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Beach Blanket Benediction

Annette Funicello died the same day Margaret Thatcher did.

You may not be that familiar with her, or may know her as one of the original Mouseketeers.  In later years, she became a spokesperson for Jif peanut butter:  depending on your age (and nationality), you may remember the line, "Choosy mothers choose Jif!"  That was her.  She also was one of the public faces of multiple sclerosis (MS), the same disease that felled Jacqueline du Pre, and, just today, Christina Amphlett.

But I am a fan of "beach movies", a particularly odd, silly, and surreal form of B-movie from the 1960s.  Featuring many rising and falling performers of the period, and unhonored even during their peak popularity, the most famous of these all feature Annette and her immobile bouffant.  Frankie Avalon and Fabian were her most frequent co-stars.  Since she and many of her fellow performers were singers, albeit not particularly talented ones, these movies have frequent musical numbers.  The best part of the music is often the guest stars, who can be much cooler than the movie.  "Little Stevie Wonder" is "introduced" in one of them.

Beach movies took place in a universe not too far from that of "Bewitched" and somewhat adjacent to the movies being parodied in the original "Austin Powers".  Compared to them, "The Monkees" was cutting social realism.

Beach movies were a cynical attempt to exploit a market, to produce a substitute for real youth culture that parents would feel safe showing their children.  Nowadays we would say they were aimed at tweens, at a ten-year-old's idea of what being a teenager would be like, rather than at real teenagers.  Real teenagers are too cynical for this sort of thing.  But everybody in a beach movie appears to be having a marvelous time, and nobody seems to take themselves too seriously.

They aren't art, and they weren't ever cool.  But, by golly, they've got something. 


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 23rd, 2013 09:41 pm (UTC)
I watched the old Beach movies. And Gidget movies. And Gidget series. And yeah, that's what I hoped my teen-age life would be like. Not so much in reality, lol.
Apr. 24th, 2013 02:21 am (UTC)
And yeah, that's what I hoped my teen-age life would be like. Not so much in reality, lol.

I got most of my ideas of teenaged life from Happy Days reruns and Archie comics, with a bit from my Dad's collection of old MAD magazines. Compared to that, John Hughes movies were startlingly true to life. No wonder they were acclaimed for their realism, which seems strange now.

I wonder if anybody emerges from adolescence with an accurate memory of what being an adolescent was like. Perhaps by the time you're sufficiently beyond it to write about it, the reality has been elided into something else.
Apr. 24th, 2013 12:46 pm (UTC)
"My So-Called Life" which was slightly past my adolescence, is pretty spot-on.

God, I miss "Happy Days" sometimes.
Apr. 25th, 2013 11:36 pm (UTC)
I think I saw an episode or two. I liked and admired it.

Did you watch "That 70's Show" when it was on? That seemed very true to its period, which was somewhat before my own. But I recognized lots of the details. Before it graduated the characters and had to come up with some excuse for why Donna and Eric weren't in college, I thought it had a lot of "felt life".
Apr. 26th, 2013 12:16 am (UTC)
I've seen precious few episodes of That 70's Show, but what I saw, I did like. Maybe one of these days, I'll marathon it on Netflix.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )