Since first seeing Star Wars in 1977 as an eight-year-old on the front row of the theater I have been supremely fascinated by pop culture. My mind spins with movie trivia, celebrity gossip, soundtracks, dialogue, and all manner of information only useful for dinner conversation. At some point I have to put these tidbits out into the world, if only to make room for more stuff inside my brain.
This blog is my release.
With apologies to Amy Krouse Rosenthal, this profile has been
March 3, 1969
Born in a small Texas town where I never actually resided. My parents were told that I was surely a boy, so my first two names should have been Jason Murphy. They kept the initials and forged ahead.
December 28, 1971
First sibling arrives, a sister, also meant to be Jason Murphy. She, too, has the JM initials, but that’s where our similarities end.
late February/early March 1974
Sometime around my fifth birthday, and my gift seems to be the arrival of my parents with sibling #2. Doctor was certain this would be a brother for us. That doctor really had no clue. Second sister escaped the Jason name but my parents thought it would be so cute to continue the JM initials theme. And for the rest of our lives we will hear our names as Ja.. uhh.. Jo.. uhh.. J… you.
mid-Seventies to early-Eighties
My love affair with books begins. I don’t recall the exact moments I began to read, nor do I remember the titles of those early books (except one — Curious George Goes to the Hospital, given to me around five years old when I went in for a tonsilectomy and came out full of ice cream; this book is treasured still), but I do know that all leisure moments of my childhood revolved around books. I have few memories of playing outside but thousands of memories visiting exciting lands and meeting captivating people. When other kids were riding bikes, I was wandering around Terabithia; when my sisters were playing tag in the backyard, I was solving mysteries with Nancy Drew; when friends from school were hanging out at the pool, I was more often than not keeping watch for Aslan with the Pevensie children in Narnia. Books were my closest friends, and they have yet to abandon me.
1977: The day I met Han Solo my life changed forever.
Up to this point, I had been to many movies with my family and enjoyed them immensely, but there had never been anything like Star Wars. Imagine how impressionable is an eight-year-old child, then recall the very first image in the film: a battle cruiser that creeped into the frame from the bottom of the screen… and creeped in… and creeped in. That ship went on forever, and it truly took our breaths away. In that first moment everyone in the theater knew this was going to be something special. It was even more awe-inspiring to my family as we were forced to sit on the very first row of the tiny theater because this daughter had forgotten that she was now wearing glasses to see more than six inches from her face. First row viewing of Star Wars in 1977 was the most thrilling ride we’d ever taken, and those memories still hold true today. Darth Vader was terrifying, Han Solo was gorgeous (to me), Princess Leia was captivating, and Luke was truly a hero. For the rest of my life I would measure all movie-going experiences against this very one, and only a handful have been able to match that intensity. And I still hold all celebrity crushes to the standard of Harrison Ford; few have matched him yet.
1980s: And the band played on…
Music surrounded me throughout my childhood and those top 40 hits of the seventies are still some of my favorite memories, but it was the Eighties that gave me something to own. My parents chose the soundtrack of my childhood: The Bee Gees, Urban Cowboy, Kenny Rogers, Ronnie Milsap, Crystal Gayle, Waylon & Willie, The Commodores, and The Beatles. Then I received my first record from a classmate on my birthday, a 45 of Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You”, and suddenly I understood that I could listen to music that my parents did not choose. My allowance began funneling directly to the record stores, my little Donny and Marie box record player worked overtime spinning discs like “Endless Love”, Chic’s “Le Freak”, and the theme from Greatest American Hero. To this day I remain a Top 40 kind of girl, and we have those records to thank.
As the eighties wore on, my better musical tastes finally surfaced (along with a much-delayed move to cassettes), and my impressionable mind grabbed hold of New Wave and still won’t let go. I still thrill to the sounds of Duran Duran, Thompson Twins, Adam Ant, Howard Jones, Bowie’s “Modern Love” period, and even Wham! I never tire of The Eurythmics, John Cougar, INXS or The Police. These are the sounds that carried me through adolescence, a time when nothing in the world seemed to make sense but the music always would. It’s cliched but still true: I was shaped by the music of the 80s, and I am still proud to say it.
It was also during these years that my love for movies and my love for music merged to form the person I am today — a sucker for a motion picture soundtrack. A guy in a video store once told me, as he was checking out the same VHS title to me for the tenth time, that I was a movie marketer’s dream — a moviegoer who also bought the soundtrack, the books and “official” merchandise, then rented the movie on video over and over again. I’ve since moved on to purchasing DVDs, but the rest remains true. I am a movie marketer’s dream, and that has not changed since my teen years. From Grease to Top Gun and The Bodyguard to Gladiator, Hollywood owes me great thanks.
1990s: The Madsen Years
I have very few memories from the nineties due to a dark pit of despair that imprisoned me during college and the years following, but movies continued to surface despite all the rest that was happening. My roommate and I headed to Blockbuster every weekend intent on broadening our perspective from mainstream films despite the fact that neither of us ever strayed far from security of home. Still, each week we spent hours (and I do mean hours) wandering the aisles to find anything of interest that we could both agree upon. Not an easy feat considering my love for sci-fi and drama juxtaposed to her love for martial arts and romantic comedy. Much compromise was attempted, but little actually accomplished. Without fail we would both tire of each other’s stubbornness and head for the b-level action films that both could settle on. And this is how we discovered Michael Madsen.
I can’t claim to have seen every single Madsen film, but I can say I’ve seen enough to appreciate a working actor’s need to make a living at all costs. I adore Madsen, find great joy in watching his worst films, and still have fond memories of those years in college. He’s my Bruce Campbell. And the 90s will always be symbolized by images of Madsen dancing to Super Sounds of the 70s with straight razor in hand.
1999-present: What is the Matrix?
Most of my life has been defined by the movies that captivate me, but it wasn’t until the turn of this century that I realized just how much a sci-fi geek I really am. Sure, Star Wars was a defining moment, but it was for everyone and that didn’t make us all sci-fi fans. The release of The Matrix opened a new era that has made clear to me just who I am and why I shouldn’t apologize for it.
Within a year I met a group of guys who are true fanboys. With no apologies, these guys spent hours each workday in conversation about the latest movies or video games or comic books, and my buddy Nate began to school me on all of it. It was during these first conversations that he posed the question, “What are your favorite films right now?” When I answered, “The Matrix, Star Wars, X-Men…”, he laughed and said, “You’re totally a sci-fi geek.” I couldn’t deny it. I can’t now. A quick look at my favorite films and tv series includes Minority Report, Lord of the Rings, Heroes, and Battlestar Galactica. It’s who I am, and it’s because of that time that I can admit it. Nate spent two years teaching me the back stories of the X-Men, of Spider-Man, and I spent those years discussing openly all the things I’d ever loved in all the movies I’d seen in my life. I’d never had that opportunity before, and it’s ruined me forever.
Now, I am quick to admit when I love a film or hate a film, and I have plenty of reasons to back it up. I know more about the major comic characters than I ever dreamed I would, and I’m proud of that knowledge because it reminds me of a perfect moment in time when I was surrounded by people just like me. When I say to people that pop culture defines my life, they often look at me with a kind of sadness in their eyes. What they cannot realize is how rich my life has been because of the people I’ve met and conversations I’ve had and books I’ve read and themes I’ve explored as a direct result of my love for pop culture. Sure, I have more trivial knowledge in my head than any person should, and it’s only useful for dinner conversation, but I also have poignant memories attached to each tidbit. And in the end it’s really only the memories that will be left.
Drop me a note with your own pop culture experiences!