There Will be Parodies

milkshake-awardsIt took years for movie catchphrases like “You talkin’ to me?”, “You’re going to need a bigger boat” and “Into the mud, scum-queen” to gain common currency. (Anybody notice how many of the best-known movie catch-phrases are uttered by loner men on the edge of sanity?) So it’s striking that Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will be Blood has so quickly acquired it’s own flurry of tributes and impersonations of its big-acting highpoint “I drink your milkshake.” Daniel Plainview, the film’s oilman protagonist and Tom Selleck lookalike, has joined Travis Bickle, Frank Spencer, Steptoe & Son and [insert culturally specific reference point here] of whom everybody suddenly thinks they can knock out a spot-on approximation. The way in which that line swiftly becomes a stand-alone, transferable object demonstrates how savvy viewers can be at predicted and appropriating trends and affections before they get chance to rise up from the pack after a long gestation. It also shows how much that line sticks out from the relative restraint of Anderson’s script, suddenly bringing out a burst of weirdness from Plainview’s lips – who would have guessed that he knew what a milkshake was, or possessed the gift of metaphor? Anyway, never mind my late-night gestures at analysis. What you really want is to see the scene re-enacted by children:

Or maybe you prefer to see it mashed-up with Kelis’s Milkshake:

Or perhaps this lovely little remix of the final scene. Seriously, don’t watch this if you haven’t seen the movie:

There are plenty more, of (very!) variable quality, if you just search YouTube for “I Drink Your MIlkshake” or “There Will be Blood”. Depending on your outlook, you’ll either be delighted by the enthusiasm and creativity of the online community, or you’ll plunge straws into your own eyeballs just to avoid ever again encountering the trivial diligence of sedulous geeks. But it gave me minutes of amusement, and I wanted to do some kind of post-Christmas blog to start things off again after the seasonal stuffing I’ve given myself. I drink it up!

But there’s more. One fansite dedicated to There Will be Blood goes by the name of Idrinkyourmilkshake.com. Josh Ozersky in New York Magazine fulminates over the line’s diminution once it gained full-blown catchphrase status:

“I drink your milkshake” has such Dickensian grandeur that its miniaturization in the mouths of SportsCenter anchors, scab gag writers, bloggers, and their ilk is practically a national tragedy.

Filmdrunk tracks the origins of the “milkshake’s” uptake. You can wear it on a T-shirt. You can find a collection of related links at Mahalo. As early as March 2008, a CNet News Blog post could casually throw in the headline “Google to competitors: I drink your milkshake” without refering to the film in its text. Patrol Mag has most recently published a great summary of how the phrase caught on:

“Even before There Will Be Blood expanded its release on January 25, 2008, a hilarious montage showed up on YouTube setting clips from the movie to, you guessed it, Kelis. A month later, Saturday Night Live reported the culture’s temperature in a sketch called “Milkshakes,” with Bill Hader spinning out a deadly Day-Lewis impression while traveling the country speculating for “the perfect milkshake.” The internet, now a harbinger of tomorrow’s television, had successfully written humor into the very serious, pre-murder monologue in There Will Be Blood’s final scene—before most people had seen the movie.

There’s no proof the unexpected popularity of Daniel Plainview’s milkshake diatribe helped the movie’s numbers, but it certainly propelled the 2007 Best Picture also-ran to its status as one of the best-remembered, most-quoted films of last year’s Oscar season. And most unlikely, it helped a slow-moving three-hour epic beat out even Heath Ledger’s psychotic Joker for the movie line of this year. True, Blood would have made its impact with or without an unintentional viral marketing campaign. But for a brief season—and forever in its great milkshake line—a hard-to-watch movie brought highbrow and lowbrow together for one glorious, hilarious cultural moment. That, my friends, is an occasion worth screen-printing into our memories.”

Personally, the most surprising think about all this is that it took me so long to notice. I don’t really have my fingers on any pulses unless I’m making a lentil casserole, but I should at least have been hit by a bit of zeitgeist shrapnel at some point in the past year. It shows how out of touch I am with new movies – there are just so many old ones to catch up on! Academic film studies tends to wait for dust to settle before taking a measured analytical stance on new films. So, one of my New Year’s resolutions will be to keep up with new cinema with much greater care, not just watching the stuff but engaging with it more actively. Oh, and I also pledge to stop with my dodgy Daniel Plainview impersonations…

It seems like only a few minutes before I was wishing the readers of Spectacular Attractions a Merry Christmas, but here I am expressing my hope that you have a happy and peaceful New Year. May there be enough milkshakes for all of us.

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