Let's Talk About A Creepy, Cringy, Important Film

Let's Talk About A Creepy, Cringy, Important Film

"The Strange Thing About the Johnsons" is uncomfortable, but it's the type of uncomfortable we need to be.

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"The Strange Thing About the Johnsons" is definitely a strange film.

If you would like to watch it, Gotdamnzo watches it on YouTube. He makes it even more bearable. Of course, you're probably asking, why does this need to be bearable?

Well, here's a basic summary of the movie. (I also should put a trigger warning in here: I will be addressing sexual assault for the duration of this article).

It's very short, about thirty minutes. We start out with a son in his room. It is important to note that this family is black, which plays a very, very important role in this movie. He's holding a picture in his hand and having some very private alone time. His dad walks in, has a conversation about how this is perfectly natural, and leaves.

This first scene is very cringy in of itself. The father seems to get a little too close, touches too many things, and overstays his welcome. While what he does is not inherently bad, the pastel colors, the smiling and his apparent comfort make the scene uncomfortable.

When the father leaves, the son sets the photo down. We see that it is a picture of his father.

Cut to sons wedding day. We learn that the son is assaulting his father. The mom sees this and chooses to ignore it. Every. Single. Time. Even when her husband screams, she simply turns up the TV and ignores it.

The father writes a novel called "Cocoon Man" on what his son has done to him. The son finds it and burns his words, which I find to be the most quintessential moment of the film.

After, the father runs into the street and dies, unable to take the son's actions anymore. The mother reads the memoir, finds out that the son has been doing this since prom night, and confronts him. They duke it out and mom eventually kills him with a fire poker.

Going back to the fact that this family is black and the son burns his father's words, this movie forces us to ask several uncomfortable questions. What does it mean for a black man to get sexually assaulted? What does it mean for a black dad to get assaulted by his own son? How does society react?

Historically, black men are seen as the epitome of strength. The reason the black man is the first to die in horror movies? When the first round of horror movies came out, white people seeing a black man die raised the horror meter. Because during that time seeing the "strongest" die first made the movie all the scarier.

The memoir, "Cocoon Man", is titled that for a reason. Black men are often silenced from their own emotional experiences.

A cocoon is a space where, internally, insects reach maturity. The reason his book has a cocoon in the title and not butterfly or moth or wasp is because he is stuck. Inside. Trying to grow but having nothing to grow into, no place to turn socially and talk with people.

He is stuck in his trauma. He is stuck because it's his son. He is stuck because his wife ignores it. He is silenced.

When the son burns the first version of the memoir, he essentially silences his father. He takes away those words, burns those emotions. Kills that part of him.

The father has a second copy of the memoir hidden. Ironically he blossoms in death. He grabs it, runs into the street, and dies. That's when his wife gets ahold of it and reads it.

She is the first person to acknowledge his trauma, to finally acknowledge that he has been hurt. And it leads her to kill her son the same way the son killed his father's words-through fire.

Even though this movie is cringy and uncomfortable, it addresses something we socially do not want to discuss: the violation of the black male body.

Of course, the black female body and the black non-binary body are both equally up for discussion.

But this movie takes a very important step forward in jump-starting a discussion on black people and sexual assault, especially when that assault is unexpected and complicated.

A friend mentioned the dad could have fought back. Could have pushed him away and said no. This did briefly cross my mind, but this is something we constantly push victims to justify.

Why didn't you say no? Why didn't you stop this? The impetus is on the "you", not the person who is doing the violating. The one who will not listen to "stop" or "no".

The father was clearly in fear the whole time and clearly felt like he did not have a voice. The son often did the talking for him. At the end of the day, the father had no choice.

And that is what we should be discussing.

Black bodies and choice.

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If You Remember 'Shazaam,' The Movie That Doesn't Exist, You Aren't Alone

A scientific phenomenon or a massive conspiracy?
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Anyone who has ever misplaced an item or gotten in a feud about what really happened at the last party they attended can affirm that sometimes our memories can be unreliable. Misremembering an event is by no means unheard of or uncommon, but what if it was not just you who misremembered that event. What if a whole bunch of people misremembered the same exact thing even if there is no evidence to support it?

If you were a kid or teenager growing up in the '90s, you might remember a movie called ‘Shazaam’ with popular television comedian Sinbad playing the principle role of a genie. As the plot goes, two children (a pre-teen boy and his younger sister) find a genie in a lamp and decide to use their wishes to restore love to their single father’s life. It is a comedic tale involving the genie and children who use their three wishes for domestic activities, often failing comically. The culmination of the movie takes place at a pool party related to the father’s work in which the children successfully use their final wish to make their father happy. What a marvelously cheesy ending!

