There is little that can beat the instant mood booster that is elicited from listening to the Simple Minds classic hit Don’t You Forget About Me and the mental air punch that it inspires. From time to time, the radio DJ will drop this tune on a rare, sunny day (this is Ireland) and we will roll the windows down, rack up the sound and thrill in this eighties’ beat.
We will sing and hair flick, air guitar and remember the time of hair rock.
We will want to air punch.
Thank you Judd Nelson.
There are several moments in cinema and television where this musical lift is employed that I love. There are the obvious and well- the less obvious. Obviously. Today I will be focusing on a song that can make a piece of TV/ film so much better by even reference to its inclusion.
Can you think of something better to write about on a glorious Monday morning in June? Neither can I.
So let us do it.
The most obvious film moment is The Breakfast Club. There is nothing sexy about John Bender. At least, I never thought so. In fact, he is appealing because he is not a pleasant character, like so many villainous fictional characters are. With John Bender however, we learn he is a victim of circumstance and social problems. As so cleverly caricatured in The Simpsons as Nelson, he is coarse, rough and uncouth desirous of negative attention in the absence of family live. A Heathcliff of sorts. Why do we want him to get the girl? We really don’t. Yet as time progresses we change our minds. We grow used to /fond of/ sympathise with or even become empathetic to John Bender. So when he gets a shot at the girl…wow. That triumphant stride across a playing field, Daddy’s diamond earring proudly studding a grubby lobe, gifted during that apres detention kiss could only be climaxed with the air punch that has become iconic. And of course, the soundtrack that came with it. Eh, eh, eh, eh- ooooooh yea yeahhh huh. …
So it is fair to say the next two moments are a result of that moment. Intertextualisation. A text within a text. This brings me onto Easy A. I love a movie that draws on classic literature and this funny yet frightening tale of a modern day Hester (with the scandal, without the child) alluding to Nathaniel Hawthornes’s The Scarlet Letter draws on several 80’s classic films to conclude the story with a happily ever after moral. The guy arrives at the girl’s window (as she ends her confessional tell-all Webcast, this is a modern tale after all) with a boom box, speakers (aka John Cusack) but it is playing (you have guessed it) our track of the day. A serenade. Olive’s Moment.A bouyant Olive abandons her computer and tears out to the guy as they drive away into the sunset atop a ride on lawnmower. To the sound of our anthem. Air punch revival.
The next moment is from a very popular musical film and therefore all will know it. In Pitch Perfect accapella singer Beca doesn’t watch movies. I know. She is wasting her life! The Galahad of the piece (another accapella singer) manages to melt the ice queen’s heart. She sits in tissue box ravaging tears watching and listening to that final monologue in the the teen cult classic. Air punch.
It doesn’t end there.
In a show of heart, the character manages to bring this tune into an accapella group competition and as she belts out the words she catches the eye of the guy and they both air punch as Cupid meant them to. The love story is complete. Simple Minds work their magic once again. Have a musical treat!
Maybe you know the next one. Maybe you don’t. To me, it is way less obvious than the others. It is also most recent as I have only seen a few episides of the series as which is only airing here. This is no Romcom. No teen drama. No high school fable of angst and first love. No. The TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (Click here)is the antithesis of these feel good beauties as it tells the fuctional story (yes people, it is not going to happen, despite Trump being President and many real fears it will) of a trapped, bereaved woman in a hellishly dystopian future. In some ways, there are similar dark emotions underlying in The Breakfast Club or Easy A as we have depression and fear, bullying and societal pressure. However these films have enough positivity to counteract the bad and of course, end with the definitively positive Air Punch. So imagine my shock and delight when, out of nowhere, we had the happy tingling chords of Don’t You Forget About Me surprise us in the second episode (I cannot link, you will have to watch the show) as the main character revels in a moment of joy that unexpectedly arrives in her horrific world. It is powerful on so many levels. Only the audience can see her tiny smile and the light in her eyes as she demurely, eyes down and shielded by her winged cap, paces to the gate of the house to meet her shopping companion. The music is internal to her and shows us a minute image of the girl that was before the world changed. Unfortunately this is not where the story ends and there is no air punch. Yet the song has worked it magic. It is all the more potent as the the TV series is dark and disturbing. The music’s arrival was so unexpected and much more effective. No physical air punch. Yet we all know Offred is mentally doing a Judd Nelson just as we might in our car on a sunny day in June with our eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
So I have to come to the end of my moments.
There are more uses of course- American Pie. Not Another Teen Movie and so on. There will be more. There should be more. These aren’t not my favourites however. I have already enlightened you with those beauts!
Just one thing left. Listen to the tune, blast it out and Air Punch with me.
Play it Sam. Have an eighties moment of aural indulgence. Relive the moment.