Jordan Peterson and Frozen

Sometimes you get presented things on a platter.

I haven’t talked much about the Canadian psychology professor who has been recently embraced by alt-right as a champion against the forces of college liberalism. I ignored the initial fuss because it was mainly framed in terms of an academic being a bit of a dick around the same time he has a book being released. That story is essentially the scrappy-doo marketing technique writ large.

However, my interest was renewed when I learnt that Peterson’s book was a pop-psychology ‘ self-help’ book. Oh! There’s a thing there – a big thing, like a marker or a flag or a big sign with a hand on it saying ‘This way to pseudoscientific claptrap as a precursor to modern political pathology.”

Also, he doesn’t like Frozen. Now, I know, we pretty much established yesterday LOTS of people don’t like Frozen but have a look at this post at John C Wright’s blog:

Jordan Peterson on Art

The video is an interview with Peterson about stories, archetypes. Peterson claims to be influenced by Jung but basically, his arguments are almost classic John C Wright style ones that confuse tropes with archetypes and confuse archetypes with cast iron laws and judge art by the extent to which they do or don’t follow an ‘analysis’. I can see why Wright likes Peterson but Peterson’s analysis is no stronger than Wrights.

Peterson is discussing some Disney movies (don’t roll your eyes too much at the praise for Beauty and the Beast and what that means for relationships) and he gets to the Lion King:

“some of the archetypal themes in it were put in consciously and so they are not as…they’e not…they’re more propagandistic in some sense.”

He continues with this theme with the prompting of the interviewer. Essentially he is trying to cobble together the ‘message fiction’ argument of the Sad Puppies but less coherently. He wants stories to have arcs and internal logic but not want them to be contrived. The Sad Pups wouldn’t put their argument that badly as they genuinely are writers who know that they have to actually use some craft to get a story to function.

He goes on:

“Frozen was a good example. Propagandistic right from the beginning. It was the right propaganda for the time but, but [interviewer interrupts – I know my niece loves it] No one will watch it in twenty years time.Whereas they’ll be watching Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast forever.”

I don’t have a conclusion here, I’m just gathering stuff here Lemony Snicket like in a giant bundle of a shape of something and calling it evidence.

 

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51 thoughts on “Jordan Peterson and Frozen

  1. I notice that your alter ego (one of them) Mike Glyer has a way of linking to an article’s cached copy at archive.org’s Wayback [sic] Machine, which doesn’t bring any new clicks to the websites. That seems like something worth doing, as some of your readers here feel it is a matter of principle not to bring them any nice clicksies.

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    1. I do sometimes do that but I’ve mixed feelings about it – specifically that a net effect is that shittiest bits of the net then get most carefully curated. I tend to use it mainly when I believe a page may change.

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    2. I don’t see the point of that. We’re not talking such large volumes that it would affect their revenue, and it’s an extra chore to do it. Also, if someone genuinely wants to reply to them, it makes it harder for them as well.

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      1. If you really think that clicking on another link (one which is probably present at the top of the cached page) is a hardship, then I’m surprised to see you at several different websites. Is it only a hardship for other people?

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      2. I only use such services, if I worry about hordes of trolls from descending onto my blog. Which is a thing that happens on occasion and not just from the right either, though they’re the worst about it.

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  2. I haven’t seen “Frozen,” but the pups are right, in general, that that’s a big difference between a story with a message vs. a message with a story. In the short fiction venues I read, the latter is rare (just a few stories a year out of 700-800 I read and review), but they do occur. It’s certainly true that, on some level, every story carries several messages. (E.g. life is precious, love is wonderful, careful planning makes a big difference, etc.) But, for some stories, the message is so blatant that it destroys suspension of disbelief, and that’s fatal to a story.

    The worst is the “message dump,” which I use to refer to an info dump that exists so the author can deliver his/her message but doesn’t otherwise have much connection to the story. Again, they’re rare, but a few of them do get into print.

