Monday, May 5, 2008

Does That Make it a "Conception Album"?

So, as it turns out, English classes are mostly places where professors futilely try to hold on to whatever coolness or trendiness they have had (or think they have had) by imposing their preferences upon a captive audience. By this I mean that English teachers teach their favorite things in the hope that some one student or two will somehow validate that interest.

By this I mean I like to show clips from my favorite movies or have my students read favorite essays of mine, and if they respond favorably I feel like a million bucks. I'm constantly asking, "Yeah, but did you like it?" Of course usually they just groan or laugh at whatever I present (or worse: they stare, completely dumbfounded, and can make no response as to why I might be showing them, say, scenes from an old He-man episode1—they don't even now who He-man is!), but on the rare occasion one of them says, with a modicum of enthusiasm, "Yeah, its okay I guess," I revel in my relevance and reaffirm that the eight years between us is not so much after all.

Enough preface; on to the story:

The other day was one of my favorite classes of any semester, because I was teaching the lesson in which I've managed to sneak three of my all-time favorite clips. The first was the opening scene in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure where Bill and Ted are making a music video in the garage for their band, Wyld Stallyns. It didn't get much of a response from my students, but luckily there weren't too many blank stares either (I was of course hoping for a chorus of "I love this movie"s). The second clip was the scene from Back to the Future where Michael J. Fox is playing "Johnny B. Good" at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance.

That couldn't fail to get some mild approval, even though the movie is several years older than most of them. Then came the third clip, my absolute favorite. It's a recording of Prince and The Revolution playing "Purple Rain" at the American Music Awards in 1985. Prince is decked out in a green and blue shiny suit and a ruffled shirt—the jacket doesn't have tails so much as it just becomes a cape. His band is just as flamboyant; the keyboard player looks like Stevie Nicks in super-gypsy mode. Prince is playing his signature guitar with the big swirling arms and he struts and spins and squeals and at times looks and sounds like he's actually going to cry. Near the end of the performance he jumps off the platform he's been on and plays a crazy solo while throwing himself violently around—how he keeps his platform-booted footing is beyond me, but when he kicks over the mic stand I pretty much lose it. Hottest. Thing. Ever.

And I really want them to like it.

But of course it's a little too over the top for most of them, a little too 80s. There were chuckles and confused looks, and a couple of people couldn't stop themselves from saying, "What is this?" before they realized that not knowing might make them less cool. But then one of my students, Brendan, silenced us all when he said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, "Man, it's 'Purple Rain.' I was made to this song."

I may be relevant, and I may have been reaffirmed. But nothing can bridge the eight years between us.

1 Well, I haven't actually shown any old He-man episodes, but you get the idea.


The Hippo said...

Everything is different, but the same... things are more moderner than before... bigger, and yet smaller... it's computers... San Dimas High School football rules.

Jennifer said...

HOW did I miss this post? Egad! What kind of lesson included those clips?

Just so you know, Charlotte's best friend went to kindergarten orientation (not really orientation; that's in August; and not kindergarten information meeting; that's in July; some other meet and greet kindergarten function for the up and coming kindergarteners), and they have IPODS in their centers!! IPODS! Um, we had House Center, Block Center, Book Nook, Art Center, and that boring one with a couple of plastic slide things that I think they called Activity Center. Eight years is about to gap further and further, my brother.

And Hippo's right. Party on, dude!