Depending on your frame of mind, one of the true pain and/or pleasures of watching a lot of old exploitation movies is how dated they seem. Me, I love it, especially when a film is trying desperately to be timely and relevant, but is already hopelessly out of date before it even hits the theaters. I mean, how can you not get a kick out of the painfully ‘hip’ dialog in 1950s juvenile delinquent movies like High School Hellcats or Untamed Youth? Or how about all those flower power flicks of the 60s like Psych-Out and Gas-s-s-s? But on trolling around message boards dealing with this topic, a suggestion came up for one movie in particular that I’m truly at a loss as to how it could possibly be topped in the dated part. Just take a gander at the film’s opening title sequence… IF YOU DARE!!!
If you suddenly feel the irresistible urge to go scrub your eyes with steel wool, I completely understand. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Okay, you’re back, good. So, where to begin? Steve Guttenberg? The roller skating? The disco music? STEVE GUTTENBERG ROLLING SKATING TO DISCO MUSIC!?! Just how locked in the year 1980 can one movie get? Oh yeah, there’s the fact that it’s the pseudo-biographical story of the formation of The Village People. Dear Lord, I bet even homosexuals, at least those under the age of 25, look at this thing and say to themselves, “Oh my, that’s a little too much.” Can’t Stop The Music has to be the queen (no pun intended) mother of all dated movies.
If you’ve just got to incorporate easily dated references into your story, then you need to at least make sure the themes are timeless. Take Saturday Night Fever for example. It couldn’t reek more of the late 70s if it tried, and yet, along with addressing the time period it was made in, the movie also manages to address the general malaise and dissatisfaction that settles in when one chooses a life of hedonism.
You know who was good at pulling off that kind of thing? Jesus. In today’s reading from the study of the Gospels in a Year, Jesus is being grilled by the disciples of John the Baptist about why the Apostles don’t fast. “And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. And no one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. Neither is new wine put into old wineskins; if it is, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled, and the skins are destroyed; but new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
Now the wineskin reference was a little dated even as Jesus was making it. Ceramic amphoras were the preferred method of storing mass quantities of wine at the time (that’s probably what was being used at the wedding in Cana) and barrels were already making an inroad. But the wineskins served the greater point. As the Ignatiius Bible Study explains it, “Fermenting wine is accompanied by a build-up of pressure. If kept in skins already used and dried out, the wine would certainly burst them. Jesus thus illustrates the impossibility of inaugurating the New Covenant while maintaining the Old. The abundance of New Covenant grace cannot be contained within the structures of the Old Covenant (cf. Jn 1:16). A new kingdom is needed to contain it - one fashioned to endure for ever.” So you see, even though the reference was to something of its time, the message was timeless. That’s how you do it. No Steve Guttenberg required.