The nerd in me wants to point out that while this is specifically about the movie High Fidelity I have ALSO read the book it’s based on, as I’m a fairly dedicated Nick Hornby fan. Done.
Anyway, High Fidelity, probably appropriately, was a movie I came into by way of its soundtrack (which, to quote Barry “kicks f*#$ing a$$”). In high school, I was involved in the theater department, often in the capacity of a stage manager – because I am organized and love a good binder (and/or power trip). So there’d be times when we were cleaning the stage or building the set or whatever and would have music playing in the background. Mostly our director would pick the music and I remember mostly listening to a lot of U2, the Clueless soundtrack and the High Fidelity soundtrack. Which is really not a bad position to be in from my standpoint.
Then one of my friends freshman year of college was dealing with a long distance girlfriend/break-up situation (isn’t that what everyone was doing for the first month of college?) and mentioned that he had been watching High Fidelity a lot because it was “their movie.” I remember thinking that was a really strange movie to share with a significant other but would watch it with him occasionally and then by myself until later it actually became MY movie with my college boyfriend-turned-husband, and now the joke’s on me because we quote this movie almost every week and it’s definitely a big part of our lives.
I actually used the opening lines of this movie to open a paper of mine in college (the paper was on Aimee Mann’s music, awesomely).
“What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”
Anyway, in true Rob Gordon fashion, here are my desert island, all-time top 5 ways High Fidelity ruined my life:
1. Makes You Side With and Sort of Like a Dude Who Is, In Fact, A Jerk
One of my biggest issues with the recent Girls backlash was the people who said they didn’t LIKE the characters and didn’t think the characters were good people. And I’m sitting here wondering, “WHO CARES if a character is a good person?” I mean, since when do I need every character to be someone I respect or even like?
And the biggest example of this for me is High Fidelity. Rob Gordon, simply put, is a jerk. I mean, he does everything wrong. He’s immature, he can’t handle anything, he’s obsessive.
He goes back to re-visit past relationships and basically concludes with (almost) every one that he has nothing to worry about; that he’s normal and fine and well adjusted and that they’re at fault.
He even has this to say about poor Penny Hardwick:
Rob: Sometimes I got so bored of trying to touch her breast that I would try to touch her between her legs. It was like trying to borrow a dollar, getting turned down, and asking for 50 grand instead.
But does that mean I enjoy watching him make his mistakes any less? Nope!
2. “It’s What You Like, Not What You ARE Like” is My Life Motto
Rob: I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like… Books, records, films – these things matter.
I mean, if there’s one thing I really latched onto in my actual relationships it’s the idea that it doesn’t matter what you ARE like but what you like (to do, to read, to watch, to listen to) when finding a partner in life.
When I think of the reasons, really, that I’m friends with people it’s either, we worked together (when you work in TV production that’s a bond like being in the trenches), or we went to some kind of school together and remained friends because of pop culture.
I’ve even found myself re-connecting with friends from long ago just because we like the same TV show, book, movie, whatever (twitter and Facebook are obviously very helpful for this as well).
Basically, if we like the same things, we can probably find enough common ground to be friends. Or, at least, chat in Friends quotes for a few hours.
3. Obsessed With The Making (And Receiving) of a Good Mix
Rob: The making of a great compilation tape, like breaking up, is hard to do and takes ages longer than it might seem. You gotta kick off with a killer, to grab attention. Then you got to take it up a notch, but you don’t wanna blow your wad, so then you got to cool it off a notch. There are a lot of rules.
Those are the beginning of the last lines of High Fidelity. Since we started dating junior year of college, my husband has been giving me mix CDs. (Do we say mixed CDs or mix CDs? I guess mix? I dunno.) His mixes have great titles like Pretentious Music Volume 1, Anti-Elitist Pop Gold and Love Songs That Don’t Suck. There was even a mix as part of his proposal called, appropriately, Marry Me. We make mixes for road trips based on where we’re traveling, I make a summer mix every year as a result of my BFF’s own annual Summer Jamfest. I mean, we LIVE for a good mix CD.
And it’s all because of Rob Gordon. We haven’t advanced with the times yet, though. We still burn them on the CDs, or at least still keep them to about the length of a CD. You know, for authenticity.
4. Allows Me To Believe My Stupid Pop Culture-Related Arguments Are Worthy Of Anyone’s Time
They get into SO many pop culture (mostly music-related) arguments in this movie and it’s amazing. Yes, they’re annoying and snobbish and everything, but I can relate.
I’ve gotten into HEATED arguments with people for not liking a director/actor/musician I liked. Of course these arguments don’t go anywhere. It’s just people stating their preferences which they should be allowed to state but I just can’t deal sometimes, okay?
But they have arguments over song titles in this movie, over what music is good, over what is “sad bastard music”, over whether or not one of Lisa Bonet’s songs contains a definite article in the title – over everything! I love trivia so I can definitely get on board with those picky little specifics (don’t even start me on quoting 30 Rock) and I feel like I saw this movie and felt, “Ah! Finally! Validation!”
But maybe that’s not the right take away from all this…
5. Made Me Solely Think in Lists of Five
This is (obviously) a pretty big one. Especially here. They make so many top 5 lists in this movie and then Rob names his record label Top 5 Records. They THINK in lists of 5.
When I started writing this column there was never a question about the formatting. It was going to be a list of 5 because that is how my brain thinks about pop culture.
Barry: Top 5 songs about death. A Laura’s Dad tribute list, okay? Okay. “Leader of the Pack”. The guy BLEEPING beefs it on his motorcycle and dies, right? Dead Man’s Curve. Jan & Dean.
Dick: Do you know that right after they recorded that song Jan himself crashed his car…
Barry: It was Dean you BLEEPING idiot…
Rob: It was Jan. It was a long time after the song.
Barry: Okay, whatever. “Tell Laura I Love Her”. That would bring the house down – Laura’s Mom could sing it. You know what I’d want? “One Step Beyond” by Madness. And, uh, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.
Dick: No. Immediate disqualification because of its involvement with “The Big Chill”.
Barry: Oh God. You’re right!
Dick: “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” – Gordon Lightfoot.
Barry: You bastard! That’s so good – that should have been mine… The night Laura’s daddy died. Sha na na na na na na na na! Brother what a night it really was. Mother, what a night it really… angina’s tough!
Basically, Rob Gordon gave me this column. So, thanks, dude.
Guys, I didn’t even get to discuss how awesome Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Jack Black, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sara Gilbert are in this movie. Or anything like that!