Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Ronald Reagan, the pop culture President

During a week of memorials and tributes to our nation's 40th president, Ronald Reagan, many thoughts have gone through my mind. "Isn't it amazing that a movie star became president?", "what would the 80's have been like WITHOUT Ronald Reagan" and "why can't I have cookies for breakfast?"

Ronald Reagan's presence in the 1980's transcended politics in a major way. All forms of entertainment are FILLED with references to Ronnie. Why? Maybe it is because he was a President AND an Actor. Really, that is something. In our culture there are two things that we REALLY like to do; ridicule the famous and those in authority. Reagan was both, and perhaps that is why he was EVERYWHERE. Don't believe me? Try watching an episode of 'Punky Brewster' WITHOUT a President Reagan joke. I doubt such an episode exists- except maybe the one where Punky's friend shuts herself in a refrigerator during a game of hide and seek. That was too sad for such frivolities as political humor.

Anyway here are some of my favorite Reagan references:

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Man, this trilogy was goofy for Ronnie! Starting with when Marty meets Doc Brown in 1955. To find out if Marty was REALLY from the future he asks him "who's President of the United States in 1985?"
Marty responds "Ronald Reagan"
Doc is INCREDULOUS! "Ronald Reagan, the actor? Who's Vice President? Jerry Lewis?... I suppose Jane Wyman is the First Lady and Jack Benny is Secretary of State."

Great stuff. But look closer about how this conversation starts:

"who's President of the United States in 1985?"

It's not really the first question I would have asked.
Think about it, how could that possibly HELP Doc determine the truth about Marty's time travel claims. What if Marty had come a few years earlier.
Doc: So tell me, future boy, who's President of the United States in 1980?
Marty: Jimmy Carter
Doc: Jimmy Carter? Hmmm. I never heard of him. Maybe you ARE from the future!
Marty: Yup and Walter Mondale is Vice President, Rosalyn Carter is first lady and Edmund S. Muskie is Secretary of Stater.
Doc: What? Now I know you are lying. No one would name their kid Edmund S. Muskie.

But that wasn't the end of Marty's connection with Reagan. In part 2 Marty enters the Cafe 80's and is greeted by a TV monitor featuring a Max Headroom-esque Ronald Reagan. Hilarity ensues.

ALF: In a classic episode, Pennsylvania 6-5000, Alf uses Willie's short wave radio to call Air Force One. Alf then demands to speak to the President and what follows is a series of misunderstandings and coincidences absurd enough to make the cast of Three's Company blush.
When I saw this as a child, I really thought that Reagan had guest starred on this show, I also thought that paste tasted good.

ALF: I'm calling to talk about your bombs.
REAGAN: Are you talking about the 'Bonzo' pictures? I was under contract, I had no choice!

HALL OF PRESIDENTS: I love the Hall Of Presidents. It is so cool to see all the Presidents hanging out, and Reagan is among them. Reagan's history with the Disney organization goes way back. He was one of the hosts on opening day at Disneyland in fabulous Anaheim California.
They have a similar attraction in Disneyland Paris. In the Paris version all of the Presidents are wearing berets, drinking and shouting "We are, how you say, zee presidents." They also smell like they need a shower.

DIFF'RENT STROKES: A classic episode featured guest star Nancy Reagan encouraging the Gary Coleman, Dana Plato and Todd Bridges to "Just Say No." In case you are wondering, they didn't listen. My favorite part is when she talks to the President on the phone.

NANCY: I love you... well, if I can say it in front of total strangers, you can say it in front of Tip O'Neil.

Rappin' Ron and Ray Gun. I always thought it was pretty lame that GPK printed the same card twice with two different names, causing you to buy the same thing more than once. The Rappin' Ron card is quite tame for Garbage Pail Kids. He doesn't have a runny nose, or a fork in his eye. Instead he just stands behind a podium throwing his hands in the air and waving 'em like he just don't care. See, that's what rappers do, and Rappin' Ron is no exception.
Rappin' Ron's counterpart Ray Gun is less inspired. Ray Gun? Oh, I get it! They broke his name down into two separate words, creating a homonym composed of two non sequiturs. [By the way that is most intelligent sounding sentence ever written about Garbage Pail Kids since the day Topps issued a press release saying "Garbage Pail Kids are stickers AND cards, two treats in one!"]

I could go on and on with this. The sheer number of references to President Reagan in sitcoms, movies and comic books is staggering, and that itself is a fitting memorial.

Godspeed President Reagan.

For a related junk about Abe Lincoln click here.


  1. Very nice, Sweetie. I couldn't have said it better myself. Actually maybe I could of...
    I had forgotten how much Regan was a part of the pop-culture lexicon in the '80s.
    One thing worries me though. Who said that you can't have cookies for breakfast?

  2. The Cookie Cop said I can't have cookies for breakfast - but I can have Cookie Crisp. He is constantly locking up the Cookie Crook for that very offense!

  3. Thanks for a really nice tribute to a great President, Sweetie Guy.