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Pop

Paul Luikart

Highlights of entries to the Hubble Pop Culture competition. When I was a kid, I loved the movie Krull. My buddy Phil and I used to watch it at his house because he taped it off HBO. If you don’t know Krull, it’s an early 80’s sci-fantasy movie. The planet Krull is invaded by these evil aliens. There’s a big quest involving the main guy who has a weapon called the Glaive, which is this magical spinning blade that basically has a mind of its own. But it’s loyal to the main guy. Like, he can recall it to his hand after he throws it. It looks like a beautiful, golden ninja star but functions like a deadly, sentient boomerang. Anyway, the aliens kidnap the main guy's girl and he has to go save her and save the planet too. There is a cyclops and some wizards and quicksand and needless to say, as soon as we got Netflix, I made my wife watch Krull with me. But when it was over I thought, “What a piece of s***."

Krull didn't age well. I'm thankful that Hollywood hasn't rebooted it. God knows when that will happen, but it probably will. It'll be hipper, sleeker, sexier, and louder, but it will still suck. Some other absolutely unnecessary contributions to American pop culture that have been said and done (we assumed) in decades past but—flash forward to now—here they are again for some reason: A Jem movie (yep, that's comin'.) The reformation of New Kids on the Block (They hadn't been mercilessly ridiculed enough the first go-round?) Dancing with the Stars (an orgy, after-all, of has-beens whom we started tuning in to see because, "Oh, THAT'S what Urkel looks like now!")

We Americans must like to eat ourselves. We must like the taste of our own blood on our tongues. We must like the feel of our own skin wedged between our teeth. We must like the smell of our own muscle roasting in the oven. But we're plastic. Parts of us are indigestible. So we regurgitate them and cook them again, hoping for a more nuanced flavor (at least a palatability that wasn't there the first time) but not finding it once again, we choke them up, this time more desperately. We eat ourselves again and we gag on the rotten taste. But we eat ourselves like there is no other food. We're starving for ourselves.

Nostalgia is okay. It's okay for me to go into my parent's basement every now and then and look at my Star Wars toys. It's okay (mostly) that sometimes I watch clips of He-Man on YouTube. Once I even Wikipedia-ed the Go-Bots. But American pop culture is way beyond nostalgia and, truthfully, has been for a long time. I have no empirical evidence for what I'm about to say (call it a hunch), but I'm certain we cannibalize our pop culture past because we can't face our present reality. American collective sins, the indigestible parts of us—and I mean as far back as slavery all the way up to the way we worship billionaires now—are profoundly wicked. We know it. But we're still too proud to say, as one nation under God, "Forgive us."

Look, if a friend of mine called me up and said, "Come over and let's watch Krull," I'd say, "Cool, I'll bring the beer." Because, honestly, you'd need a lot of beer to make it through. We'd laugh and shout, "Oh yeah, THIS PART!" from time to time and maybe make up a drinking game where we drink every time there are terrible special effects (and we'd be passed out in fifteen minutes.) But also because I myself am an American. I'd rather chew my own bones than honestly face the ways I've done wrong.