I’m turning 30 tomorrow. And I’m embracing it! Why not? It’s been a decent 29 years, full of friends, family, and fandoms. Kim challenged me to meet this birthday with a list of 30 pop culture moments that have defined me in my first three decades. After all, I’ve been fangirling for things as long as I can remember. So on this the last day of my 20s, I’m reflecting on my life so far in liking things. If this seems self-indulgent, that’s because it is, but it’s my party and I’ll navelgaze if I want to. On to Part 1:
The Chipmunk Adventure
My obsession with The Chipmunks was a precursor to my love of (human) boy bands. I was into it all: the dolls, the books, the cassette tapes, the TV series…But the peak of the ’80s Chipmunk phenomenon had to be the feature-length film costarring their female counterparts, The Chipettes. It. Is. Flawless.
You remember this, right? The Chipmunks and Chipettes lie to their respective guardians to embark on an around-the-world hot air balloon race financed by two villainous (and weirdly incestuous) German siblings who just happen to be international jewel thieves. They sing and dance their way across the globe and eventually save the day, obviously. My dad and I quote this movie to each other on a regular basis (“You see! I don’t even know where the Louvre is!”) and the theme song still makes me weep.
The Pride and Prejudice 1995 BBC Miniseries
As a Pride and Prejudice junkie, I consider this version the DEFINITIVE adaptation. First of all, there will never be a better cast Darcy and Lizzie than Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. And clocking in at 5 hours, the miniseries is able to include every moment of the book I love so much. (Plus a gratuitous Firth wet shirt scene that very much was not in the book. But I don’t hear anyone complaining.) I don’t take kindly to feature-length Austen films and their drastic cuts, thank you very much. This miniseries converted me from a casual fan to a full-fledged Jane snob, and I’m fine with it.
I came by Newsies relatively late in life. I was halfway through high school before my friends sat me down and introduced me to the best movie Christian Bale’s ever made. In the late 90s, it was still hard to get a hold of it. The soundtrack was out of print and there were no plans for a DVD version. I’m not sure what studio execs thought teenage girls WOULDN’T like about cute boys singing and pelvic thrusting all over a Universal backlot. But I like to think it was girls like my friends and I who showed Disney that there was a huge demand for this notorious flop to get another chance. And now look: it’s 2013, Christian Bale is an international star, and the Broadway musical version sells out every night. You’re welcome, everyone.
I made my parents rent this for me at least once a week. I still don’t understand why they didn’t just buy it.
Contrary to popular belief, not every little girl who worshipped this movie dreamed of being the title character. I was singing “Let’s Go to the Movies” into a hairbrush and determined to grow up to be Anne Reinking – all fabulous legs and flowy skirts. I’m still waiting.
Jonas Brothers – “Burning Up” Video
This is one of those fandoms where I can remember the EXACT moment that everything went off the rails. I was reading an Entertainment Weekly and they included this song and video in their Must List. Out of curiosity and a misplaced trust in EW, I sought it out on OnDemand. And that’s what I would think back to when I was shelling out hundreds of dollars for World Tour tickets; calling off work to sit behind the dugout at Road Dogs games; and getting manhandled by throngs of aggressive teenage girls. I don’t regret a second.
Disney’s Halloween Treat
DHT was the ULTIMATE in clip shows, with all the best funny, scary-funny, and scary-scary Disney villain moments in one special. The only downside was that Night of the Living Dead immediately followed it on our VHS tape, so I had to get up and race across the room to eject it because I was terrified of even seeing the opening credits.
Dead Poets Society
As a kid, I had a habit of flipping through cable channels and watching any movie that was just starting, no matter what it was. That’s how I ended up sobbing on my bedroom floor after the last scene of Dead Poets Society. I was so invested in Mr. Keating and his students – “Seize the day, boys,” and all that jazz. And then my world fell apart. It was the first movie I had ever seen that didn’t have a happy ending. I felt confused and betrayed by Hollywood, which had always assured me that everything would be worked out by the credits. But the second time I watched it I was prepared, and learned to wallow pleasantly in the exquisite tragedy. And if there’s anything you need to enjoy to be a fangirl, it’s tragedy.
I would have probably had an easier time dealing with the feelings had the internet been around with its abundance of Neil/Todd fic.
Parks and Recreation – “Practice Date”
I wasn’t always Parks and Rec’s biggest cheerleader. Like the rest of you, I wasn’t very impressed with season 1, but stuck with it for Mike Schur and Amy Poehler. Season 2’s “Practice Date” was the first masterpiece of an episode and set the tone for 3 more seasons of growth. This scene, plus the one where Leslie shows up to Dave’s (Louis CK) apartment drunk the night before their first date were the first to prove to me that that character had potential way beyond being Ms. Michael Scott.
Footloose: The Musical
My Fair Lady it’s not, but Footloose: The Musical was the first show that I ever saw ON Broadway. I would have been impressed by anything, but the production really was bright and energetic and infectious. It also passes my musical adaptation test: if the characters in the book, movie, or play that you’re seeking to adapt would go SEE a musical, then it works. If they wouldn’t be caught dead at a musical, then drop it and move on. (See: Ring of Fire, High Fidelity).
Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
It was the 5th grade, and I really thought that I would PHYSICALLY DIE if Lois and Clark didn’t get together. I would freak out if my family couldn’t get me in front of a TV on Sunday nights at 8 (opposite Seaquest: DSV, remember?) to see more of Dean Cain’s poor acting and Teri Hatcher’s lacquer-shiny bob.
P.S. I rewatched the first season on Netflix a few years and ago and man, does it not hold up at all. This was a show only a 10-year-old could love.
I saw RENT for the first time when its first national tour came to Pittsburgh in 1997. After it ended and my mom was saying to my grandma, “It wasn’t as good as Showboat,” I was in a complete daze. It was the most beautiful, affecting piece of theater I’d ever seen and I was INSPIRED. I was going to move to New York and be a starving artist. We all were, weren’t we? We were going to dance on tables and hang out on the Lower East Side and complain about the bourgeois families we left behind. But instead of dedicating ourselves to our art, we dedicated ourselves to the OBC and to seeing this show as many times as possible. It’s dated as hell, I know. But I still get tingly when I hear “One Song Glory” and update my Facebook every Christmas Eve with “December 24th, 9pm, Eastern Standard Time…”
Friends, Season 1
I live in New York because of Friends. I could pretend that that’s not true, but there’s just no point. I discovered the show about halfway through the first season and it was an epiphany. To someone who wasn’t really enjoying being a teenager that much, Friends seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel. Being an adult meant being with your friends all the time, doing whatever you want, and being equal parts goofy and glamourous.
This has been a lifelong love affair, you guys. I’ve seen every episode at least 5 times. I even tried to watch Joey. In my 8th grade yearbook, my classmates wrote that “In 10 years” I’d be playing Phoebe in the Friends movie. I cried at Monica and Chandler’s wedding and when Ross and Rachel broke up (the first time). “I’m breezy” and “I WANNA GOOOOO” have become shorthand with my friends. I may not live in a luxury apartment or spend my days in the only coffeehouse in the Village without WiFi, but I do think that Friends showed me that life after school didn’t just have to mean marriage and babies. And lord knows I’ll always be thankful for that.
The Office Convention
I take the steady downward trajectory of The Office very personally, because at one point, I was a Dunder Mifflin addict. Between the 3rd and 4th seasons, the city of Scranton hosted the first (and only) Office Convention. You better believe I was there. The Big 4 of Krasinski, Carrell, Fischer, and Wilson had scheduling conflicts, which gave the entire supporting cast a chance to shine. I talked Friday Night Lights with Angela Kinsey; took goofy pictures with Craig Robinson; and was almost completely speechless in front of Ed Helms, who is a superfox. All the writers came out for a panel where we learned a song about Paul Lieberstein’s slow typing (“Paul is at the computer, everybody blow your brains out!”) and we made Ed sing “Drift Away” anytime there was a spare moment. The energy was amazing, because you know that these guys had never been a part of anything that had inspired this kind of fan commitment. They were nothing but gracious and fun; and so even as the show drags itself painfully over the finish line, I’ll always treasure the glory years.
Back in the day, my handy little TV/VCR combo was almost always tuned to MTV. This was before the network dropped music videos and turned the MTV Movie Awards into The Twilight Show. But the best of MTV in the 90s were the original series. The Real World had yet to buy stock in hot tubs and was actually socially important. I remember so clearly watching Pedro and Sean exchanging vows in the San Francisco house. That was huge. Beavis & Butthead was kind of dumb and sort of genius. Daria represented the cool detachment that I wanted to have towards high school drama. And The State. Oh, The State. I’d never seen anything like Porcupine Racetrack and the Old-Fashioned Guy and Louie and “I wanna see the monkeys do it” and Barry & Levon. I was 11, you guys. When people my age would tell me that they didn’t think it was funny, I felt like Sam Weir when Cindy Sanders tells him she thinks The Jerk is stupid. It’s a real burden to have such sophisticated taste at such a tender age.
Oh No They Didn’t
I had to break up with ONTD when someone posted the “Daaaaaaaammmmnnn” gif from Friday and there were like seven comments under it asking, “What’s that from?” But I still consider myself a jackal for life. Before Twitter and Tumblr, my celebrity news came strictly from ONTD, who always had the scoop before anyone else. The membership was filled with bitingly hilarious people, who I’m sure have gone on to great things. I’ll always cherish the hours spent in “Free For All Fridays” and Inception/The Dark Knight/Harry Potter party posts; the ONTD boyfriend cycle – from obsession to backlash to backlash-to-the-backlash; and the language lessons (“shaking and crying,” “I can’t,” “you in danger gurl,” etc). When it comes to gossip comms, ONTD is the best. IJAF.
**And a special announcement! Thanks to all of your support, Head Over Feels is now a .com! We’re on our own domain, so make sure you’re subscribed to this new version. You’re all precious snowflakes and we love you. Part 2 of my 30 pop culture moments coming soon!**