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By Doug Brunell | March 23, 2006

Every once in a while you come into contact with a person who makes you forget you are living in America in 2006. Talking to this person makes you feel like you fell through some wormhole and ended up about fifty years in the past. I recently had such an encounter, and I owe it all to an indie movie called ‘Scum Rock.’

I was at the laundry mat, doing my best not to talk to anyone there, as I usually do. I’m one of those people who believes that most other people will only bore me with stupid when they open their oral sex holes. I bring a book, hand held poker game or a portable DVD player to occupy my time before I have to fold ‘House of 1,000 Corpses’ t-shirts. On this day I was watching ‘Scum Rock’ for the second time before I wrote my review of the film. I had headphones on, but a woman still managed to attract my attention because she was trying to see the movie over my shoulder.

This woman was the only other person in the place. She seemed friendly enough, doing her best to engage me in conversation before I started my film. It didn’t work. It’s not that her three hundred plus pounds bothered me, or the fact that her truck was festooned with Jesus fish stickers. I just wanted to watch my film in peace. I didn’t want to chit chat.

She said something to me, so I took my headphones off and asked her to repeat herself.

‘Is that pornography?’

‘Scum Rock’ doesn’t have one second in it that could even be mistaken for porno. Not one.

‘No,’ I replied. ‘It’s just an indie film.’

She nodded as if she understood me. ‘You never know,’ she said. ‘It wouldn’t surprise me to see someone watching pornography in here.’

Ironically, I have read Beeline porno novels in the laundry mat. I think it’s funny, especially when someone asks what I’m reading. ‘It’s ‘Desires For Hire.’’

‘Nope. Not porn. Sorry.’ I shouldn’t have said the sorry part. I knew it as it came out of my mouth. I had just created a conversation starter, a lead, an opening. And she was running with it.

‘Oh, don’t be sorry. I would never watch pornography. I don’t even like most of the movies that come out these days. There’s gay cowboys and Lord knows what else,’ she chuckled. ‘I may go see ‘Madea’s Family Reunion,’ though. It has colored folks in it, and it might be a bit racy, but at least it’s not sissy cowboys.’

Sweet. Mother. Of. God. What did I do to deserve this? Colored folks? She actually said ‘colored folks.’ Get the rope, ma. There’s gonna be a lynchin’. Jesus Christ. 2006, indeed.

‘Different strokes for different folks,’ I responded. Lame, I know. But how do you respond to ‘colored folks’ without inviting more conversation? I’m not one to enforce political correctness, and I’ve been around long enough to know that anyone who uses the term ‘colored folks’ isn’t going to be swayed by any of my anti-racism lectures.

‘Why are you watching that?’ she asked, happy to carry on the conversation that seemed kind of one-sided to me.

I gave up trying to watch the film and shut the player off. I thought she’d get the hint and apologize. Instead, she waited for an answer.

I don’t tell strangers I write … especially strangers at the laundry mat. The last time I told someone there that I was a freelance writer, she asked if that was ‘with words and stuff.’ She also thought vinegar made a fine shampoo, so I had to give her points for at least relating ‘words and stuff’ with writing. To avoid any awkward explanations of what is involved with writing, I said to this normal shampoo using lady, ‘I just wanted to see it.’ I emphasized ‘wanted.’ Past tense. She still didn’t get it.

‘I don’t understand why people would want to watch too many movies these days. And I really don’t understand those DVDs they have.’
There were obviously lots of things this lady didn’t understand. Maybe she could ask ‘colored folks’ for help.

‘I bought my nephew a DVD of that movie about cartoon robots and had to take it back because it was one of those where they don’t show the whole picture.’

I instantly knew what she was talking about, and it totally fit. If any of you have worked in a video store, you also know what she was getting at.

‘Do you mean it was widescreen?’ I asked.

‘I guess so. It seemed small screen to me.’

Okay, that is pet peeve number 4,375 of mine. ‘You actually get more of a picture with widescreen,’ I explained, trying hard not to bust my DVD player over her head.

‘Well, I don’t think so. I went and got the real DVD, which they didn’t want to give me because they told me they didn’t do exchanges once a movie was opened, but I complained so much they wanted to shut me up.’ They weren’t the only ones. ‘I made them turn it on to make sure it wasn’t one of those small ones, either. The picture was on the entire television, so I don’t think he got more with those widescreen jobbers.’

