Thursday, April 29, 2004

Big Fish 

Forty or so years ago one of my German teachers at Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama remarked that he thought Southerners should speak a different language. He was a tall, lanky yankee, puzzled by Southern culture, and he was right. Without a foreign tongue to alert you, you are likely to be disoriented when you hear Southernspeak, the language of this delightful movie about a genuine southern phenomenon.

Southernspeak is a language in which you joke without announcing, as my little brother invariably did when he was knee-high to a grasshopper, "This is a joke." "This is a joke," was his way of coping with a culture in which his older cousins described their visits to doctors who gave shots with foot long hypodermic needles and in which he was not always sure how to interpret what he heard.

My little brother coped with his, "this is a joke." The son of the protagonist of this movie apparently coped by moving away from the south and waiting for his father to see the light and turn into a Yankee. Hmmm....

Now, Yankees do have their own versions of Big Fish tales - take Paul Bunyan, for instance. Of course, when you hear the name Paul Bunyan you have been forewarned - you know it just ain't so. In Southernspeak none of those kinds of cues are slipped in to do the job for you; it expects you to be able to puzzle it out for yourself.

Hope that is helpful. I loved this movie because the young father looked and dressed like Uncle Kink's sons and told tales like Uncle French and Aunt Jeanetta's boys. It took me a while to get over the Yankee mindset the popular culture has endowed me with and just enjoy it. And did I!

If you decide to see Big Fish, I suggest relaxing and letting it flow over you. And don't forget to employ your intelligence. It'll help.


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