    I think where the disconnect lies is that they see a lot of material that breaks their suspension of disbelief simply because they firmly believe so many things that just aren’t true. For example, they’d probably condemn any story involving flooded cities simply because their denial of climate change is so strong that they can’t suspend disbelief for it–even though they’d have no trouble with a story where some magical effect turned the oceans into lime jello.

    They also seem to have problems with token minorities as characters, even secondary characters. I’m not sure tokens really do any good, other than making it easier to tell the characters apart, but I’ll admit I kind of like it when a story mentions that one of the character was a gay guy–even though you could change it to make him a Roman Catholic without affecting the story a bit.

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    1. I think your distinction makes sense. Animal Farm is not lessened by having both a message and at times direct parallels to historical events but it’s strength is that it works as a story with characters. The Wright/Pups/Peterson model implies that Animal Farm is a bad story because the mechanics and the intent of what Orwell is doing is fairly clear*

      Propaganda is art – it is just usually BAD art but the whole point of it is to use the emotional force of art.

      *[I say that but, good grief, the number of rightwingers who miss the implication of the pigs becoming indistinguishable from the men and can only takeaway ‘communism is bad’ exhausts me]

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      1. But of course, Animal Farm can still be enjoyed without knowing about the history of the Soviet Union. And indeed, I first encountered it as a kid and merely viewed it as a kind of sad story about animals taking over the farm. Later, when I encountered it again in approx. 11th grade and finally got all the references, I suddenly saw a whole different level.

        Meanwhile, bad message fiction only has a single level, namely the message, and doesn’t work, if you don’t understand or vehemently disagree with the message.

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    2. Pups really have trouble with suspension of disbelief, which may explain why their SFF is so terrible.

      That and the message dumps. Egads, the message dumps. Talk about message over story.

      And the horrible grammar and sentence structure.

      (I’ll come in again)

      Anyway, Greg, I love your lime jello comparison.

      And being able to tell characters apart is sufficient reason to have token black, gay, whatever people in the story. There are so many TV shows that I can’t keep straight b/c “which blonde woman am I looking at here?” So if the ambassadors are a Jones, a Mbenga, a Wong, and a Rodriguez, or one junior officer is straight, one’s gay, and one’s a woman, it does help keep track of who’s who. It’s best to have some major characters who aren’t all SWM, but I do enjoy it when the supporting cast has some diversity without stereotypes.

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      1. lurkertype: And being able to tell characters apart is sufficient reason to have token black, gay, whatever people in the story. There are so many TV shows that I can’t keep straight b/c “which blonde woman am I looking at here?” So if the ambassadors are a Jones, a Mbenga, a Wong, and a Rodriguez, or one junior officer is straight, one’s gay, and one’s a woman, it does help keep track of who’s who.

        It really pisses me off when people refer to these as “token” characters. They’re not tokens, they’re just part of the wide range of people who exist in real life. They don’t need any “reason”, upon which the plot hinges, in order to be an appropriate character in a story; they’re just realistic representations of the real world.

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      2. Yes, referring to characters as blonde woman, other blonde woman, brunette woman, old guy, other old guy, young guy and geeky guy gets old fast. And then there was the time I watched some British crime drama and was stunned by the twist that the detective’s girlfriend turned out to be the killer. And then I was even more stunned when she showed up again next episode as if nothing had happened. Turned out the girlfriend and the killer were played by nigh identical blonde actresses, so I got them mixed up.

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  3. Peterson is the worst kind of overpriveleged Richard Cranium. He’s a tenured professor, and he thinks that gives him the right to be offensive in public because he can. He also tends to lie a lot. When he was making his right-wing street cred over his imagined right to impose his own interpretation of peoples’ gender over their lived reality, he opposed the then-in-progress legislation (Bill C-16) and its failed predecessors on the grounds of “free speech”, fallaciously claiming that the legislation would make his opinions illegal.

    He needs to be returned to the obscurity he so richly deserves.

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  4. Warren Farrell should probably sue, since this guy is basically just ripping off Farrell’s books and material but doesn’t seem to speak as articulately. He also thinks that men and women have only been working together for four decades instead of millennia, which is a remarkable lack of historical knowledge. It’s possible that he was kept in a dark, mushroom growing closet and only recently let out.

