Catchphrase Fatigue

By thelostboy | The Lost Boys December 20, 2008 at 11:20AM

Catchphrase Fatigue
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Last year around this time, 2007 catchphrasing had hit a peak with There Will Be Blood, Juno and No Country For Old Men each offering one or more viral quotes (If you need to be reminded: "Call it, Friendo" and "I drink your milkshake" plus a good dozen ones from Juno, perhaps most notably, and irritatingly, "Honest to blog.")

And it didn't stop there. Less popular phrases from Michael Clayton ("Do I look like I'm negotiating?") and Sweeney Todd ("How about a shave?") joined a list from the summer, most notably Superbad's "I'm McLovin," a few from Knocked Up, including my favourite (and perhaps not the best known), "Steely Dan can gargle my balls," and Ratatouille's "Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere" (or the more simple "Surprise me").

But what's going on this year? We have The Dark Knight's obvious 2008 champion "Why So Serious?," and WALL-E's "WALL-E, Eve" from the summer. But other than that, nothing has really caught on. This could partially be due to lack of catchy options, though I think both "I don't think so, gigolo" or "En-rah-ha" from Happy-Go-Lucky had some potential, Synecdoche's "I don't menstruate, so I don't know how I could smell like I'm menstruating" is fantastic, while The Wrestler's great line, "I'm an old broken down piece of meat," might not quite have that "milkshake" appeal, but it still works.

None of those films were at all phenomenons though, which hurts the chances. And the films that were phenomenons, other than Dark Knight and WALL-E, were mostly garbage or almost garbage (Twilight, Indiana Jones, Hancock, Mamma Mia!, Sex and the City... all of them save Iron Man, really). Tropic Thunder ("I don't read the script. The script reads me.") and Pineapple Express ("Thug life!") offered the best of the mainstream fare, but both films weren't quite megahits, doing well but underperforming at the same time ($90-110 million compared to the $120-160 of Superbad and Knocked Up is a substantial difference, especially considering SB & KU had no really established stars in them at the time).

I suppose there's still a chance something could catch on as the last batch of films get released or a little more seen (The Wrestler included). But from what I've seen of them it's slim pickings. I was a little worried Gran Torino's "Get off my lawn" would catch on, but so far it seems like a non-starter. Valkyrie has "We have to kill Hitler" and "'Anything' is a *very* dangerous word, Lieutenant," but I'm just not seeing that happen. There's also a bunch of pseudo-Gumpisms from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but I really, really hope audiences see through that movie and don't embrace it and its uninspired and distant sentimentality (I'm thinking if the film does catch on, "I was thinking how nothing last, and what a shame that is" and "My name is Benjamin Button, and I was born under unusual circumstances. While, everyone else was agin', I was gettin younger..." are the potential culprits).

Most likely, I think the main reason for this lacking is that people are catchphrased out from the election ("Bitch is the new black," "I can see Russia from my house," "Yes we can," "Going rogue," "Maverick," "That one," etc, etc, etc). This also explains why what I'd suspect would be the most-likely-to-succeed - Milk's "You gotta give 'em hope" or "My name is Harvey Milk and I'm here to recruit you!" - didn't catch on in the shadow of such contemporary real-life gems.

But if I had to pick one to somehow catch on anyway - my favourite of the year - it would be Man on Wire's "There is no why" (or, almost equally, "If I die, what a beautiful death!")

This article is related to: Notes