Some of you reading this might be nodding, recalling having watched this movie, and you are not alone. There is a large community of people who can remember quite vividly watching this movie with their friends and family. So what seems to be the problem? Well, the movie ‘Shazaam’ does not exist, and it never has. The rumor of its existence has gained so much traction that even Sinbad himself had to set the record straight on Twitter.

You can scramble the Internet and old video stores nationwide, but you will not find any proof that there ever was a movie named ‘Shazaam’ with Sinbad playing a genie. If you are at all dismayed by this fact, you are not the only one.

An ever-growing number of confused '90s kids have flocked to the Internet to adamantly insist that there was indeed a movie called ‘Shazam,’ and Sinbad was definitely in it. Just peruse the countless threads about it online, and you will find that there are hundreds of people who can provide their own accounts of having seen the movie. Most people agree that the movie was released in 1994 and concur with the supposed movie plot described above.

How is it that so many different people can all recall specific details of a movie that does not exist? The ‘Shazaam’ case has come to be known as a famous example of the "Mandela Effect," a term coined by author and researcher of the paranormal, Fiona Broome, creator of mandelaeffect.com, which is defined as “a collective misremembering of a fact or event."

The name “Mandela Effect” came from the most famous case of the Mandela Effect involving the shocking amount of people who believe that former South African President Nelson Mandela died while in prison, when the truth holds that he was released in 1990 and died in 2013.

Another famous example of the Mandela Effect is the common misremembering of the Bible verse Isaiah 11:6. A large amount of people, including many priests who were interviewed, will swear that the verse reads “The lion also shall dwell with the lamb...” but pull out your trusty Bible and the correct verse is “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb.” This verse discrepancy makes many Christians uneasy because the protective image of a lion is replaced with the crafty and destructive image of a wolf. Some even believe that the verse change is a sign of the existence of the antichrist.

There is even scene in the 1941 movie ‘Sergeant York’ in which the character Gracie walks past an old man in a rocking chair who recites the Bible verse using the lion, which has many people firmly insisting that the correct version includes a lion, but that something in recent history has caused it to be changed.

Some examples of smaller instances of the Mandela Effect are the common misrememberings of the name of the classic animated TV show, “Berenstain Bears” (most people remember it as “Berenstein Bears”), the existence of a dash in the brand name “KitKat” (there has never been one), and other misspellings of logos.

Many conspirators believe that the Mandela Effect is the result of a jump between parallel universes in which slightly different alternate realities exist, but Snopes.com, a famous reference website dedicated to documenting and debunking urban legends, has offered some more logical explanations for instances of the Mandela Effect.

“A leading psychological theory holds that memory is constructive, not reproductive,” Snopes says, “— i.e., the brain builds memories out of various bits and pieces of information on the fly as opposed to playing them back like a recording. Memories aren’t pure. They can be distorted by any number of factors, including bias, association, imagination, and peer pressure.”

For example, the common misconception that Nelson Mandela died in prison might be a case of a faulty connection of two isolated facts —(1) Nelson Mandela went to prison and (2) Nelson Mandela is dead. Or with the Berenstain Bears, it is quite rational to believe that people just assumed that the name was spelled “Berenstein” because that is a far more common spelling of the name.

So what about ‘Shazaam’? A reasonable explanation is that people are simply mistaking it with the 1996 movie ‘Kazaam’ in which Shaquille O’Neal plays a genie and helps a teenage boy who happens to have a single mother (similar to how the children in the alleged ‘Shazaam’ had a single father).

Additionally, other shows and movies at the time could further muddle people’s memories. There was a movie called ‘Legend of the Seven Seas’ with a character named Sinbad the Sailor and a Hannah Barbera cartoon called ‘Shazzan’ about the adventures of a genie and the two children (a teenaged boy and girl) who released him.

There was even a sketch in the wildly popular Nickelodeon show “All That” about a foreign exchange student dressed in genie-esque garb, and who was the actor? You guessed it...Sinbad! It seems perfectly reasonable that all of these similar media products could easily mix together after a certain amount of time, causing mis-memory that has been perpetuated by all of the hype on the Internet.

Another explanation that can be layered on top is the idea of 'memory conformity,' which states that people can remember events that they were told about or that were described to them as if they had experienced those events. In this way, many people may agree that they remember something that happened simply because someone else said it was so.