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    1. That would also explain why his favourite Disney films date from the early to mid 1990s, rather than from the approx. mid 1960s, as you’d expect given his age.

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    2. ” It’s possible that he was kept in a dark, mushroom growing closet and only recently let out.”

      He’s a white male academic. Nothing else is needed to explain his massive selfish sense of entitlement.

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  5. Coincidentally, I suspect that the main reason he likes Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid better than Frozen is because he has issues with CGI animation. Which I can sympathise with, because I vastly prefer traditional cell animation to CGI animation, too.

    Initially, I also suspected that the reason he loves Beauty and the Beast or The Little Mermaid so much is because he encountered them when he was at exactly the right age for them. However, Peterson is 55, so unless he only started watching Disney films at 30 that doesn’t fit. And coincidentally, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Lion King and the other 1990s Disney films never meant as much to me as some of the earlier ones, because I had aged out of the Disney core demographic by the time they came out. Whereas I have a deep and abiding love for the generally disliked Black Cauldron, precisely because it was aimed at slightly older kids than the usual Disney fare and came out when I was exactly at the right age for it.

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  6. How the hell did someone who’s so bad at logic, arguments, etc. ever get tenure? I don’t care what his political views are; I care that he’s a terrible thinker. That muddled crap shouldn’t be inflicted on students.

    Also I think anyone who publishes a self-help book should automatically lose tenure. Pop science, okay, but self-help no.

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  7. Watching “Little Mermaid” in 20 years? Eh, maybe. It’s fairly thin on a rewatch. The movie boils down to “teen girl with daddy issues can and should go for cardboard-cutout guy at any price and everything will turn out fine”. How often do “Cinderella” or “Sleeping Beauty” get rewatched these days? The state of the art has advanced so much that those two come across as flat, empty, and short.

    As for “Beauty and the Beast” the message there is “yes girl your sexy uniqueness totally can tame the dangerous monster/bad boy and make him into a prince”. One would think any alt-righter, with the supposed focus on hard-nosed realism about what does and does not work in human sexual attraction and the consequences thereof, would have some objections to that – especially since one of the alt-right’s core demographics is white guys trying to figure girls out. (I say that with full approval, btw. Guys SHOULD understand girls. Everybody will be happier when/if they succeed.) A bad boy doesn’t stop being bad just because a pretty girl bestows herself upon him, and anybody with daughters or sisters should want to make sure they understand that.

    The idea of approving of these movies’ messages for impressionable little flowers, while objecting to Frozen’s, is absolutely counter to the avowed goals.

    These movies are popular, yes. They’re compelling stories. The reasons why they’re compelling are fairly clear – it’s fantasy fulfillment for girls, same way Conan is for boys. Indulging fantasy too far is not a good thing.

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    1. Im not sure if the fact that Disney is doing real-Life versions of Beaty and the beast and Lion King (I think) is an argument for or against what Peterson said.
      II like to think that if the originals are so strong,they might not have to do a new version? But I may be wrong.
      But I also dont think Arielle is as strong as Frozen – at least not in my household.

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      1. This trend towards life action remakes of animated Disney films just baffles me. Is there always room for another Beauty and the Beast version? Sure. There have been adaptations long before Disney and there will be long after. But a scene for scene, shot for shot remake of one particular adaptation? Dear Gods, why?

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      2. Cora, it’s not quite shot for shot, though they keep very firmly to their version of the story, and sadly close to scene for scene. They cleaned up the Beast’s backstory enough that he’s no longer 11 when the enchantment happened (Which was an error in the original.). Some of the scenes they added (the people-enchanted-into-objects are becoming more like actual objects as time passes, we learn more about Belle’s life in general, Lumiere is no longer a womanizer but attached to a specific female character) were improvements, some things (randomly changing one or two lyrics in the original songs, but not for improved poetry nor for plot necessity, making one character gay, but in an extremely stereotyped 1990s-or-earlier depiction that if anything sets representation backwards) are not.

