By Geo Ong
With the caliber of film and television decreasing at a steady rate (due not to a lack of talent, but to those industries being driven by money), what will the intellectuals of tomorrow have to dissect and discuss? Perhaps Langford Strong, who would’ve been a great writer but never was, is too ahead of his time, waiting for the world to catch up.
[Langford Strong is a self-published pop-cultural theorist. The first volume of The Sublime-Banal Papers was first published in 1973, titled 'The Transmigration Through Time in Funny Face', a groundbreaking critical analysis of the 1957 Hepburn-Astaire musical. Strong brought to light his belief that the two lead characters - beautiful, young Jo Stockton and aging, impish Dick Avery - were actually two points on a single person's timeline, somehow caught in the accidental overlapping of the time-space continuum, something screenwriter Leonard Gershe either failed to or chose not to explain. Instead, Strong does:
Avery's obsessive pursuit of the young Stockton comes off as inappropriate and predatory, but viewing this as a romantic objective is incorrect. Avery's pursuit is not of young flesh but of youth itself, his own youth... It is no wonder that Stockton and Avery get on so well, because they are in fact the same person... The alleged 'miscasting' of the two leads due to their age difference is completely intentional...
Since then, Strong has written a new essay every four years, notably 'Fonzie's Perpetual Happy Days: More in Common with Beckett Than Just the Title', 'Eternal Grief: Charlie Brown and the Age of Depression', and 'The Inferiority of Humans to Animals in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
Due to my being in charge of self-published authors and titles at the bookshoppe, Strong introduced himself and his collection. I had never heard of him. Generously he offered his latest volume to the Urchin Movement. He hopes you enjoy it. Frankly, so do I. -Geo]
Love+Hate, Death+Life, and Other Important Family Matters
by Langford Strong
The most powerful hatred that exists is the hatred of the self. It is the only hatred that, when killed by whomever holds such hatred, the murderer is simultaneously killed. It is a murderous act that results not just in murder but suicide as well, and, if carried out, there is usually nothing left.
I emphasise ‘usually’ with a purpose. That purpose is to bring to everyone’s attention the popular 1990s American television show Family Matters. It is throughout the run of this series that the hatred of the self is illustrated: initially denied and suppressed, only to culminate into a megalomaniacal obsession to self-murder. What makes this self-murder not a suicide is the science-as-God actions of main character Steve Urkel.
A teenage male such as Urkel, possessor of a body as scrawny as a brittle star but with the headstrong, arrogant confidence of a man hung like a horse dating a busty actress who was into that sort of thing… That pairing of juxtaposed weakness and strength in the pop culture American eye can only be found in the mind of a truly disturbed and delusional individual, drunk on power, with terrible plans to alter the way in which the world around him works.
After years of charading his confidence but producing little to no results in the pursuit of his object of desire, Laura, Urkel finally expresses overtly his self-hatred with the introduction of his greatest invention, the Transformation Chamber, a metaphysical metamorphosis machine that transformed his very identity, everything that makes Steven Urkel who he is, from the thick-framed glases to the scoliosis of his spine, to someone else entirely, a man by the name of Stefan Urquelle.
Suave, smooth, dressed in an impeccable designer suit with picture-perfect posture, his voice low and calming like a flowing river of pure sex, he comes out of the machine not as an improved man but a new man, a different man, possessing what seems like a mere, vague remembrance of his old self, as if remembering an old friend from primary school, one that you appreciated but couldn’t care less that you may not see that person ever again.
Up until the Disney World episode, Urkel/Urquelle had transformed back and forth periodically, like a newly-hooked drug addict who still won’t admit that he/she has developed a serious dependence. It is when Urkel enters his Transformation Chamber into an inventor’s competition in Disney World, Orlando, that the first conscious thought of completely eradicating his old self comes to the forefront of possibility.
Laura, like the scheming Lady MacBeth, goads Urquelle into staying Urquelle for almost the entire week at Disney World. And he does. The two of them carry out a magical, romantic six-day love affair. We the viewers, much like the two characters, get wrapped up in the fantasy, forgetting what is really happening, until Laura, at the height of her happiness, finally feels a painful pang of guilt, looking around her beautiful surroundings – also constructed and made to seem real – saying to Urquelle, ‘You know, Steve would have loved to see all this’.
It is at that point that we all – the two fictional characters included – realise that while Urkel is scientifically present in body, he is not there in mind nor soul. In fact, we remember for perhaps the first time in a long time that Urkel’s purpose in the machine was to get Laura to fall in love with him. Ironically, Laura instead has fallen in love with Urquelle, who has by now become his own person. To Urquelle, Steve was never a part of him. For all he knew, Steve Urkel had been dead for almost a week.