' Cinema Romantico: A Celebration of Headphones in the Movies

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Celebration of Headphones in the Movies

There was an article (pointedly not linking) a little while back that blew up the Interwebs in which a mid-level Men’s Rights Activists explained in great detail how a Man should communicate with a Woman with whom he finds himself smitten when that Woman is in public but, alas, wearing headphones. Women, rightly, were incensed since a fleet of Romeo-less goobers telling them to take off their headphones to talk about doing the Wiota Stampede, “which is probably the toughest 10K Obstacle Course in the Midwest, though I don’t really like to brag, I just like to stay in shape”, as a means to impart their rank Alpha Dog musk is, if not the very last thing women need, among the last things women need. And while every woman in the world wearing headphones should absolutely, unquestionably be left alone, this written word garbage barge spoke to the broader Headphone Culture too. Because there is also the anti-P.C. contingent constantly whining on Twitter about how political correctness is more dangerous than nuclear fission and how safe spaces will probably, in the end, kill us all. But let me tell you, the area between your ears and your headphones is a safe space that no Men’s Right Activist, anti-P.C. chest-beater or human being period should violate.

Headphones, after all, provide oft-needed solace, from the world around you, from the world within you. Like Psalm 40:3 said, “He put a new song in my headphones.” Okay, all right, please, stop yelling at me, Psalm 40:3 did not say that, I know, and I apologize for re-arranging words in the Bible but that’s only because in Biblical times they didn’t have headphones, see. Man, if Paul had headphones he would’ve put down his quill and handed over some headphones to someone who needed some consolation and said “You gotta hear this one song – it’ll change your life, I swear” and then played “Sea Stories” by Sturgill Simpson.

I was thinking about this when Apple, those philanthropic crusaders, chose to radicalize their vaunted iPhone 7 by removing the headphone jack. When asked why they did this, Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller, who sort of resembles a dude who back in the day might have asked a comely female to take off her headphones cuz he had some truth bombs to espouse, replied “Courage”, which made me think of Nadia Comaneci wondering “if courage is just another word for desperation”, not that Apple is desperate for your bucks because they made their wireless earbuds available for $1,999 a pop in lieu of headphones. And yes, you can still use headphones with your iPhone 7 so long as you buy an adaptor which connects to a connector which attaches to an attachment which plugs into a plug-in that’s portable and costs another $450. In other words, I sense the beginning of the end of headphones, which makes me sad, so sad. But rather than stay sad, let’s celebrate by remembering the good times.

A Celebration of Headphones in the Movies


It is difficult to begin our cinematic headphones reminiscence anywhere else but “Dazed and Confused” when, after the most eventful day of his young life, Mitch Kramer lays down, slips on his headphones, cranks Foghat, closes his eyes, and uses music to drift into memories.



No director is better equipped to capture beautiful melancholy on camera than Sofia Coppola and in “Lost in Translation” she does just that with a few shots of ScarJo retreating into over-the-ear soundscapes. (See also: this blog’s banner.)



Headphones are, of course, integral to the existence of Rob Gordon in “High Fidelity”, tethering him to the music spirit world where he prefers to exist. Which is what makes the opening moments so powerful when his girlfriend Laura, about to walk out on him, unplugs his headphones with a flourish, severing that connection.



“Oh, you know, strikes and gutters, ups and downs.”



The Power of Headphones, even those rickety numbers from the Golden Age of Radio Shack, is so aptly displayed in Marty McFly suddenly becoming totally unconcerned about being late for school while filling his ears with “The Power of Love.”



My beloved electropop diva Little Boots has this fantastic track where she spins the virtues of wearing headphones to the club and it is what I thought of when I saw this blessed shot from “Begin Again”, where the headphones provide connection even as they push the rest of the mean old world away.



One of the 2.2 million reasons “Summer Rental” continues to endure in my mind is Kerri Green wearing those elephantine headphones throughout, as kids do on vacations, where even if they are having a good time, they are still convinced their parents are being a drag, and try to melodically get away from their getaway.



You can barely see it, but there, in the back of the frame, Omar Epps has his headphones plastered to his ears and is completely lost in the rhythm, oblivious to the rest of his blithering pals.  



“Music can be such a revelation / Dancing around you feel the sweet sensation”



that feeling when some moron woke you up on a Transatlantic flight while you were blissfully zoned out to Thievery Corporation



Even our elders with deadly diseases gotta close off for a little while and get their groove on. Otherwise, what’s the point?



When first we meet “A Serious Man’s” Danny in Hebrew school, he is having his earphones, piping in Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” confiscated. Later, when he finally confronts imposing Senior Rabbi Marshak, the Rabbi returns Danny’s radio, and does so by quoting “Somebody to Love.” “When the truth is found to be lies. And all the hope within you dies. Then what?” What indeed? “A Serious Man” has a lot of thoughts on the matter. Maybe you do too. I’ll just be like my boy Danny and meet this “Then what?” impending storm by just putting on my earphones. Whattup, existensial crisis?


    
You didn’t think I’d forget, did you? This one is dedicated to all the anti-emotionalists fronting so hard in their Twitter profile pics.

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