Who says, “It’s all downhill after the first kiss”?

Answer: Lou Reed in his 1990 song, “Modern Dance” (album: Ecstasy) has the lyric.

How does that line, “dick splash”, overpass instructions, and more figure into Man of Steel?

That line perhaps gives us more insight into the mind of screenplay writer David S. Goyer than it does our characters. However, let us assume for the sake of argument that Lois Lane is making a reference to the song. Lois is anywhere from 4 to 10 years older than Clark. So Reed’s dark- nearly spoken word- out-of-tune voice could have reasonably accompanied her in her mid to late teens. Traditionally, Lois is an army brat.1 She may have been across the globe where Reed’s later music had greater influence… Reed’s Ecstasy hasn’t cracked the Top 20 in the States, but it has in Denmark! Lois may have offered the line in reference to the surreality and unconventional nature of their affections. Yet it, justifiably, goes right over Clark’s head. He would have been 10 when the song was recorded, living in Smallville, without the internet.

In its own way, Man of Steel is a surprisingly accurate period piece with its references to Lou Reed, insults like “dick splash”, and adherence to pre-internet popular myths like seeking safety under an overpass during a tornado.However, ironically such adherence to temporally specific subculture has lead to dissonance with modern contemporary general audiences not necessarily willing to peer beyond the veneer of their own unfamiliarity.  The saying or insult doesn’t ring true for them because they’ve never heard it, the overpass instructions are confronted with modern skepticism, etc.  Possibly the choice was made to go for temporal veracity over present-day resonance, which is not an inherently wrong decision for a film that was not specifically attempting a “timeless” approach.

Nonetheless, many of those lines and references remain perhaps some of the most cringe-worthy.

With the change in writer from David Goyer to Chris Terrio for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS), the next film in the DC Cinematic Universe may possibly be liberated from dated references.  As BvS a continuation of the world of Man of Steel, the story is likely to be primarily contemporary, however, there is still the possibility of flashback or period pieces within the film when dealing with Batman or Lex Luthor (or really any of the characters).

Terrio’s most noteworthy work is, of course, the Academy Award Winning Argo, which is decidedly a period piece properly filled with dated references.  However, where Terrio excelled and which Goyer perhaps lacked, was in providing enough context to make dated references universal or updated for our culture and times.  Even the Man of Steel novelization attempted to bring more 90’s texture to its flashback sequences with references to Mortal Kombat (incidentally a Warner Brothers Interactive property), the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sony Discman, and more.   So whether in the past or the present we should be in good hands.

Hopefully, BvS will have fewer obscure references (whether justifiable or not) or, at least, better context in which to enjoy those references.  Nonetheless, for those who enjoy having the answers, the next time someone asks, “They who?  Who says that?!” you can enlighten them about Lou Reed.

1 It is not explicitly stated in the film but perhaps suggested by her response, “I get writer’s block if I’m not wearing a flak jacket.” to praise of her writing from being embedded with the 1st [Infantry] Division (a/k/a “The Fighting First”).

2 The incident occurs in 1997, six years after KSN-TV’s video popularized the myth of overpass safety.  Six years before Mythbusters debuted and only about a year before Snopes became an authority on organized skepticism.  If Jonathan Kent spent hours online doubting conventional wisdom, he may have discovered differently, but as a farmer and everyman, it’s entirely reasonable that he’d be inclined to believe the myth.

The fact that officials are so perturbed by the scene in the film is because this myth persists to this day and that cars pile up attempting to secure the “safety” of overpasses… no one argued with Jonathan because it’s the conventional wisdom, even if its wrong.  Likewise, the scene itself is realistic, even if its not what people should be doing… it’s what people do.

Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *