90's-vember: Wayne's World (1992) - Can't Stop the Movies
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90’s-vember: Wayne’s World (1992)

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It's not a '90's comedy if it doesn't star a Saturday Night Live alum, and while Andrew may have already covered Austin Powers, I want to talk about the film that kicked-off Mike Meyers' film career: Wayne's World.

While not the first Saturday Night Live sketch to be turned into a film(Blues Brothers predates it by more than a decade), the success of Wayne's World was arguably responsible for the 90's explosion of SNL-themed movies. And even though most of them weren't nearly as successful commercially or critically as Wayne's World, they did have an undeniable influence on the '90's film scene.

Wayne's World was a very different comedy. The '80's would take a fairly broad situation and exaggerate and parody it for comedic effect. They were pretty universal stories, typically about an underdog overcoming the establishment. Wayne's World retained the plots and themes of these films, but took a completely different approach to the jokes. Instead of using generalized ideas and situations, it referenced specific examples from pop-culture. If you didn't get the references, you didn't get the joke (and you were probably living under a rock).

Wayne tackles the Big Question: Kirk or Picard?

How does this film exemplify the '90's?

  • The Clapper, Grey Poupon and '90's commercial references galore!
  • Flannel! Flannel everywhere!
  • Claudia Schiffer is a babe, scha-wing!
  • Countless example of '90's lingo. Ex: No way/Way! As if! NOT!

It's hard for me to remember if Wayne's World was responsible for the explosion of “not” jokes or if it was just adopting the culture of the times. Even if it wasn't responsible, it did propegate the trend for years to come. Hey, it's still fun to do a "not" joke every now and then!



What makes this my pick?

There's something incredibly nerdy about post-modern and referential humor. It requires you to be in the know, to have an almost obsessive knowledge of a given subject, be it literature, music, film, etc. If you want to get the joke, you have to be in the know. Setting the film in Illinois added another layer to the affair. There are so many little jokes and nods to Illinois pop-culture in the film that a non-native will probably miss them completely.

Wayne's World was one of the first films to really embrace and propagate this kind of neediness. Sure, Mel Brooks took some jabs at pop-culture in his films, and Weird Al's cult-classic UHF had more than it's fair share of cultural name-drops, but Wayne's World really pushed it to the extreme. References to Star Trek (Classic and Next Gen.), music (mostly rock and metal; the nerdiest of all music genres) and even recreating the opening to Laverne and Shirley. It didn't just adopt the themes and tropes of our everyday culture; it took the very culture itself and made that the joke.

But Wayne's World didn't just alter other films and comedy, it altered how we interacted socially. Think about it: How many of you went out, after seeing the film, and asked the car stopped at the light next to you if they had any Grey Poupon? How many of you still headbang every time "Bohemian Rhapsody" comes on the radio? Even beyond Wayne's World, how many people meet around the water-cooler and quote last night's episode of Big Bang Theory or Parks and Recreation and laugh all over again? That's the influence of Wayne's World. I'm not suggesting that it started the trend of “quoting” films/T.V./etc (post-modernism's roots can be traced to the mid-'80's or even earlier) but it definitely contributed to the popularization of it.

The success of Wayne's World paved the way for the likes of '90's sensations Smith, Tarantino, and Seinfeld, and later the works of Apatow and MacFarlane. Bottom line: Wayne's World's success helped shape the face of comedy, and culture, of the past two decades.

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Posted by Jacob

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. waynes world was definitely not a 90’s era film. though it was released in ’92, the phrases/lingo you talk about are from the generation x era.
    I don’t see how you can hear that dialogue , the references to 80’s movies/shows & Garth wearing motley crue & van halen shirts, ripped jeans , guys with studded belts, studded bracelets, denim jackets, leather vests, girls with feathered hair , bright skirts , side ponytails, & call this movie a 90’s era flick. Also , people wore flannel shirts in the 80’s.
    People in the 90’s era were just confused,.
    btw the 80’s era lasted from 1980-1992 .., – I hated the 90’s era. from 1992 on
    it was so Lame.

    • Thank your for the comment, that said I have many issues with your ideas here.

      So is The Artist a ’20s era film, or have I completely missed out on a way nostalgia plays onto current film that makes no movie a product of its era? Also, if you’re going to make the point that people in the ’90s are confused and then say the way Wayne’s World borrows from other generations then it defeats its own purpose. The ’80s aren’t the only generation it borrows from, which makes Wayne’s World no less a ’70s film than it does a ’80s, using your hypothesis.

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