Welcome to Reverse Pop Culture Primer! Every week I take a famous catchphrase, punchline, or spoiler that I learned from another part of pop culture without ever seeing the movie it references. How does knowing the joke backwards affect my experience of the movie once I finally watch it?
Like last week’s column on Mel Brooks paying tribute to Alfred Hitchcock, I’m continuing my fascination with full-length parodies by revisiting the Scream spoof that Boy Meets World gifted us with in the late ’90s. I’ve already written in-depth about the classic episode “And Then There Was Shawn,” in which Rider Strong’s character dreams up a murder mystery to deal with the stress of his two best friends breaking up.
Even though this episode hit airwaves two years after Kevin Williamson’s witty, terrifying slasher movie, as you might’ve guessed I watched Boy Meets World. You know, considering that I was all of nine years old at the time. It truly was a primer for my eventual love of horror movies, since the violence is freaky but nothing to inspire nightmares. At the time, however, what captured my young mind was the notion that this TV show that I knew to be fairly straightforward was lampooning another movie I knew to distantly exist in the zeitgeist.
Some beautiful soul has uploaded the entire episode online, so you can watch all 22 minutes now if you want and proceed with the column, or check it out after.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBijJq6hFgg&hl=en_US&version=3]
At any rate, I’d seen Scream in my local video store and knew that I wasn’t ready for an R-rated horror flick. But regardless of whether people had seen the movie, Ghostface’s unmistakable visage was cemented in pop culture. Of course Boy Meets World couldn’t use the same mask, but it was clear who the killer was modeled after — especially when Shawn acted as the pop culture expert who guides the rest of the nubile teens through what to expect from the killer.
However, at the time I thought, What a smart move, to have one of the kids so clued in to what’s happening! Little did I know that Sean’s expertise was cribbed from Jamie Kennedy’s beloved meta character in Scream, or that Kevin Williamson would premiere Dawson’s Creek that year, with teenagers even more ridiculously self-aware.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-q-AWD_8AY&version=3&hl=en_US]
I was nine when I saw the Boy Meets World episode, my first experience with that series. I was about 15 when my friends finally convinced me to watch Scream. That first viewing still sticks in my mind as one of my more terrifying horror movie experiences, thanks to Wes Craven’s direction.
At the time, I flashed back to several elements from “And Then There Was Shawn”: One kid predicts everything that’s gonna happen! The moment you suspect someone, they die! Jennifer Love Hewitt had a cameo on Boy Meets World because she had starred in that other ’90s horror franchise, I Know What You Did Last Summer!
But watching Scream, it was like experiencing all of these jokes anew. It helped that the identity of the killer on Boy Meets World didn’t ruin the twist in Scream (which of course was a better pop-culture commentary). But unlike other entries in this column, where I’ve been tricked into thinking that the parody did a better job with whatever punchline or catchphrase, I realized that Williamson and Craven got it oh-so-right the first time.
Next week it’s back to analyzing specific moments or catchphrases, like when I explain how I accidentally ruined myself for The Usual Suspects.