        It wouldn’t be a classic without the original to compare to. I’m undecided on if it needed to be done. I liked just enough of the changes they rang to appreciate that it wasn’t 100% a rip-off of themselves.

        They’re still behind Robin McKinley by MILES, possibly hundreds of them, when it comes to taking the same base story they personally have already done and making it fresh and new.

        I was desperately hoping the live action Cinderella would take what is frankly one of their worst pieces of tripe, throw it out, and do the story fresh. I haven’t been brave enough to sample it and see, though; my dislike of Bibbity-Boppity-Boo is too strong.

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      3. For Cinderella adaptations, “Three Hazelnuts for Cinderella” is still the best, though not all that well known in the English speaking world due to being a Czech/East German co-production.

        As for Disney’s Cinderella, I chanced to see it fairly recently for the first time in years, when I came across it on TV. The animation is still great, but the atiitudes and particularly the music have dated badly. IMO one of the main problems with older animated Disney films is the dated music. Some of it, such as the songs from The Jungle Book, hold up, but most of the songs are dated beyond belief. And even for The Jungle Book, it’s hard to believe from the music alone that the film came out the same year as Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

        In fact, even as a kid I found the musical interludes in Disney films irritating (and I had experience with musical theatre in the form of operas and operettas) because they often were badly integrated into the movie and a lot of the songs weren’t all that great even then. “Hi-ho”, “Bare Necessities” and “I wanna be like you” were the big exceptions.

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      4. Well, tastes differ. I suppose I have a higher threshold for classic Disney songs and such, which at my age means basically “when Walt was there.” No matter! I have to ask if you’re familiar with a non-English Cinderella that doesn’t feel to me like the early 70s one. I don’t know if it’s in color or not, having seen it on a black and white TV around 1971, but it’s full of elements that are usually glossed over in the adaptations I see over here.

        For one thing, there are pigeons (or maybe doves) who ritually call out

        “Coo-kit-y coo!
        There’s blood on the shoe!
        This is not the girl for you.”

        when the stepsisters attempt to jam their self-mutilated feet into the small, inflexible slipper. There are evil puddingheads (like Laurel and Hardy gone bad) who work for the wicked stepmother. There’s some retribution at the end, though it falls short of the Barrel O’ Nails I remember from Ashputtel. The puddingheads are scorned and mocked in public, and forced to eat sausages! “Ho ho! Look at those puddingheads, I tell you! Eat those sausages, you puddingheads! Eat them!”

        Since even before 2000, when Disney had adequately proved how willing they were to re-cut their own ‘classics’ in order to be more socially acceptable, I’ve wanted them to change the last scene of CINDERELLA so that the Chamberlain now turns to the disappointed step-relatives and says, “So you see, Mrs. Mumblemumble, that beautiful girl at the ball was Cinderella, all along!”

        And then the three of them turn to the camera with an eloquent shrug. “Ehh!!” says Stepmother in tones reminiscent of a comedic radio supporting character, “NOW he tells us!” And she pulls out an outsized pistol and points it at her head as they’re all in a line like that, and shoots it loudly, and they all flop violently over backwards with their feet in the air. The kettle drum plays a big ba-whump and they sit up and look out at us, apparently none the worse for wear, but sadder somehow, and the picture irises out with a brass fanfare like they used at Warner Brothers.

        THE END!

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      1. If that was intended for me, the 1973 movie is out of the question. Even if I’d seen it as late as 1974, there’s no way KLZ would have had a movie that new on their 3 to 5 Movie (with host Starr Yelland and “Dialing for Dollars”). I keep looking online for it. Once I thought I’d found it, but the one I turned up was too recent and too slick.

        The one I’m thinking of could well be in color. In my imagination, it’s in a 40s-50s looking saturated color palette, but I’m near certain I saw it on a black and white set, so… well done, imagination.

        (One of my sisters replied to the TV set: “Coo-kit-y coo, there’s blood on her head. / This girl is dead!”)

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      2. Hmm. It doesn’t seem like it to me. Seems more recent and contemporary, so maybe I am looking for something from the 40s. It seemed very Eastern European, even dubbed in English.

