Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Failure of Imitation

In the pursuit of coolness and women, Allan Felix is constantly trying to be someone his is not. Allan’s red hair and neurotic behavior limit him from becoming his idol, Humphrey Bogart. Although this is a rare movie because it relates so directly to Casablanca, I think that the imitation of cool is extremely common. People from every social classification try to imitate cool to a certain extent, but it is most dramatic in teenagers, especially teenage girls. There are many teenage girls that will do or wear just about anything to be seen as cool by her peers.

This phenomenon is portrayed perfectly in Mean Girls (2004), a movie I have seen at least 10 times. Near the beginning of the movie the cafeteria is outlined with every group of people having their own table. At the center, a group of girls sit that everyone else refers to as the Plastics because they are like Barbie. The majority of the rest of the girls in the school want to be a cool as the Plastics. They all attempt to dress and act like the Plastics, in a similar way to Allan trying to act and talk like Bogart. It seems like there is a theme to imitation; it always fails. Allan never got any women when trying to be Bogart, but when he was just being himself he got his best friends wife to have an affair with him. Cady Heron, played by Lindsay Lohan, succeeds at becoming cool, but fails to get the boy when she pretends that she is not good at math. In the end when she stops acting like a Plastic, she is still cool and she gets the boy. The lesson seems to be that cool cannot be successfully imitated. It seems that imitating cool is usually shown through comedies. I guess because it is funny to watch someone else try extremely hard to be cool, and yet fail miserably.

Another film showing the dangers of imitation is The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). Tim Burton’s creativity shows that imitation fails without using humor. When Jack Skellington, bored of Halloween, ventures out of Halloween-town, he finds Christmas-town with Santa Claus. Santa is cool because everyone loves him. Jack decides to have Santa kidnapped in order to take his place as the coolest man in Christmas-town. Although Jack is trying to spread joy, he has no understanding of Christmas and ends up scaring the whole town. Similarly, Allan tries to impersonate Bogart, but isn’t able to and ends up worse off than if he would have just been himself.


  1. I named my daughter Cady Gray after Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Then Mean Girls came out, and now I'm resigned to everyone thinking I named her after the lead character. :)

  2. Wait, I thought you loved Lindsay Lohan. This changes my whole view of you Donna.

    Why then do we all keep trying to be like cool people if we have so many examples of it failing?

  3. Hilarious pick on Nightmare before Christmas. Indeed, there are dangers to imitation - including the destruction of Christmas. There should be an ad campaign.

    Mean Girls is another example of the dangers of imitation. Allan Felix isn't looking for friends - he's looking for someone to fit into his odd lovelife. Cady Heron was looking to destroy the Plastics at first, then became what she originally hated. This is more of the danger in consciously imitating - truly becoming what you admired so in the first place without truly understanding what you wanted to become. Do you think Allan Felix truly understood Bogart?