Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

Romy and Michele's High School ReunionI watched Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion last night for the first time since it was out — almost two decades ago. My response to it this time was exactly as it was the first time I saw it. It’s an incredibly funny and charming film. At the same time, it’s a structural mess. About 50 minutes in, the film inserts a ten minute long dream sequence. That’s a little strange, but it’s followed by a non-dream sequence that is, if anything, more unbelievable. I remember when first watching it thinking that it too was a dream sequence.

This is all unfortunate, because the screenplay does an admirable job of tying up loose ends. I think the problem is that the second act depends upon Romy and Michele having a fight, and it is hard to imagine the two of them staying mad at each other. Hence: a dream sequence! In the reality of the film, the two only manage to stay mad at each other during the end of the drive to the reunion. The moment that Romy finds herself in an embarrassing situation, Michele runs to her assistance. And that is the heart of the film: the strength of these two women’s friendship.

Although both Romy and Michele are airheads, they are also classic nerds. As many of you know, my definition of a nerd is someone who is so interested in whatever they do that they don’t realize how uncool they are. All the two of them are aware of is that they are not part of “the A group,” but it doesn’t occur to them that they uncool. And that’s good, because they are cool. They are having a good time doing what they enjoy. For me, the high point of the film is when Michele (the more clueless of the two) tells Romy:

I never knew that we weren’t that great in high school. I mean, we always had so much fun together. I thought high school was a blast! And until you told me that our lives weren’t good enough, I thought everything since high school was a blast.

And in addition to everything else, they are very creative. For 12 years and probably more, they’ve been designing and sewing their own clothes. That’s where the nerd factor really comes in because that is an activity that is unusual, but which seems to them like fish to water: of course they would make their own clothes. It doesn’t matter to me, but being a movie, they must get social acceptance for it, so the Vogue editor compliments them, “They have nice lines. A fun, frisky use of color.”

There are lots of other aspects of the film. All the nerds triumph in life while while the cool kids mostly don’t. And there is the fact that everyone is horrible to each other — even the heroines. Although it is hard to see it as serious. For example, the two of them make fun of the film Pretty Woman, but Michele cries at one point, “I just get really happy when they finally let her shop.”

But the main aspect of the film besides friendship is female empowerment. Even star quarterback Billy Christensen is subordinate to mean girl and alpha A group member Christie Masters. But even nerd turned billionaire Sandy Frink is just there for plot purposes. Once Romy and Michele get in his helicopter, you don’t even see him. And at the end, although he has loaned them the money to start their own clothing boutique, he’s nowhere to be seen. It is just Romy and Michele and the foul-mouthed, chain smoking, cynical Heather Mooney (Janeane Garofalo) buying probably the first piece of non-black clothes in her life. As Michele says, “For me, it’s like I’ve just given birth to my own baby girl, except she’s like a big giant girl who smokes and says ‘shit’ a lot. You know?” I do. These two are more iconic than Thelma and Louise.

Anniversary Post: In God We Trust

In God We TrustOn this day 152 years ago, Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1864. This was when Congress decided it was really, really important to print “In God We Trust” on our money. And why was it so important? Well, for three-quarters of a century, the Christian fanatics had been complaining about God not being mentioned in the Constitution. And so every time something bad happened, they started screaming about how the United States had offended God. It was just like today only not nearly as bad.

In 1864, the Civil War was going on. And that had nothing to do with slavery and economics and all that. No, it was just that God was unhappy. So to pacify the crybabies, Congress passed the law and put “God” on our coins. Because, you know, there is nothing that says “Jesus!” like money.

Then, in the midst of the Cold War, in 1956, “In God We Trust” replaced E pluribus unum as our national motto. Today, of course, conservatives would be outraged that America was pandering to people in Latin America and Spain. But then it was all about the Soviet Union being filled with Godless communists where as we were a “nation of believers.” So we got rid of the truly profound notion of “Out of many, one.” And we replaced it with, “Hope for the best!”

So we mark the anniversary of one of Congress’ more minor betrayals of the founding principles of this country.