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The Death of Animal House and the Pearl Harbor Quote

November 24, 2012
Flag over Pearl Harbor

“Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”- Bluto from National Lampoon’s Animal House (Photo credit: Ms_Spinwax)

Everybody has bad moments, and a couple weeks ago I temporarily became the person I avoid.  I get annoyed at people who recite famous movie quotes.  To me, it’s a way for the movie quoters to seem witty when they can’t make up their own original thoughts.

Maybe I’m being harsh, but I work really hard to come up with (my few) original thoughts, and when I finally get one, I don’t want to get upstaged by a guy who quotes a line from a movie.

A couple weeks ago, I got called into a meeting by my boss.  She’s a nice person and we get along fine (you know a “but” is coming), but she’s young and she tries too hard to change things that don’t need to be changed.

I’ll try to explain the situation without getting into the details because my job is boring to most people (including me).

A few years ago, my boss changed a bunch of stuff that had worked fine, and the change added more work for everybody (except her bosses), and she gave us several long lectures about how things always change and we can’t resist change and those of us that resist change have to be willing to adapt (or get fired).

Now the boss who lectured us about these changes needs new changes to save her job, and she expects us to give her the new idea for which she can take credit.  All she really needs to do is to go back to the old way but call it something different (preferably with an acronym that spells out a short motivational word).  And I don’t get paid the big bucks (because I can’t think of good acronyms).

After a couple hours of pointless idea exchanging, one co-worker said, “That’s it.  We’re done.”

There was a silence because our boss usually decides when we’re done, not the co-worker.

“Did you say ‘done’?” I said in a mock animated voice.

My co-workers were surprised.  I hardly ever talk, and when I do, I have a monotone voice.  I’m actually pretty good at impersonations, though, so my impression of an emotional guy must have been convincing.

“Nothing is done until we decide it is!” I continued in a fake outraged manner.  “Was it done when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”

The mood in the office was about to change; I could feel it.  One co-worker (who was old enough to understand the reference) laughed.

Then my boss said, “The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, Jimmy.  You should know that.”

And we brainstormed in drudgery for another hour.

I have to admit, that was a bad time for a brain glitch.  I can’t remember another time where I’ve quoted a movie line in conversation (except for “Is it safe?” from Marathon Man a couple times), and the timing couldn’t have been worse.  The meeting was probably about to be over due to exhaustion, and I inadvertently gave my boss a new momentum.  Plus, she believes I’m stupid because she thinks I think the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor.

Maybe my boss’s generation is to blame because everybody should recognize the “Germans bombed Pearl Harbor” line.  When Animal House came out, I was too young to see it because it was rated R (pre-cable and pre-internet days), but the line was legendary.  Every boy wanted to see Animal House just for Bluto’s Pearl Harbor line (and the rumors of full frontal female nudity).

I know it’s not a good idea to explain the context of the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor to my boss because the explanation would take a long time and she still might not think it is funny.

Besides, I’d rather have my boss believe that I think the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor than have her think I’m the kind of guy who injects movie quotes into conversations.

I may get confused whether “To be or not to be” is from Macbeth or Hamlet, but I put the Animal House quote right up there, and it’s a shame that it’s fallen out of the pop culture lexicon.

I’m going to kick myself about this for a while.  I’d better think of a really good motivational acronym for my boss.

From → Pop culture

  1. Animal House rules. I recently used the same Pearl Harbor quote on my blog. Delta House rules! 🙂

    • It’s definitely okay to use Animal House quotes (especially Bluto’s line) on a blog, but I don’t think I’m going to use them in front of my boss anymore.

  2. I nominated you for a Very Inspiring Blogger award.
    Love your stuff!

  3. I’ve made the mistake of making a “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges”, only to have people stare at me blankly. The terrible Hispanic accent doesn’t help. You either have to be really old to get a reference to “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” or slightly old to know “Blazing Saddles”. Either way, you’d have to be old. I can’t wait until I’m old enough when people can write it off as “crazy old person” syndrome and I can make archaic references on a regular basis.

    • The “stinkin badges” line is a great one, but you’re right that the context is REALLY important if you’re going to insert it into a conversation.

  4. I am a moviequoteaholic. I can’t help it. My brain simply absorbs useless information in favor of information that could actually serve me well.

  5. I used to work for County Government and it was often pure hell. The trick to real happiness in this world is to come up with a way to make money without answering to anyone, and to enjoy what you are doing. Keep writing, you have a good style and one day you may make a living at it, who knows?

  6. I see movie quotations as a way to identify and strengthen our understanding and relationships with other people. Back in the ’70s we often passed references to old television shows and personalities around the office or similar trivia pursuits. Unfortunately, with the advent of the internet, trivia questions (or quizzes like the first lines of famous books) are no longer fun and have effectively disappeared.

    I suspect it’s the result of a more compacted version of a story, but movies tend to have excellent lines to remember more so than books. You have gotten references to Mel Brooks movies and he is keen on paying homage to older movies like The Treasure of Sierra Madre. Try jotting down all the quotable scenes in Young Frankenstein. Come to think of it, there is one Mel Brooks movie that has nothing quotable it in …

  7. Retired Guy permalink

    The quote led me here, and I was delighted with your story, not because of the movie quote, but the characterization of the sheer exhaustion of meaningless change in large businesses. When you become older than your manager(s), and when you know the history of your organization, the “change ethos” becomes an area of danger, like when a child discovers static electricity on a dry day (dispensing zingers carries a personal price). One day I became the old, white guy who suggested that “we tried that six years ago,” and the moment it came out of my mouth, I knew I was going to start crafting my retirement day. The whole change mantra is a great management tool to shut someone down. Just remember that “studies have statistically shown that there’s less chance of an incident if you do it at the end of the week.”

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