By Christopher Campbell | Spout August 10, 2011 at 9:24AM
Now that Damon Lindelof has Tweeted about "Why Cookie Rocket," it's officially a thing. I know, because that's the moment my wife, who hasn't seen "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" asked me what it means. Not that she's a movie ignoramus, but if she knows about something I'd otherwise only hear about from fellow movie bloggers, it's a big deal. Additionally, there are now proposed t-shirt designs, a Facebook group devoted to a "Why Cookie Rocket" Photoshop meme and a Tumblr for the same. How embarrassing for Vulture, by the way, to not just pick the wrong line to designate as a catchphrase, but also be schooled on the whole concept of catchphrases by New York magazine film critic David Edelstein, in their comments section. He doesn't comment on the true catchphrase (which Devin Faraci defends in depth for us at Badass Digest), but I think his definition would fit. "Why Cookie Rocket," which is hereby the best primate-signed movie line since "Project Nim"'s "Stone Smoke Now," certainly contains "splendid absurdity."
But can it still be a catchphrase if fans of the movie can't really quote it? By typing the words, sure, if only because the film's script features these three words and puts them on the screen in subtitle form. And even verbally, it works. Foreign films have catchphrases that we quote out loud in the English translation. Right? None are actually coming to mind, which is why I think it best if we learn to quote Maurice the orangutan appropriately, with American Sign Language.
(no, you can't just write it on your hand and call that signing)
Now, I'm no expert at ASL, and there is currently no easy video of the scene in question online. But I have found the signs for each individual word and I re-watched part of "ROTPOTA" to see if it matches what's on screen. As it turns out, all but the last matches the signs I've found. This could be due to "Rocket" being an ape's name, rather than in reference to an actual rocket. After Maurice signs the words "why" and "cookie," makes a motion to his forehead, which possibly indicates that part of Rocket's sign is "male," but I can't get the rest. Maybe something meaning leader or similar. Anyway, here are the first two words, with motion signals, via the American Sign Language University at LifePrint.com:
And here's a guy signing the common noun version of ROCKET:
As a bonus, here's the sign for MALE/BOY:
Hopefully we'll soon get to learn the actual sign for Rocket, the chimp. Or someone with legit ASL fluency can translate better for us.
[Thanks to Matt Patches for that meme-starting "Lost"-referencing image above]
[Also, thanks to Da7e Gonzales for creating the Facebook group and posting to it a nice diagram of the ASL phrasing, which I swear I didn't see until this whole post was finished]