn around and ask me, “Who was Freud?” Nobody has asked me yet who Hitler was. But believe me, its coming.
When faced with that conundrum of watering it down and explaining the significance of these people, as to a child, I transform into a dumbed down Encyclopedia Britannica, excuse me, Wikipedia. As it happens more frequently, there is the compulsion to stop and reference and vocabulary check, the parley vous goes from soar into slump.
In preparation for my forthcoming diet book, I was told by an extremely intelligent and sensitive marketing wiz, when I referenced ”˜Raging Bull’ and the weight Robert De Niro put on for ”˜Raging Bull.’ You see, gaining weight for a movie role was the genesis of my own diet saga.
“Nobody cares about the Robert De Niro reference, and who is interested in a 30-year old movie?” When I heard that I started feeling some compassion for the old
Which brings me to my point. If my date is any indicator, Freud no longer has the currency he once had. Maybe this is a barometer reflecting a shift from the oppressive 1950s—when Freud was his most intimidating. From
Back in the day, choosing a churro over a donut fairly reverberated Freudian meaning, and an innocent error left one naked in the street. Once, for example, I translated from Spanish to English, a marriage license, and I translated it as ”˜Driver’s License.’—it’s got chauvinism and male hegemony written all over it in indelible ink. But now, with the waning of Freud, we’re waking in a world that is freer and more shameless. It’s now safe to tell jokes with the Freudian implications virtually crayoned in: the crayon is invisible. Oblivion, I say, certainly has an upside.
Grady Miller can be contacted at email@example.com
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