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Monday, May 30, 2016

Groundhog Day: Watching American Cult Classics with my Turkish Husband

My husband and I recently sat down to watch this American Classic with a notoriously bad movie poster (not pictured because it offends my delicate design sensibilities)

****Warning - Spoilers Ahead****

Groundhog Day
“A weatherman finds himself living the same day over and over again.” - imdb

As usual, my husband had never seen or heard of this movie. He assured me that he knows Bill Murray, “from Ghostbusters.” So he was expecting a comedy. Just after the movie gets going we pause it so I can explain what Groundhog Day is...
“On February 2nd a groundhog comes out of their burrow and if it's cloudy, Spring is on the way. If they they see their shadow, there will be six more weeks of Winter. So, people go to watch the groundhog.”


Pause from my husband “...um, so....?”

“It doesn't work at all, it's just a thing. I guess it's an American thing, I never really thought about it.”
Well, I did a quick wiki and learned that America adopted this goofy tradition around 1887 which comes from a small group of German settlers.
“The largest Groundhog Day celebration is held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, with Punxsutawney Phil.” -wiki
Punxsutawney is the same city featured in the movie! I had no idea but, Punxsutawney is a real place and Phil is the name of their groundhog. They take this 'holiday' very seriously, the are essentially the world head quarters of Groundhog Day.

The movie starts off like a typical cynical comedy about a guy who is bored with his job/life/prospects. As a weatherman at his local news station, the movie opens with a sarcastic, caustic Bill Murray in front a of a green screen. He travels to Punxsutawney every year to cover the big groundhog festival. If you have seen the movie, you know – Billy Murray's goes to Punxsutawney and his character gets stuck re-living the same day (Groundhog Day) – over and over again.

I had not seen the movie in many, many years and had forgotten (or never noticed) its slow burning charm and sappy moral. Like most people, I remember the one-liners and comic take aways.

“Watch out for the first step. It's a dooooozie.”

When Murray first realizes that he is stuck in the same day and that everyone around him is oblivious he sees an opportunity to manipulate people, and himself – first he uses this power to seduce some beautiful local woman. When this gets boring he decides to have fun and live dangerously. When the fun ends, he becomes despondent, feeling trapped. He tries to commit, but when wakes up in the same day no matter what, he finally starts to better himself, he learns piano for instance. He gets to really know some of the towns people and finds ways to help them, using his power/curse for good.


While my husband liked it, then thing I noticed most while watching it with him (fresh eyes, is that it is chock full of American tropes.
Insurance salesman – check.
Car full of old ladies driving poorly in a well kept classic car – check.
Diner/breakfast (over consumption) culture – check.

While these things didn't seem weird to my husband, “it is an america movie, there are many.” he doesn't really understand where these images are coming from. The strangest thing to him seems to be seeing old people at work. There is an elderly woman working at the Inn where Bill Murray's character stays and an older woman waiting tables at the diner.

“There are not old people working here.” he said, “you won't see it that much.”

After some discussion, we are not sure exactly why this is, many factors, I'm sure. These might include, age discrimination, pension system, family dynamics as it relates to living situations and more. I'm not sure. But, since he mentioned it, it's true. I hadn't really noticed, but I don't see too many older women working, at least not outside of the home (abla, cleaner..) and a few older men here and there.


Husband: "It becomes a general comment that there are no people of color in the movie. The concept was so normal for that time, I guess."
me: "Still normal." But, also Punxsutawney is a really small town in the middle of Pennsylvania and it might be mostly white...still no reason to exclude POC from a Hollywood adaptation, but really....it's so normal.

He also found it pretty finny that this was a tradition. I asked, "Does Turkey have any sort of thing like this?"
Him: "Like with a rodent and weather?"
Me (laughing): "No, like something so random."
Him: Well, back in 2004 or so they acted out a public funeral for an actor's character. They went to a mosque and prayed for him – brought an Imam and read Koran for him. People also took out room in the news paper about how sorry they are about the loss."

Um, ok. That is pretty weird and not at all what  i expected him to say. Re-watching the movie with him made me realize that, at least for my generation, saying or referring to 'Groundhog Day' you mean the movie, not the Holiday. There are so many lingering reference to this in pop culture. For instance - what does this clock make you think of?
Talking on the phone a few years back she was at home caring for a new born. "How's it going?" I asked her,  "Oh you know me! My life is groundhog day over here. Eat. Sleep. Feed the baby."


My husband rates it a 6.8 "But some how I want to give 7..."
Side actors were pretty good, that's why i give it a 7!
SEVEN it is!


image form: http://unrealitymag.com/movies/better-than-the-original-groundhog-day/

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