Tuesday, October 25, 2016

"Dear Journal": Doug, Pop Culture and the Movies

WRITER'S NOTE: This post should belong in my movie blog "Film FreeQ," due to its various pop culture and film references. But for the sake of the anthology I've written on this series on this particular blog ("Write Here, Write Now"), I'm including it here.


Pop Culture References and Parodies
Looking back, Doug did a brilliant job of illustrating the thrills and pains of growing up as kids. In terms of the former, it does an equally fun job of referencing (sometimes subtly) various celebrities, films, and trends of the early Nineties and prior. From superheroes to action heroes to video games to music artists, viewers and fans who grew up in the early Nineties will easily recognize these nods. Here's a look back at some of them.


Superheroes, Action Heroes, and Video Games 
Although Doug Funnie does create his own imaginative alter egos, such as the Zorro/Errol Flynn-type Jack Bandit and the private eye Chameleon, several others are clearly nods to other iconic characters. Quailman, comic-book hero Man O Steel Man, and even Skeeter Valentine's creation Silver Skeeter, are parodies and homages to Superman ("the Man of Steel") and the Silver Surfer, respectfully. Secret Agent Smash Adams is an obvious nod to James Bond, while adventurer-explorer Race Canyon is an obvious nod to Indiana Jones. 

Smash Adams, Quailman, and Race Canyon
Quailman and Silver Skeeter
Super Pretendo Game System
The "Space Munks" adventure game, along with the game system Super Pretendo (a nod to Super Nintendo), illustrates popular games and consoles at the time, while mini-mall arcades include games involving dino racing and "Bagging the Neemotoad”. 


Restaurants, Stores, Malls, Products
Some of these other mini-mall stores include shoes based off of Air Jordans, instead titled "Sky Davis Air Jets," which, while cool-looking, prove to big for Doug to walk around in (Season 1). Even fast food mascots take a goofy turn in the form of the Honker Burger chain's own "Hamburger Boy" (Season 3).

Sky Davis Air Jets
The Hamburger Boy

Music Rocks! 
Doug and Skeeter's favorite band, from the beginning, is clearly The Beets, who are obviously a nod the Beatles, as well as to mock-rock band Spinal Tap from the popular 1984 film. The two friends even create their own garage band (Season 3), with a daydream segment that features Doug and Skeeter dressed as rock stars from the Seventies and Eighties, possibly a combination of Blue Oyster Cult, Steve Miller Band, and Guns 'N Roses. Even Michael Jackson's famous "Black and White" music video from 1991, as well as the oversized suits worn by the band the Talking Heads, gets parodied in the same episode, when Doug daydreams the concept of “Thinking Big."

The Beets
Rock star daydreams
"Think Big"

T.V. shows and stars 
T.V. shows appear in the form of soap operas, such as in the "Kite" episode in Season 3 (along with different translations), and in Season 4 for the "90210"-style teen series "Teenheart Street," featuring a Luke Perry-type lead. There are also crime or courtroom dramas (“Bluffington’s Most Troublesome” from Season 3, "Top Prison Guards" from Season 4) in the style of "The People's Court," as well as infomercials a la QVC, to name a few. 

Bluffington's version of "90210"
Possible parody of "The People's Court"
Doug showcases an "astounding product"

References to real-life famous people, songs, places, etc. 
What's even more interesting than these subtle or obvious references are the rare few that are made to real life figures, songs, or places. For instance, Doug's sister, Judy, mentions and quotes Shakespeare almost religiously. And on two separate occasions, she sings "Beautiful Dreamer" when Doug daydreams that Judy will drive him and Patty to a bumper-car park (Season 3), and even sings part of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture during protests against "fascism" regarding Doug's "magic meat" cartoon (Season 3). Doug creates a sculpture titled, "Dog Crossing the Deleware" (Season 4). And when a famous Hollywood producer arrives in Bluffington (Season 2), one character clarifies "it's not Elvis". 

"Shakespeare would never do that."

Impersonating Elvis

Celebrities/movie stars 
Speaking of Hollywood, famous movie stars get their own parodies and nods. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for instance, shows up in the form of exercise instructor/action star Ronald Wisenheimer. Steven Seagal shows up in the form of action hero "Waffle Stomper". Sylvester Stallone's Rambo gets parodied during a "Great Beet War” between Doug's and Judy's schools (Season 3). Even the late film critics (Gene) Siskel & (Roger) Ebert get parodied, in the “Monster Movie” episode (Season 3), which also plays with the notion of hand-held super-8 B-rated films made by modern-day kids. 


Ronald Weisemheimer: "Prepare to suffer."
Steven Seagal type Waffle Stomper
Siskel & Ebert types

Films and characters 
With that in mind, several movies sneak their way into a few episodes. The aforementioned “Space Munks," for instance, could be an homage to Star Wars and Star Trek. Going back to Season One, Doug and neighbor Mr. Dink set out to find and catch the biggest fish in Lucky Duck Lake, displaying a famous shark fin from Jaws. The same Spielberg notion goes for the Season Three premiere episode where Doug and Skeeter take Roger's sick cat, Stinky, to the vet a la E.T. A famous shot from that same film shows up later in the season, when Doug tries to "fix" his dad's kite and his dog Porkchop (against the moonlight) holds the kite on the roof. Moments before, Doug fixes the kite in the style of Dr. Frankenstein, with Porkchop imitating the doctor's assistant, Igor. And Doug and his friends initially preconceive the "weird" Sleetch twins, Al and Moo, to have a mad-scientist father. 

Getting a "Big Catch" a la Jaws
Stinky Phone Home
Porkchop makes an iconic shot for it
Mad Scientists?

For concluding fun, here are some instances when Doug and friends actually went to the movies.

Season 2
In the “Dental Disaster” episode, Doug and Skeeter go see the latest Smash Adams movie. 


In the “Hollywood” episode, Doug daydreams that he and his movie-star posse walk into a movie theater, and pass Judy and her dancing cats on the street corner. 


Season 3: 
In the “Kite” episode, Doug and friends go see the latest space adventure (“Space Munks”), which Doug can't "concentrate on," since he can't stop thinking about his dad's kite-flying (and rhyming) obsession. 



In the “Monster Movie” episode, Doug daydreams of the "disastrous" premiere of his potential “Sharkdog” movie (notice the change from wide frame to full frame on the movie screen), as well as during the aforementioned Siskel & Ebert parody.



In the “Little Liar” episode, new student Loretta invites Skeeter and Doug to a movie starring her “aunt”.



In the “Nightmare on Jumbo Street” episode, Doug and friends go to the latest horror movie, which Doug has recurring nightmares about—at least until he actually sees the movie’s ending.



Season 4: 
In the “Sittin’ in a Tree” episode, Patti asks Doug to the movies, leaving Doug to constantly wonder if it’s a date or not. (The movie they go see is a sci-fi romance involving a high-society girl and a space lizard man.) 



In the “Fan Club” episode, Doug and Skeeter save two seats for Patti and Beebe at the movies, only to see them taken by Doug’s new friend Todd and his brother Wesley. 



In the “Babysitter” episode, Judy sneaks out of the house to go to a foreign film with her friends.



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