August 1: motifs, new and old

My niece was giving me one of those reaction tests where you hit the knee just under it and the lower leg springs up instinctively. It struck me how little the knee being hit by a small hammer by a doctor now figured in popular culture as a motif. Time was when it was a perennial in sketch shows as a gag set-up. I even remember seeing it in one Norman Wisdom film where he wants to be a policeman but is too short so comes in to the medical on stilts. It all goes well till they do the knee reaction thing on him and the leg springs up and sends the stilt flying across the room. There are other joke set-ups you don’t see anymore. Scenes from Shakespeare. Alas poor yorick with a skull was forever being used on Morecombe and Wise, as was Romeo Romeo wherefore art thou Romeo? and Double Double Toil and Trouble from Macbeth. These set-ups don’t figure now bcause they have passed out of common currency. I remember a few years ago I asked a group of fifteen year olds to write down the names of as many Shakespeare plays as they could. You got Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, but not much beyond that. You also got Rumplestiltzkin, as I recall. The common currency of culture has now become Disney and Pixall references. Scenes from Shrek or Toy Story or Frozen, which everone with kids knows. There is a Shrek theme centre in London, as well as, and I can’t even begin to comprehend this, an M and M’s museum. I would have thought, at least a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory museum or World or whatever, but M nd M’s? What is the culture of M and M’s? Are there M and M’s characters? Sometimes I peer through the glass into the world of M and M’s. It is in the West End near Leicester Square. There is no evidence of any particular cultural engagement going on. Just families merrily walking through aisles of M and M’s. It reminds me of once when I passed by a Macdonalds on the South Bank, ironically next to where the new Shrek World now lives. There was a bright-eyed lad with a bucket and a Macdonalds uniform on asking for donations. Oh, what’s it for? I naively asked. Passers-by were happily dropping their loose change in. For Macdonalds<, he said. Am I missing something about the modern world? Please drop me a line at…

peoplearerubbish.com

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