I don’t believe in God, but there are times I like to test my theory. Those tests involve me saying to myself, ‘God, if you are real, you will kill this person with a lightning bolt or a heart attack … now!’

There is still no God.

I tried to remain calm. I had a good half hour left, and this lady was folding clothes at the rate of a crippled snail. I had to say something, though.

‘Your screen might be filled with a picture, but it is cropped to fit your screen, so you are missing good portions of what was on the movie screen.’ That was a very basic explanation, but I knew I couldn’t go into detail without totally losing her.

‘I think I’ve been around long enough to know when a screen has the full picture. If the tops and the bottoms of the screen are black, you aren’t getting the entire picture. You don’t see that in a movie theatre. I know that.’

So I f****d with her people. I had to. ‘Idiot’ is not a language I’m very fluent in. I know enough of it, however, to totally ruin someone’s day.

‘Was that movie ‘Robots’? The one you bought for your nephew?’

‘It had those computer cartoon robots. I think that was it.’

‘Does your nephew like it?’ I asked.

‘He loves it. His momma says he watches it almost every day. He’s happy it’s not broken.’

‘You know the guy who did the animation? Kenneth Branford?’

‘I guess so.’

Really? Okay. That’s funny. I made the name up. If you sound like you know what you’re talking about, however, people are happy to be on your level.

‘He’s the same guy who did ‘Brokeback Mountain’ — that sissy cowboy movie. There are a bunch of homosexual themes in ‘Robots,’ and I believe there are even subliminal images in there.’

She took that in. I wasn’t sure she understood all of it, but she got the most important part.

‘He made that gay cowboy movie?’

‘Oh yeah. And before that he did two gay porno films. ‘Steel Inches’ and ‘Love Rockets.’ It was all over the entertainment magazines. Didn’t you read about it?’

She looked really concerned. ‘No. No, I didn’t. And that robot movie has gay people in it?’

‘I don’t know. I don’t watch gay movies. I do know there are messages about tolerating homosexuals and maybe some quick snippets of gay porno movies. Wal-Mart won’t even carry it because they’re afraid of getting sued.’

I was betting she didn’t get it there because we are one of the five towns that doesn’t have a Wal-Mart.

‘And ‘Madea’s Family Reunion’ has colored folks in drag,’ I continued, ‘so that’s kind of gay, too. Now you were saying you liked the gay cowboy movie, right?’

‘No,’ she replied, no longer folding clothes. ‘No, I don’t. I think I may have made a mistake.’

‘What’s that?’ I asked. Talking to me? Big mistake. I bet you wish you had kept your trap shut.

‘My nephew isn’t old enough for that sort of thing.’

‘Who is?’

She didn’t answer, but she did start folding her clothes again.

It was my turn to keep the conversation going. ‘It is good that those messages are out there, though. Sneaking them into a kid’s film is perfect, because the kids become more tolerant of the lifestyle. Some may even feel comfortable experimenting with their own sexuality when they get old enough. At least that’s what the experts say.’

‘It’s everywhere,’ she said.

‘It sure is.’

Gay messages stuck into children’s movies aren’t really as prevalent as ignorance. The ignorant don’t know that, though. In fact, because ignorant people are so unwilling to listen to reason, you can use stupidity to fool them almost every time. And it usually works. Did I feel bad? Maybe a little. That kid was probably going to get his movie taken away, and while that may be doing him a favor, he isn’t going to look at it that way. I hope he starts to question his family because of it, though. I hope he understands that they may not always know best. The woman folding her sweatpants next to me was the perfect example of that. She had her views, and they were set in stone. All I did was force feed her more of the conspiracy she already believed in. I made something fit to her world, and it shocked her because it confirmed everything she already ‘knew.’

I may have felt a little bad, too, that I used homosexuality this way. But let’s face it, she was never going to accept homosexuality anyway. Why not have her looking for it in everything? That’s bound to drive her even more batty after a decade or so. And just think about how silly she’ll look when she tries to explain a gay ‘Robots’ to co-workers.

She didn’t say much to me after our little talk. I played my movie as I folded clothes, only this time I didn’t use headphones. I could see her look toward me every time the word ‘f**k’ came up. And when the music played? Wow. I think she thought demons would pop out of the washing machines and devour her flesh.

Yeah, I’m a bad person. But at least I have fun with it.

Discuss Doug Brunell’s “Excess Hollywood” column in Film Threat’s BACK TALK section! Click here>>>

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