The film Across the Universe accomplished something that I’ve been playing around with in my head for a long time: Create dialogue that constantly references pop music lyrics. While Across the Universe took the idea a step further and turned that dialogue into a musical format, I still love the idea and was impressed with the execution.
That said, I’m not sure that the reason for doing it in Across the Universe stems from my inspiration. Across the Universe is a complete homage to the Beatles — from the psychedelic song numbers to the ’60s themes of peace, love, and war. Even the characters names (Max[well], Jude, Lucy, Sadie, JoJo, Prudence, etc.) and events (“she climbed in through the bathroom window”) come from Beatles songs.
I am more interested in the way that popular culture (such as pop music lyrics) permeates into language and somewhat dis/replace everyday language.
I remember reading something in one of my classes that asked whether saying the phrase, “I love you truly and dearly” (or something like that) has lost its value since the phrase had been so overused and cheapened by cheesy romance novels. And further, whether when someone says that, they are saying it because that is the most accurate language to describe or whether they are saying it because they have heard it said so many times in movies/read it in books that the phrase is just expected.
So basically what I am trying to get at has to do with whether the commercialization and constant repetition present in pop culture can void language of its original meaning and/or make it seem too cheesy and disingenuous that even something that is intended to sound sincere cannot anymore.
For some story I was writing at some point (I don’t recall what year I wrote it…) I used Pixies lyrics in place of actual dialogue:
â€œHold my head,â€ he said to her. â€œWeâ€™ll trampoline.â€ Personally, I donâ€™t think that hold his head would help much, nor did I understand the trampoline thing â€“ thatâ€™s how they acted like all the time though, very random.
â€œNo, my child. That is not my desire.â€ And then she said, â€œIâ€™m digging for fire.â€
I spilled my guts for hours. â€œI came here with a load,â€ I explained. â€œI could never go on without you,â€ I stuttered. â€œYouâ€™re the one that I wanted to find,â€ I claimed.
But back to the movie — which was awesome. Great songs, great singing, amazing special effects (and done tastefully), compelling/emotional story, etc. etc. etc.
The only thing I didn’t like about it was the feeling I get whenever I watch movies about the ’60s: I get this sense of nostalgia (for a time during which I wasn’t even alive) and disappointment at the same time: “we” were so close really revolutionizing thought and culture but it didn’t quite work. In the end of Across the Universe love wins, blah blah blah but that’s about it… society didn’t change. Just like at the end of Velvet Goldmine: “We set out to change the world, but in the end we only changed ourselves.”