Monday, January 29, 2007

Roll Film!

Thanks for reader mindfrieze for pointing out Roll Film!, a service of the admirable Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. Greg Borzo and Brad Strauss are the Ebert and Roper (or Siskel and Ebert, to cite an earlier Chicago movie reviewing duo) of Roll Film!, with monthly dueling reviews of movies from a bicyclist's perspective.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

You, Me, and Dupree (2006)

Owen Wilson plays amiable loser Randy Dupree in this soon-to-be-forgotten comedy. Dupree is a lazy, manipulative leech who can't keep a job, so of course he travels by bicycle. Wearing a hockey helmet. There are several scenes that enforce the bicyclist-as-juvenile stereotype, including this clip where Dupree grabs a baby's bottle to refresh himself on a ride with Matt Dillon (as Carl Peterson, host to parasite Dupree), and another in which Dupree enlists the neighborhood children to help him put up posters to find the missing Carl. There's even an online game (a real trend: see also the Reno 911!:Petty Theft Bicycle game), so you can re-enact the scene and relive the utter silliness of using a bicycle to get around. Pre-eminent cycling ambassador Lance Armstrong has a cameo.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Muppet Movie (1979)

The opening scene of this beloved film, Kermit, the archetypal lovable loser, leaves for Hollywood pedaling his classy roadster, complete with wicker basket. Astounding to young eyes previously used to seeing Kermit only seated or flying limply through the air, the bicycle scene was one of the first to show an apparently autonomous Muppet. It ends pretty quickly, though, when Kermit is distracted by a billboard advertising Doc Hopper's Fried Frog Legs and crashes into a steamroller that crushes his bicycle. "It's a good thing frogs can hop, otherwise I'd be gone with the Schwinn." Sheesh.
The Great Muppet Caper (1981) has a scene that, at first, might seem to violate The Law. Kermit and Miss Piggy ride through a park and sing "Side by Side." The Great Muppet Caper, however, is set in London, a pop-culture-appropriate setting for adult puppets to enjoy bicycling (see Clause B).

Friday, January 19, 2007

Reno 911! (2003-present)

In this fictional adaptation of Cops!, Thomas Lennon plays loser Lt. Jim Dangle, leader of the incompetent Reno police department. Lt. Dangle, who favors a hot pants version of the traditional policeman's uniform, is also the primary member of the Reno PD bicycle patrol. The running joke is that Lt. Dangle is forever having his bicycle stolen from him in the course of duty. Comedy Central even has a little on-line game called Reno 911!: Petty Theft Bicycle, in which you get try to keep away from the Reno PD after stealing Lt. Dangle's bicycle from outside the doughnut shop.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Blond Ambition (2007?)

A reader sent in a link to some photos of Jessica Simpson on the set of a film apparently in production entitled "Blond Ambition." Based on the fascinating photos from the set posted here, I am waiting with baited breath to see if this film is an application of The Law. I'm leaning heavily towards loser at the moment. What's with the kneepads?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Mr. Show, "If You're Going to Write a Comedy Scene, You're Going to Have Some Rat Feces in There," (1996)

In this episode of the Bob Odenkirk/David Cross sketch comedy show, David Cross plays "Grass Valley" Greg, a Silicon Valley caricature who invented the delete key. Clearly a loser, his company is a place "Where ideas can hang out, and do whatever!" and there are frequent Tofutti breaks. To reinforce how much of a loser Greg is, he is shown riding a recumbent bicycle to work. The reader who reminded me of this example of The Law of Bicycles in Popular Culture points out that, even among bicyclists, recumbent bicyclists are regarded as perverts and losers.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Notes on a Scandal (2006)

In this film, Cate Blanchett plays a pottery teacher, bicycle commuter, and pervert Sheba Hart who is engaged in an affair with a teenage student. This is a British film, and it shows in that Sheba is a pervert who happens to ride a bicycle, rather than the bicycling being presented as an inherent characteristic of perverts (see Little Children).

Pee-Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

Paul Reubens plays his character of Pee-Wee Herman in Pee-Wee's quest to reclaim his prized bicycle. Pee-Wee is a loser, if an endearingly eccentric and non-self-aware one. Despite Mr. Reubens' personal habits, though, Pee-Wee is not really a pervert but asexual, or just trapped in a state of arrested development.

I Heart Huckabees (2004)

Jason Schwartzman as Albert Markovski and Mark Wahlberg as Tommy Corn both portray losers in this comedy. Albert is an insecure, self-doubting environmentalist. Tommy is a fireman opposed to the automobile going through a messy divorce. They both travel by bicycle.

Little Children (2006)

Jackie Earle Haley plays Ronnie J. McGorvey, a convicted child molester, in this film of suburban ennui. Ronnie, a pervert and loser, travels by bicycle, except for one scene in which he is the masturbating passenger of his blind date's car.

Arrested Development (2003-2006)

Michael Bluth, played by Jason Bateman, is the loser protagonist of this cult hit TV show. As the most stable member of a family of self-serving bumblers, Michael takes it upon himself to make the necessary sacrifices to keep the family business above water. One of these sacrifices is riding a bicycle to work, when he is not driving the "stair car", a pickup truck from an airport with an attached set of stairs on the back for boarding planes.

40 Year-Old Virgin (2005)

In this comedy Steve Carell stars as Andy Stitzer, the eponymous virgin. He is a loser who works in a big-box electronics store and rides a bicycle to work, with the clear implication that his bicycling is partly to blame for his continued virginity. He eventually finds love in Trish Piedmont, played by Catherine Keener. Trish shows that she can look beyond the fact that Andy is a loser by buying him a new bicycle, which he uses to run away from Trish after a fight. She follows him in her car and he crashes into the side of a truck.

The Office, "Diwali" episode, (2006)

In this episode of the American version of the UK TV show created by Ricky Gervais, Jim Halpert, the lovable loser played by John Krasinski, decides to ride his bicycle to work. He arrives sweaty and exhausted. At the end of the episode, he gets drunk and crashes his bike into a bush. He is then driven home, with his bicycle tossed in the back of an SUV. The UK version of The Office never actually shows a bicycle, though there is one episode in which Gareth Keenan, the loser played by Mackenzie Crook, is shown stretching in an absurd manner after riding to work in a spandex outfit. One of the less common foreign examples of The Law noted in Clause B.

The Wicker Man (2006)

In a scene from this remake of the 1973 cult horror film, we see a loser, the moronic puritanical detective played by Nicolas Cage, steal a bicycle from a pervert, a female member of the free-love, pagan sacrifice cult inhabiting the island (watch the scene ). Note that this scene, set on an island off the coast of Seattle, does not appear in the original UK version of the film. This is further confirmation of Clause B of The Law of Bicycles in Popular Culture, which states that the law applies consistently only to products of American popular culture.

The Law of Bicycles in Popular Culture

As a person who thinks that the bicycle is the best way to travel, I have an interest in how bicyclists are represented in popular culture. Careful observation has led me to formulate this law:

The Law of Bicycles in Popular Culture
All adult characters shown riding a bicycle for utilitarian purposes in a creative work will be depicted as either perverts, losers, or both.

Clause A: This law applies only to works set in the years from 1970 onwards.

Clause B: This law applies consistently only to American works, though foreign examples may occur.

This blog will catalog examples of The Law's validity.