1991: Looking Back At DROP DEAD FRED - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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1991: Looking Back At DROP DEAD FRED

Hannah takes a long look at themselves whilst rewatching Drop Dead Fred…

I am a product of the 90’s, which, if the media is to be believed, means I’m from the generation that is allergic to avocado toast because we bought too many houses… or something like that. However, in reality, I think what this really means is that I was the last generation that got to enjoy unregulated children’s television. No, this isn’t a ‘political correctness gone mad’ rant, it’s just that we were the first (at least on-mass) generation to replicate the dangerous, idiotic scenes we witnessed on TV.

This is evident from Disney+ changing a scene in Lilo & Stitch in which Lilo hides from Nani inside of a dryer to her hiding under a table; something much less likely to kill you in a game of hide and seek (but also a much worse hiding spot, so who’s the real loser here?). It can, however, be much better exemplified by our childhood nostalgia movies. Whilst kids today will grow to be nostalgic for the likes of Frozen, Moana and How to Train Your Dragon (all very good movies, don’t get me wrong), my nostalgia lies in the likes of Home Alone, The Addams Family and… Drop Dead Fred.

If you, like me, were a child in the 90’s, Drop Dead Fred was likely your first introduction to the comedy stylings of Rik Mayall, and boy, what an introduction it was. With a script that was originally offered to Tim Burton to direct and Robin Williams as first choice for the titular role, it is easy to see why, on release, Drop Dead Fred was critically panned. The Beetlejuice meets Mrs. Doubtfire vibe sounds great in principle, but when you add in the vulgarity of Rik Mayall, it’s a pretty hard sell to a US audience.

However, if you are a fan of Rik Mayall’s comedy, specifically his fondness for all things stupid, it is difficult to pass this film up. Its sense of humour may be puerile, but I can’t help but get a kick out of it. Most of what happens in Drop Dead Fred happens at the expense of the mother - or ‘Megabeast’ - and personally if I had been raised by someone as uptight as she appears to be, I probably would have walked dog poo across her freshly shampooed carpets as well. In fact, as I’m sure my own mother can attest to, dog poo would have been the least of her worries had she have raised me.

Just in case you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, here is a quick breakdown for you: Elizabeth (Phoebe Cates) is a grown-up woman facing grown-up problems (namely divorce). To help her get her mojo back, her childhood imaginary friend, Drop Dead Fred (Rik Mayall), makes a re-appearance. Childish antics ensue and Elizabeth realizes that being grown-up doesn’t have to be dull, and you don’t always have to do what your mother tells you. Its plot is what makes me regard this as a children’s film (that, and I watched it as a child), as much as you want to grow up as a child, you tell yourself that you won’t do the same boring stuff your parents do (Spoiler alert, kids, you probably will). The film’s content teaches us that, although there are some boring bits along the way, it is up to you to make your life exciting.

Upon a rewatch as an adult, however, the film tells a different story. A horrifying examination into the idea of repressed female assertion, and how a child’s cry for help can often be misread as that child being problematic, or difficult. How any line of creative thinking or childish identity is something that must be stamped out by adulthood for fear of not being able to lead what the majority view as ‘a normal life’. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this, but I think, as adults, we all have a ‘Fred’ inside of us, and what the film is trying to teach us is that it is our choice as to whether we embrace it or not.

Drop Dead Fred is a film that perfectly sums up my generation, still seen as children by those that came before us, but adults in our own right. Struggling to live up to the expectations of our parents and fighting for our place in the world. A world that has changed dramatically in the past 40 years, to the point where it is unrealistic to expect us to be homeowners or earning more than minimum wage by the time we hit our 30’s. What the media sees as us spending our money on frivolities and failing in life due to those participation trophies we supposedly received growing up, is in fact us trying to enjoy our adulthood in whatever way we are able, embracing our inner ‘Fred’ and defying the ‘norm’.

I’m not one to idolize public figures but watching Rik Mayall in Drop Dead Fred during my formative years moulded me into the person that I am today, and as I spread smashed avocado across my toast in my rented accommodation and sit down to continue my ‘not-a-proper’ job, I realize that, like Elizabeth as she kisses Fred goodbye: I’m happy with who I am; ‘normal’ be damned.

Preferring the company of fictional characters to living, breathing people; it should come as no surprise that Hannah is a connoisseur of all things geek. Whilst their body resides in the capital of Wales, their heart resides in Middle-Earth and their mind remains firmly lodged in the memory of that embarrassing thing they did when they were eight.

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