Quantcast

Octopussy by Other Means | The Nation

  •  

Octopussy by Other Means

  • Share
  • Decrease text size Increase text size

In the movie that has been assigned to us to write about, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Mike Myers from Saturday Night Live plays a secret agent named Austin Powers. He did this before, in the first Austin Powers movie, though not on Saturday Night Live, where he doesn't actually make appearances anymore, except when he's a guest. I didn't used to watch Saturday Night Live back when Mike Myers was on, because in high school my friends didn't really watch that program, or if we did we didn't admit it, because of its being on on Saturday night. But we knew about Mike Myers, especially from the second Wayne's World, and that's part of what's interesting about this new movie, in that it's mostly about time travel, and old things like the sixties.

About the Author

Stuart Klawans
The Nation's film critic Stuart Klawans is author of the books Film Follies: The Cinema Out of Order (a finalist for...

Also by the Author

How Scarlett Johansson learned to become aloof from her own seductiveness.

Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is as modest and patient an act of daredevilry as has ever been achieved on film.

In this paper, I will show that The Spy Who Shagged Me completely summarizes Western Civilization as Mr. Klawans has explained it to us, making it an appropriate movie to be assigned for this final paper.

First, Western Civilization was built to be Phall-o-Sentric. That was why in the Greek theater, which proceeded movies, they trademarked the original special effect, which got strapped on for comedies. After that, it was proved many times that nothing is funnier or delivers a bigger box office than this Phallus effect. There are two reasons. First, everybody in the locker room or wherever wants to look at a really big one, but nobody wants to stare. So when they strap on a special effect, you get to look at it right there in public, even though you're not supposed to, and you laugh out of appreciation.

The second reason it's funny is that when they strap on a Phallus, you see they could take it off again. I think this is what Mr. Klawans meant when he talked about the sense of detachment they had in certain parts of Greek culture.

Now, as a movie about time travel and the sixties, The Spy Who Shagged Me tells about detachment, and how Austin Powers's Phallus comes loose. Only they call it his "mojo," and here's how it happens.

In the first Austin Powers movie, Austin Powers was an English secret agent and fashion photographer from London in the sixties who got frozen. By the time they thawed him out, in the nineties, he didn't know about AIDS or MTV. As a result, Austin Powers had to learn a lot about history and how people have changed, which I didn't completely know about myself, though the movie made it funny so I didn't mind. However, the idea for the new Austin Powers movie is this:

Dr. Evil, who opposes Austin Powers, uses a "time machine" to go back to 1969, where he steals Austin Powers's sex drive. To recapture it, Austin Powers himself has to go back to 1969, where he's more comfortable anyway. But even back in the sixties, because his mojo has been stolen, he can't make a commitment to his new spy partner and girlfriend, Felicity Shagwell. The actress who plays her is named Heather Graham, who according to Mr. Klawans was in some good movies like Drugstore Cowboy and Boogie Nights, which I didn't see.

Now comes the second trademark of Western Civilization: the Timeline. This doesn't just mean useful things like flow charts but also intellectual ideas such as they put in our non-major course requirements. By this, I mean history going in only one direction and having a meaning and coming to an end. Generally I don't see how this applies to my career, but it seems to work out in this course, because of the way Mike Myers is middle-aged. The whole idea of The Spy Who Shagged Me is that if Mike Myers or Mr. Klawans could go back to the sixties, the way Austin Powers does, they would be young guys again, so they'd be able to go to bed with Heather Graham, assuming she would do that, considering she's so much better looking. But secretly, people from their generation know they can't go back from being middle-aged, even though they want to. So in the movie Austin Powers has no mojo, even in the sixties.

This is where the detachment comes in. If time only goes one way, to The End, you're going to think history is like one big filing cabinet, where everything has its place and nothing ever gets lost. Mr. Klawans says that's how it is in this important book by Don T., the Italian comedy writer. I didn't see what was so funny about this idea. But then, I realized it means that when Mike Myers turns middle-aged and his Phallus gets detached, the mojo can't just disappear. It has to go somewhere, like it was filed wrong. So in the movie, it goes to Dr. Evil.

It makes sense that the mojo thief would be Dr. Evil (who is also Mike Myers), because he's got this totally globular bald head with a long scar that looks like a vein. It's like, he is Austin Powers's mojo, or what happens to somebody's mojo when it gets to be middle-aged and creepy. Dr. Evil's son, Scott Evil, more or less points that out to him, whenever he tells Dr. Evil what an old dick he is. Then, for a second thing, Dr. Evil now has a dwarf clone called Mini-Me. Dr. Evil really loves Mini-Me and sings songs to him, until I got the feeling Mini-Me was like this other Phallus that had got loose, and Dr. Evil was kind of playing with himself.

But the funniest part of the whole movie, no question, is Dr. Evil's rocket, which looks exactly like a Phallus. Everybody says so--airplane pilots, Little League umpires, teachers in China, Woody Harrelson. Only the joke is, they don't say it. Every time they come close, the movie cuts to somebody else, over and over again, so it looks like people all over the world are sort of saying this thing you're not supposed to say in public, and the rocket Phallus floats around, not attached to anything.

I can't describe it. You'd have to see the movie, which I guess you have, in order to grade the papers.

To complete what I'm doing in this paper in summarizing The Spy Who Shagged Me and Western Civilization, I will now point out the third and final trademark that Mr. Klawans mentioned, which he called cultural hedge money. Being the teacher of a non-major requirement course who doesn't really know about business, I think he was pronouncing this a little wrong. Also, we usually say "hedge fund." But, if you make allowances, Mr. Klawans probably had the right idea when he talked about winners and losers, and how you're not supposed to let on about how they get that way.

In my career, once I'm managing a hedge fund or whatever, I know I will be a winner. That's because if you can conceive it, you can achieve it, unlike people who become losers. However, even if you point out to people how it's their own fault if they're not winners, like I will be, you still feel sorry for them a little. So the main thing is to not let that get out of hand, where it would interfere with your success, even though you want to be a nice guy. This is an example of cultural hedge money.

For example, the third person Mike Myers plays in this movie is a really disgusting, ugly Scotch guy called Fat Bastard. They make a lot of fun of Fat Bastard, and I noticed that one or two of the people in this class who are pretty big themselves were laughing really loud at these parts of the movie, but not like they thought it was funny. Then, at the end, Felicity Shagwell asks Fat Bastard if he's happy, and he makes this sensitive speech, and for a minute you actually feel sorry for him. At that point I had to think about the one or two people in the class. But then the movie made another joke against Fat Bastard, and I understood being sensitive was also funny. This shows it's OK to laugh at these people, as long as you put in a little sensitive speech as a hedge.

Another example of cultural hedge money is when you get to look a whole lot at Heather Graham's great body, without having to worry that you're going to hear about it from the women in class. The hedge is, Mike Myers right away does something goofy, like put himself in a bikini, too, which lets you get away with it. Or it's a good use of a hedge when Dr. Evil does a rap number, so they don't need to put any black people in the movie.

In conclusion, I thought The Spy Who Shagged Me was really funny, and I would watch it again, though probably on video the second time. The movie also made me appreciate how for some people of the older generation, like Mr. Klawans, the sixties are kind of like their Phallus, which got detached.

Speaking as someone who is looking ahead and building an agenda to win, I want to say in public in this paper that I would give this course a high grade, sincerely, no hedge. The course was very interesting and well taught, and youthful in the way it showed me how The Spy Who Shagged Me represents everything that makes Western Civilization great.

  • Share
  • Decrease text size Increase text size