Written by: Mich Medvedoff
Before we wore clothes, before we drank milk, before we shaved… we told stories. And the same stories continue to circulate and confront us.
Like a cinematic Tootsie Roll pop, there is sometimes a hidden story inside the very movie you are watching.
Before the Big A., Paul Reuben envisioned a spin on the 1960 film “Pollyanna” where Pee-wee would play the role of the optimistic orphan. Sounds amazing, right? Well, Reuben changed his mind and traded braids for bikes, which is why we’re cinematically digesting “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” and not “Pollyanna” today.
WHAT HAPPENS: What’s better than women? Better than dogs? Bicycles, of course! Man-boy loves his bike. Thief steals bike. Psychic gives bad advice. Man travels to the ends of the earth to find bike. It’s Man versus the World in this touching romp.
So… where’s the Hidden Story, people?
Men on bikes. Thieves steal bikes. Men steal bicycles back, becoming thieves themselves.
What does that spell?
Dig through three decades of filmography… “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” is Italian classic, “Bicycle Thieves” reincarnate.
SIMILARITIES: Class warfare. Desperate father Antonio Ricci needs to put food on the table for his wife and son in Italy post-WWII. For Pee-wee, post 1984 is tough – compared to spoiled Man-brat/thief next door, Mr. Herman represents the working man. Man’s got responsibilities: a rubber band ball collection to maintain and dog, “Speck,” has a reckless appetite for the expensive Mr. T cereal. These two family men just want to keep their shit together during the most trying of circumstances. But when their shiny spokes of survival are stolen, not even psychics can point them in the right direction. “Pee-wee’s” Herman and “Bicycle Thieves” Antonio hit the road searching for answers – a cross-country trip or the gutters in Rome, it’s all the same. It’s the Individual vs. the Many in this sad, depraved world.
UNIVERSALITY: The one trait that is unique among humans? Love of material goods. Our ancestors saw status in chipmunk pelts and shrunken heads (seriously, they loved those heads). As much as Pee-wee and Antonio loved their bikes… and almost as much as you love your iPad mini. Be honest, do you love your iPhone more than your firstborn? Yesss, you do. It’s okay, we don’t judge here. And if that shit is stolen, you would feel so violated – and scour the Earth searching for answers too. Normal.
MESSAGE: Stories are social mirrors. Their purpose is to broadcast messages we can’t admit to ourselves. So why does this narrative recur in our stories?
For one, bikes are easily ripped-off. And two: when things look like they can’t be any worse; that’s when Life kicks you the hardest. The one thing you can’t bare to lose, life snatches it back and says, “naananaanana-naaaa.” Without his bike, Antonio couldn’t work the lucrative job of posting film billboards. And Pee-Wee, well, he wouldn’t be Pee-wee without his bike, now would he.
Pee Wee had Dottie who found him attractive (?) and Antonio had loyal son, Bruno who followed poor Dad like a shadow; the two castrated, bike-less heroes were still loved by girl/son, bike or not. You too are loved by… someone… and it’s not your bike or iPad mini (despite what the tear jerking Apple commercials tell you). How do we know? Because homo sapiens are social creatures (and you are a Homo-sapien! Congratulations). You can’t socialize with your bike or your iPad mini.
We love these materialism stories (Her, Wall Street, A Christmas Story) because today you are neglecting your boy, girlfriend, mom, Dad, dog, in lieu of a material object. So, stop reading this blog, look up, demand that your loved one also stop reading whatever blog they’re reading and tell them… “make sure that iPad Mini never gets stolen because we really, really love our favorite objects” (until the new one comes out, anyway).