Pictured: The VHS cover for 'Kazaam' (left) next to a supposed VHS cover for 'Shazzam'


This may be a perfectly acceptable and scientifically logical explanation for the strange occurrence, but the plot thickens. When the theory was presented that people were simply mistaking the movie ‘Shazaam’ for ‘Kazaam’ and the like, the people who claimed to remember ‘Shazaam’ pushed back, vehemently claiming that they were well aware of Shaq’s movie ‘Kazaam’ and were certain that ‘Shazaam’ was a separate movie that preceded it. One woman named Meredith who was interviewed on the subject claimed:

“I remember thinking Shaq’s ‘Kazaam’ was a rip-off or a revamp of a failed first run, like how the 1991 film ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ bombed but the late ’90s TV reboot was a sensation...I am one of several people who specifically never saw ‘Kazaam’ because it looked ridiculous to rip off ‘Shazaam’ just a few years after it had been released.

Additionally, there was a reference to 'Shazaam’ on a TV show called ‘A Different World’ (1987-1993) in which Sinbad played Coach Walker Oates. In this scene (appearing in season 5 episode 13) the character Freddie is trying to hide a scarf with the initials “SZ” on it that she is making for her boyfriend, Shazza Zulu, from her friends, but when they discover it and ask what “SZ” stands for, she responds that it “could be for someone who loves Shazaam.”

So do you think the Sinbad movie is real or an urban legend?

Cover Image Credit: Slate.com

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Talking, Crying, Chewing, What Ever Happened To Movie Theater Etiquette?

The unofficial rules you should follow if you go to the theater.

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Dear Moviegoers,

Movies are often made to be viewed on the big screen, which is why we go to the movies. I personally like the experience. The loud sounds, the big screens, the popcorn and candy, the darkroom. I pay a lot for that experience.

That's why, at the risk of sounding petty, I have to ask: Please, stop going to the movies if you're just going to be annoying.

I mean, whatever happened to movie theater etiquette?

It's like people have forgotten how to behave in a movie theater!

I know it might seem silly, but I pay too much for tickets and snacks to have my seat kicked and listen to other people whisper. I don't know when it happened, but people seem to be disregarding the societal rules we've established to make going to the movies fun. In case you're one of those people who've forgotten how to act, let me remind you.

Please, for the love of god, arrive on time. It's distracting when someone shows up late and is awkwardly maneuvering around people to find a seat. At the very least, sit on the ends of the rows instead of climbing over other people to sit in the middle of the row.

Along with that, please remember that there is limited space in the theater. Whether you're finding your seat or simply readjusting during a long movie, be mindful of the space you have. I don't want my chair kicked repeatedly because you can't get comfortable. If you're sitting in the middle of the row, don't get up repeatedly. Keep your elbows in if you're sitting next to someone. Respect others' personal space.

Turning your phone off is another way to show respect for your fellow moviegoers. I don't want to hear your cell phone ring. If, for whatever reason, you really need it on, please silence it. If you're expecting an emergency call from your sister in labor or you're worried about the babysitter, maybe you shouldn't be at the theater.

Since you're expected to keep your phone quiet, you should be quiet, too. I don't want to hear you and your friends whispering behind me for two hours, and no one in the theater wants to hear your commentary. If something funny happens, feel free to laugh. If something terrifying happens, you can gasp. If you're at the theater solely to get attention, please take your over-the-top reactions to a sporting event or something.

If I go to see the newest Disney-Pixar film, I expect to see children there and it doesn't bother me. I don't care if you bring your toddler to a children's movie, especially since it was made for them. I do not, however, expect children to be in the audience if I go to see the newest slasher film. In that case, I will be annoyed. I mean, come on — who takes their young children to see an R-rated in the theater?

And, like, I would expect anywhere else, you should be eating and drinking quietly. Wait till a loud scene to open that candy wrapper (or be smart and sneak your own candy in — you can buy it at Target and put it into Ziploc baggies that don't make noise and can hold lots of candy). Don't suck on the straw when you're clearly out of soda. Chew with your mouth close.

Please, have some respect for other people.

I don't want to come off as a snob, but there are certain rules for seeing a movie in the theater that people seem to disregard nowadays. It might not be a big deal to you, but it is to me. I go because I'm interested in the film being shown and because I want to see it on the big screen with popcorn and a slushie. The cost of going to movies is expensive, but it's worth every penny when I can actually enjoy it.

Sincerely,

One Frustrated Moviegoer

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