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Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday Matinee: Drop Dead Fred

I was thinking of ways that I could make this blog a lot more entertaining and interesting to read.  After all, the more readers that read my work and like it, the bigger the boost of confidence that I inevitably get as a result.

It is a bit hard to write this blog without constantly coming up with fresh and original ideas and angles to discuss.  So, to add to the fun, I've been toying with the idea of coming up with theme weeks.  The days will still have their own distinct genre, but the whole week will be dedicated to a specific theme.

I figure that I would test the waters for the week of June 20-26, just to see how it plays out, and if you like the idea, I may do more features as I think of them.

This week's theme is all about Fantasy and Imagination.  The blog entries featured this week will either focus on people who have imaginary friends, who have some sort of dream or fantasy, or maybe a combination of both.

Hence the term Fantasy and Imagination.

So, let's kick off this entry by looking back at a movie which may have bombed in the box office, but ended up being one of my all-time favourite movies.  Go figure.

Drop Dead Fred starred Phoebe Cates and Rik Mayall, and when it was first released in movie theatres on April 19, 1991, it flopped. 

Reportedly, it was panned and ripped apart by Hollywood critics.  Leonard Maltin issued this review of the film, stating that "Phoebe Cates' appealing performance can't salvage this putrid mess ... recommended only for people who think nose-picking is funny."

Ah, what does he know anyway?  He works on Entertainment Tonight, after all.

Personally, I loved the movie.  I'll defend the movie until the day I die.  I guess in admitting that, I admit to being a part of the 'cult following', but hey, as long as I don't drink the Kool-Aid, it's all golden.

So, here's the plot of the film.  You have the main character in the film, Lizzie (Cates) who we're first introduced to at the age of five years old.  We see a cute little scene where her mother reads her a story, and it's here where we sort of get a glimpse into who Lizzie really is.

Flash forward twenty-one years later, and we can see that Lizzie is the perfect description of 'damaged goods'.  Having a mother who has emotionally abused her and an ex-husband who gets joy in controlling her, she basically has been left without a backbone.  She can't figure out how to stand up to those who make her feel bad about herself.

Oh, Lizzie...I know exactly how you feel.  I had my backbone turn to jelly many times before, and know what it is like to be the doormat.  And, yes, like Lizzie, I kept my feelings incredibly repressed to the point where I ended up committing self-destructive behaviour against myself.  I kind of shut down, just like Lizzie did in the film.

But, enough about me.

On what could be considered to be the worst day of Lizzie's life, she gets talked down to by her ex, has her car stolen, loses her job, and ends up having to be forced to move back home with her abusive mother.

How's that for bad karma?

As soon as Lizzie arrives back to her childhood home, we start to learn more about her childhood as she explores the objects scattered throughout the room.  One such object is a taped-up jack-in-the-box.  The box was the home of her childhood imaginary friend, who she called 'Drop Dead Fred', and you'll see how the box ended up getting taped up in this scene below.

The clip kind of explains a lot, doesn't it?

Thankfully, my mother was never that cruel to me as a child.  At least in this sense, I can't relate.  But it's funny how such a simple thing can alter the course of one's life. 

As far as my life is concerned, having to move around to different houses every year or two within the first five years of my life was hard.  Perhaps maybe that's why I have such a desire to carve out my own place in this world, no matter what.  Or, maybe it's because of the fact that because I never really had the opportunity to find myself in my childhood that I want to make up for that now.  Who can say, really?

At least Lizzie had that childhood friend as that outlet.  A few people may dismiss the idea of having an imaginary friend as proof that the child is 'messed up' and 'needs professional help'.  And, yes, I admit I've heard those labels from some...ahem...less than kind adult influences in my life and times.

You want to know what I think?  I think it's perfectly fine to have an outlet to vent to.  As long as the outlet wasn't really self-destructive to the person who vents, I'm all for it.  If that means making a mud pie on the kitchen table because your imaginary friend tells you to, so be it.  At worst, you may be grounded until the age of fifteen, but what the heck, right?

I remember when I was four years old, I happened to get into some family member's cosmetics counter, and ended up pouring an entire bottle of Oil Of Olay all over my head (keeping in mind that I had just seen an Oil Of Olay commercial on television no less than half an hour before that).  I wouldn't exactly say that my family's reaction to the idea was received all that well (I remember getting in trouble for it), but it's also an event that we can look back on and laugh.

I think Lizzie's dad was sort of like that.  He understood that 'Drop Dead Fred' was an outlet for Lizzie, and thought it was harmless fun.  Her mother on the other hand didn't see it as such.

When Lizzie was making that mud pie in the kitchen, did you notice how happy she was?  And when her mother took away the box, you noticed how sad she was?  I think there's a reason for that. 

Whenever her mother got on her case, she could always count on Drop Dead Fred to cheer her up.  And there were a lot of times in which her mother was Lizzie's worst enemy.  Drop Dead Fred gave her a way to channel that anger and disappointment into happiness.  Sure, it might not have been the best way to go, but she was five.  I'm sure she could be forgiven.

Truth be told, I think the creation of Drop Dead Fred in Lizzie's life was the only real control she had, as wild and uncontrollable as he was.  He was really the only person in her life who understood her and tried to make her feel better about herself when everything else was falling apart.

And, that's why she decided to bring him back.

Of course, the cuteness of Drop Dead Fred calling her 'snotface' back in her kindergarten years didn't have that same appeal to the now twenty-six year old Lizzie.  Lizzie wanted Drop Dead Fred's help to get her back together with her ex-husband, but everytime he tried to assist her, he usually ended up making the situation worse.  He ended up sinking her friend's houseboat, and causes her to act erratically when having dinner with her childhood friend, Mickey. 

Luckily, Mickey was more understanding about the whole thing...probably moreso than her other friend who became homeless as a result.  Whatever the case, Fred did help out in re-establishing a friendship between Mickey and Lizzie.

Of course, when Lizzie continued to talk to Fred, and ended up attacking a musician with a shopping bag, it's enough for her mother to admit her into psychiatric counselling, where Lizzie is forced to take pills that were designed to get rid of Drop Dead Fred once and for all.  Lizzie's personality ends up becoming more lethargic in nature, and as a result of this personality shift, she decides to get back together with her ex-husband.  However, Fred isn't completely gone.

In fact, when Fred overhears her ex making plans to cheat on her yet again, he tries to warn Lizzie about it.  Lizzie tells Fred that she has no choice but to stay with him, because she may never get another shot at love again, and doesn't want to be alone.

Again, Lizzie...I can relate.  Believe me when I tell you I can relate big time.

Fred makes one last-ditch effort to make Lizzie see the light.

And the truth set Lizzie free.  By facing her demons one final time, she unlocked the part of herself that had been lost all those years ago, and Fred helped her find herself again. 

It also proved to be the very last time that Lizzie would ever see Fred again.  In order for her to move forward, she had to let go of the past.

I guess in order to move forward, I have to try and let go of the past too.  Every day, I'm getting better at it.

When Lizzie returned to the real world, she eventually got her fairy tale ending, albeit a quarter-century delayed.  Because she took control of her own destiny, she proved to be one strong woman who finally found the happiness she craved.

Sure, her imaginary friend helped her out...but considering that she created her imaginary friend herself, wouldn't that technically be her own doing that changed the course of her life?

Whatever the debate is, I'll always have a soft spot for this movie.  While watching this movie, a part of me really would have liked my own Drop Dead Fred to help me make those life-altering choices...but as anyone who has watched this film knows, there's only so much an imaginary companion can do.

And, there's only so much insurance money that one can get from a deep-sixed houseboat...

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