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      3. Wooo! On examination, I don’t think this is it… but who cares! This is great! I love Soviet children’s fantasies. The library in our town in Massachusetts had a section of Russian-language videos (for some reason, we had a large Russian population, which also resulted in there being a nifty Russian grocery store that sold weird candies). I have a small but robust collection of movies like JACK FROST, KINGDOM OF CROOKED MIRRORS, and others whose names are playing hard to get. (Mexican children’s fantasies are amazing too.)

        It’s not that I’m not still looking for the one I saw on TV, of course, but sometimes I wonder if my sisters and I didn’t hallucinate the whole thing. Thanks for this!

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      4. Always happy to be of service. Eastern Europe has a great tradition of beautiful fairytale movies and TV shows. They also had great children’s books, many of which were based on fairy and folk tales. I had an East German aunt who regularly sent me books for my birthday and Christmas. My favourite, which seems to have vanished into the ether, unless I want to climb up to my parents’ attic, was an illustrated children’s book, a Red Riding Hood variation, about a girl in red who ventured into a frozen forrest and meets a dark bearded man there.

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      5. @Kip: Starr and Dialing For Dollars! Hadn’t thought of that in ages.

        And no way would even a foreign kids’ movie have been on a mere year later. I don’t think they were allowed to show anything less than 20 years old in that slot, and I don’t think you missed much not having a color TV then — we’d had one since the mid-60s but I remember most of those being B&W movies unless they’d been big-budget MGM musicals.

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      6. There was at least one exception to the generally reliable 20 years tendency, though. One day, Starr was a little bemused as he introduced the movie (I must paraphrase of necessity here): “This has never happened before, but we showed this movie a couple of months back, and we had so many requests for it, we’re showing it again today.” My sister and I, still living at home at this point (we’ll call it maybe 1971 or 1972) were intrigued, and we settled in to watch. At first, we were in our proto-MST3K mode, mocking it, but after a while, we just watched in some amazement. It was LEMONADE JOE (aka LIMONADOVY JOE), a 1964 Czech western musical spoof, cut somewhat and dubbed into English, which fairly crackled with originality and innovation. “Lemonade” was not a perfect translation, as limonadovy referred to soft drinks in general, and the beverage that the upright hero Joe was peddling at every chance was Kola Loka, so presumably a carbonated cola favored by imperialists everywhere.

        The jokes were many, and often accomplished by a camera trick. Once, Joe leans out over a cliff to listen to bad guys below, then leans twice as far out, in obvious defiance of what we humans call gravity. Another time, the villainous Hogofogo is in conversation with a sombre Doug Badman, who muses on how tired he is of killing, killing. As Badman looks off, the sleepy-eyed snake Hogofogo quietly opens a poison ring, and drops some powder into Doug’s drink. Still watching Badman, Hogofogo then swishes the drink briefly, downs it, and burps. In a memorable moment of multiple murder, one character stabs another with a corkscrew, which he has to turn several times.

        I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I read the movie listings in TV guides every week for years, hoping someone would show this movie again (the other movie I did this with was WESTWARD THE WOMEN). The movie eventually turned up on a VHS tape at the library back in Fort Collins. A friend of mine who had been in Denver for the first (or second) showing had been watching for it as well, unbeknownst to me, and was excited to tell me about it. I found the subtitled transfer in a catalog and ordered it. When it showed up, the tape was broken inside, so I had to return it and get a new copy. The wait was unbearable!

        I’ve since seen other things as a result of the movie. I learned that Joe can be seen playing Don Giovanni in the Director’s Cut of AMADEUS. The song Joe sings,

        So far to you I may
        For tonight, me to say
        Mucha chica me cara tovali-iiiii
        On my way, so gay…

        is also in a 1939 puppet animation by Jiri Trnka (who went on to team with Gene Dietsch in the late 50s Tom and Jerry cartoons). Oldrich Lipsky, whose evil villain is naturally the most memorable character, is in some other movies that can be seen at YouTube, and I was just now thunderstruck to find that his superb rendition of “Mackie Messer,” aka Mack the Knife, is no longer at YouTube. As I commented there, “Please, lord, let me be one quarter as cool as this man.” He is in a version of HAPPY END that may be gone now as well. The innocent blond heroine was on the cover of PLAYBOY one time.

