Old Lady Movie Night: 10 Life Lessons I Learned From ‘Space Jam’
Why pretend we didn’t pine for that 1996 Space Jam soundtrack and then suffer broken hearts when we weren’t allowed to have it because we had no disposable income and our parents didn’t know what Space Jam was? Why act like our French teacher didn’t put Space Jam on in class during one afternoon because she didn’t feel like teaching us? (She said there was a French lesson in there somewhere, but also #Canada and also #The90s, so honestly . . . who even knows.)
See, what I’m saying is that Space Jam dictated a huge portion of our lives. I may have tried to dress like Bugs Bunny because of it. I may have convinced myself I could even play basketball. But more importantly, I believed I could fly. So Michael Jordan, if you’re reading this, let’s play some basketball.
Here are some life lessons.
1. “I Believe I Can Fly” is a weird graduation song
FYI. And I say this because it was my 8th grade graduation song, and I SANG A SOLO IN FRONT OF HUNDREDS OF HUMAN BEINGS. That’s right: this very song was divided into four parts, and then the class joined in as our backup. (Which I’m sure they really just enjoyed and cherished.) So yes, no big deal but I got the part because I sang a LeAnn Rimes song which was actually more of a LeAnn Rimes impression because I can’t sing like LeAnn Rimes at all. But hey, it was 1998 and we were graduating, and I was convinced I could seduce the boys I liked with the sound of my voice. Because that’s how things work. That’s what this movie is about, right?
2. No athlete aside from Michael Jordan would quit their sport to do another sport because that is INSANE
None. Like, I can support The Cutting Edge because Doug Dorsey didn’t have a choice after he was injured in hockey and lost part of his sight. But WHY WOULD YOU QUIT BASKETBALL TO BE A BASEBALL PLAYER. Who would do that?! Imagine Miami Heat just announcing their intention to play in the World Cup because their dads did it? My Dad drives a delivery truck. Should I drive a delivery truck? Because I’ll tell you what: I have horrible road rage, and I would absolutely get the company sued for the notes I would leave on people’s cars. Also, I’m a writer. And you can’t write when driving a delivery truck. (Unless you want to be pulled over.)
Anyway, the lesson here is that this movie is pretend. Like, we know Space Jam is pretend, but HOW pretend? Very. In this case, very, very pretend. So pretend that no one bothered to stand up in the theatre and say “NO! NO WAY!” when Michael Jordan announced he was going to play baseball because we had to suspend our beliefs that much. And then we had to remember: oh my lord, this actually happened. Differently, but it happened. (And then you are forever changed.)
3. Moron Mountain is named “Moron Mountain” for a reason
We may not have picked up on this as kids, but wow: Mister Swackhammer wants to kidnap the Looney Toons because he thinks keeping them as attractions will make his park—Moron Mountain—succeed. You read that right: he thinks that kidnapping actual living specimens who are FAMOUS will make his park better, and not shut down for, well, KIDNAPPING. Like, look. I get it. This bit is a take on capturing whales and the like, which is horrible and disgusting, duh. But these are ‘toons. These are LOONEY TOONS. They are as old as our parents and they are recognizable everywhere in the world. This would be like plucking Leonardo DiCaprio from his warm bed and making him hang out with me so people would think I was cool. Only worse, because Moron Mountain is an aptly-named amusement park with a moron for a CEO. Second question: was the amusement park named after him?
4. Never use a sport to determine who will and will not succeed in life
I thought this was common sense, but I guess not because as soon as the stakes are high and somebody’s freedom (their FREEDOM!) is on the line, a good idea would be to NOT to have it rely on a game. A basketball game. Like, not even chess. Not even something where they can be judged on a routine. Not even ice dancing — seriously, ice dancing is the most corrupt of all sports in the world and it would’ve made more sense. Maybe hockey. Baseball, since that’s what Michael played. King’s court. Rock paper scissors. Pogs. Slots. That game where you fold paper to predict the future. Those would all be terrible — but not as bad as basketball.
5. “Hit ‘Em High” is one of the best movie songs ever written
I’ll say this for the Monstars: their entrance song is AMAZING. It is AMAZING. Redman and Method Man know what is up, and they are into it, and their song is exactly what you want to hear when walking into any sports facility or building in general. I want it to follow me everywhere I go. I want it to play right now. I want to walk down the aisle to it, and I want it played at my funeral. I want it to play when I’m in the middle of a meeting, and I want to hear it when I’m considering what movie to see later tonight. This song means something to me, and it should mean something to all of us. It is, by definition, a jam.
6. If Lola Bunny hadn’t been added to the Toons’ team, we would’ve had a problem
I grew up believing Bugs Bunny was for all of us (because he is—and also the show was very political once upon a time), but in 1996, I wanted to know a girl had a place on the Looney Toons team because *I* am a girl and I like to be represented. Is that so wrong? (No, that was a trick question. Of course it’s not wrong.) Enter Lola Bunny, who Bugs has a crush on because of course he does. Which actually creates a whole other problem.
7. Though in my later years I’ve realized: there’s a major Lola Bunny issue
Now, I will say this: as welcome as Lola is, I think we can all agree that it would’ve been even better if she was more on the Gloria-from-Richie-Rich side of things—aka wasn’t going to put up with anybody’s crap. Also, why did Bugs have to like her? Did there HAVE to be a love story? This is Space Jam, people! This is a world in which Michael Jordan was pursuing baseball. Meaning it’s a world where you can make anything possible. In this case, Lola’s shorts are shorter and she’s wearing a crop top, and if that’s what Lola wants, cool. But Lola is a cartoon rabbit, and all the other cartoons are wearing actual basketball clothes. Why is Lola not dressed in basketball clothes?
Also, why does she have to like Bugs? I mean, great, he saved her from a monster—but what did she expect? That he wouldn’t? That if she had been any other player on their team he would’ve let fate dictate the outcome? Lola Bunny is an accomplished basketball player—she doesn’t need to be saved! And if she does, she doesn’t need to date the guy who saves her! Space Jam, WHY. You created a problem with Lola Bunny. You made us wee girls think plain old basketballs and aliens weren’t for us—we needed to get princess’d up in here.
8. Bugs’ “special drink” really illuminated who the real cheaters were
Because even though he offered only a placebo—giving his team a “special drink” that was supposed to enhance their gaming action—he totally exposed those willing to cheat. Like, no one said “No, Bugs, I will not drink your cheater’s drink.” They ALL said “Sure.” It’s like the Veronica Mars episode with the prison experiment. Why did no one address the cheating? Did they not fear testing? Here’s the biggest lesson of all: never ever drink anything called a “special drink.” Space Jam is the only example of that ending well. It will never end well.
9. If your ’90s movie didn’t have Wayne Knight, it was a disaster
And I say this thinking of Space Jam and For Richer Or Poorer and Jurassic Park, but for the record, it’s true. Wayne Knight is essential to playing either the friend or the foe. Can you imagine anyone else playing Stan and helping Michael Jordan? Of course not. Wayne Knight is important, and when we make our ’90s round-ups (whether on the Internet or in our hearts), we need to remember that.
10. Bill Murray’s cameo made Space Jam
It made it. It made it not even in a “look, it’s Bill Murray!” sense of the word, but he BROKE THE FOURTH WALL. That’s major. That’s a rare, precious thing. He made us feel like we were a part of the movie, he Frank Underwood’d before Frank Underwood was even a man. And then, after letting us in on the ‘Jam, he made the team’s win possible. Why? Because Bill Murray is an important person, and this cameo kickstarted a legacy that is bigger than all of us.
If Bill Murray wasn’t in Space Jam, it’d be just another movie we’d all seen and hadn’t truly let in. But he was, and we did. And now we recognize that Space Jam has taught us things. Particularly that if somebody saves your life, you don’t have to hook up with him. (If you can read this, Lola Rabbit: he would’ve saved you anyway.)