As a child of the 80s, Bill Murray became a bit of an uncle figure to me. You know, like that random, oddball yet sharp-as-a-tack charming old man that turns Christmases and family get-togethers into screwball comedies?
While his latter work has erred on the self-parodying side of things in all his droll, irrepressible and delightful glory, it’s Bill’s earlier work that has made this man a Hollywood icon and one of my favourites. So much so, that I spent my recent holidays watching his catalogue of 80s movies and then a few more. It was then that I realised this man and his characters can teach us a thing or two about life. No really, they can.
1. Life gets a little slimy sometimes.
If there’s one thing Ghostbusters has in bucketloads, in addition to steez and cheese, it’s slime. It teaches us to wear waterproof clothing and some pretty awesome boots while trying to fight the baddies.
Metaphorically, it teaches us that life is going to throw sh*t at you whether you like it or not, so you best be ready with a host of weaponry in your metaphorical Proton Pack to ward off any ghoulish troubles coming your way.
That’s where Bill’s Dr Venkman teaches us the most poignant message: if you carry a good sense of scepticism mixed with a little sarcasm, have a bunch of buddies that will fight the good fight with you (even while you take the piss out of them) and find yourself a leading lady (or man) with as much hotness as Sigourney Weaver, you might just find yourself swanning through it all with ease.
2. Trying to fit in with the crowd isn’t always good for your health.
Peer pressure sucks.
Lesson learned? You should never let peer pressure make you bow to the evil forces of that dastardly beast called The Mainstream.
No one likes to be normal, do they? Trying to blend in with the crowd will make others erroneously assume that you’re one of them which means you’ll get all kinds of nasty reputations, connotations and salutations attached to your name. Icky stuff. It could get even worse. Just ask Bill Murray. He tried to dress and act like one of the living dead in Zombieland which just ended up getting him killed.
Go your own way, buddy and be proud of it. Embrace your inner weird. Zag when others zig.
3. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Or turn your t-shirt inside out.
One of my favourite moments in Lost In Translation involves an adorable scene where Bill’s character Bob – in an attempt to fit in with his hip new friends (bad move Bill, read point 2) — wears an abhorrently bright orange camo t-shirt.
At the suggestion of his friend Charlotte, Bob quickly and ever so endearingly turns his t-shirt inside out to prevent looking like a fool.
What we can learn from this is that sometimes in life you just have to roll with the punches, take a hit of constructive criticism, never wear camo full stop, and if need be — turn the whole dang thing inside out.
Change the conversation. Upend your expectations. Wing it.
4. To change the world, you sometimes need to start with your life.
The movie Groundhog Day sees Phil live the same day over and over and over again until it messes with his life — and he even resorts to ending it. But even that fails.
Now, if I can take a moment from the silliness of writing a light-hearted list of life lessons and actually make a serious point, I’ll say this: be kind to strangers. Don’t post that antagonising Facebook comment. Show courtesy on the roads.
It’s not hard and pretty soon you’ll feel so good your world will start changing for the better too.
And every day won’t feel like the everyday.
5. Always look on the bright side of life.
An obscure little film called Get Low passed through the corridors of our cinemas in 2009, which — via Bill’s character Frank Quinn (an undertaker with wit, charm and quiet despair) — teaches us that life is better if you make a party of it.
Robert Duvall’s character, loner Felix Bush, is Quinn’s latest customer, who would prefer to have a funeral while he’s still alive so he can hear what all the townsfolk have to say about him.
With a response such as “mmm… hermit money”, Quinn delights in the idea of good money, while slowly coming to the conclusion idea that life should be a rousing – while at times sobering and honest – party, even right to the end.
Of course, there are many more lessons to be learned, more films to be watched. I haven’t even touched on the whole ‘maybe don’t make a play for someone decades younger than you while you’re married and depressed’ that comes up in Lost In Translation.
And then there’s a million and one we could learn from his plethora of Wes Anderson films, like how wearing a red beanie and blue boiler suit always makes sense. But let’s leave that for another time.
Fable and Fizz would like to acknowledge the Whadjuck Noongar people as the traditional owners and continual custodians on the lands and waters this content is primarily written on. I pay respects to their Elders — past and present. This always was, and always will be, Aboriginal land.