        The tape was good to find. There were scenes we never saw on KLZ, edging slightly toward the risque, or maybe just making it too long for the commercial demands of the time slot. I eventually managed to find the whole movie in wide screen (which even the letterboxed VHS was only presenting one side of). It has also vanished. In the course of my combing the web for it, though, I’ve seen plenty of evidence that the movie is a cult his in its native land, with high schools and colleges mounting stage productions with some frequency, and even making parodies and allusions in the course of Czech political life.

        If you EVER, EVER have a chance to see this movie, cancel whatever things in your life might keep you from it. It’s golden.

        (Speaking of Denver movie hosts, I was remembering the other day that KWGN’s Tom Shannon was hosting “Afternoon at the Movies” once, and his German Shepherd was in the studio for some reason. At one point, Tom was talking along, and suddenly stopped. There may have been laughter behind the camera, which promptly pulled back to include the dog, panting happily on the floor with what may have been pride or simple nonchalance, and Tom looked at his pet in disbelief. “What do they FEED you?” He asked it.)

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      7. Good news, everyone! I was wrong on the name. It was Milos Kopecky (plus diacriticals) who played Hogofogo, and who here performs Mackie Messer better than anyone, ever. My favorite moment is right around 2:25 when the camera comes in on him and he’s too cool to even bother lip-synching. In LIMONADOVY JOE he has a totally irrelevant number (which may have been cut from the version we first saw) where he’s posing as a blind piano tuner (which he exploits for a couple of handfuls of the heroine: so evil) and does a big New Orleans Blues number. But it’s Mackie Messer I’m presenting now:

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      8. Correction (two comments back). I just found my comment on YouTube from five years ago, and I was asking to be one half as cool as Milos Kopecky. I guess my aspirations were a lot higher then. Twice as high, in fact!

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      9. @Kip: My brother and I caught the second run after the excitement of the first one. It was indeed all that. Even Mom wandered into the rec room from the kitchen to watch the weirdness. I don’t think I ever saw the full version.

        I think the dog bit was recorded and was replayed in “best of” for some years.

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      10. I’ve tried suggesting LEMONADE JOE to Turner Classic Movies, and MOVIE MOVIE (which really, it’s THEIR kind of movie!). I’ve never had a response from them.

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      11. Yes! I saw it in the theater when my friend (same one who found LEMONADE JOE, come to think) and I were going to see Mr. McFeely at the Denver Zoo, and it was so crowded we went and watched a movie movie instead. I think at the Century 21, but could be conflating that with MAROONED somehow. When I got a VCR, I happily caught a showing of it that was somewhat cut up, but I got a second chance at it when WGN (which usually cut the hell out of their movies to cram in more ads) showed it, and without a single cut. When they came back from the commercial, there’d be like a second of overlap.

        I’ve watched that so many times! And I was able to rip it and put it on my computer. I even had it on my iPod. It’s one of the movies I always have handy, like J-MEN FOREVER and FORBIDDEN ZONE and LEMONADE JOE and THE WIZARD OF OZ. It’s never been available on video, as far as I know, and when Showtime put it on, they showed the black and white part in color (it was shot on color film with the knowledge that it would be printed in black and white, so the lighting doesn’t look right in color… oh, but “Color’s always better”). I’ve even found a script for it, some steps away from the final version.

        Another friend of mine is big into the movie, and lives in California, and he has been looking through archives of Larry Gelbart’s papers, and has seen a draft of a script for a sequel that was never made. It seems unjust: it’s just about the best pastiche movie I’ve ever seen, hilarious without ever turning to the camera and cracking a smile or otherwise blowing the gaff. (Which reminds me of “The Albert Brooks Radio Show” from “1945” that’s on his A Star Is Bought LP, and which manages the same trick, except that it’s funnier than most 40s radio comedies.)

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