Predictably, given the subtle and deep knowledge of British culture that Americans have inherited from their parent country, this led to approximately eleventy billion jokes summarized in this outstanding Paint.NET masterpiece by yours truly:
Once you have regained your aesthetic bearing after confronted by this marvelous combination of the beautiful and sublime, prepare to have your mind grapes squeezed. Nightengale’s wording was too apt to be just an accident leading to a joke. It is, in fact a brilliant cultural reference that deserves further exploration.
Is it simply a coincidence that the first Austin Powers movie came out in 1997, Mariano’s first year as the Yankees full-time closer? While Rivera memorably stumbled in the playoffs that season (it seems weird just typing those words), Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was a huge hit. It seems bizarre now, and the reversal of critical fortunes has simply been stunning. While (at least up until his injury while, well, shagging in Kansas City) Mariano Rivera has pretty much been the same awesome reliever ever since. While Rivera is ageless, does anything seem more dated now than Mike Myers comedy? Even Ricky Gervais and Martin Short think Myers mugs for the camera too much.
Myers probably doesn’t care as he sleeps on the piles of money from genius vehicles like Shrek (co-starring the almost-equally-time-bound Cameron Diaz) and, of course, Wayne’s World. (At least Myers has his moments; Dana Carvey may never have been funny. If you are around someone who quotes from “The Church Lady,” just laugh out of pity.)
Everyone knows this about Myers’ oeuvre. Yet… and yet… that first Powers movie does teach something, a lesson that Mariano learns when he says he is still going to “shag,” but carefully. If you will remember, Austin Powers was cryogenically frozen in the 60s and brought back in the 90s to fight Dr. Evil. His liberated sexual mores take on a different tone in the 1990s. The reality and danger of STDs is a much greater part of public awareness. Elizabeth Hurley’s (talk about carbon-dating pop culture) character’s anger over Powers’ liaison with Dr. Evil’s henchman is less out of jealousy, at least on the explicit level, but out of concern for Powers not using protection.
The problem was not that Austin was, er, “chasing flies during batting practice” (hey, maybe I just coined a euphemism), but that he was not being “careful” about it. During the ultimate confrontation with Dr. Evil, Powers gives a cheesy and impassioned speech to the villain (also played by Myers, which makes me think that they should remake the whole franchise with Tracy Jordan [Jordan, not Morgan] doing all of Myers’ characters) about how, although much has changed, the ideals of the 1960s remain intact (if you have been in a humanities or social sciences course in a North American university with a professor who came of age back then, you have likely heard something similar). But there is a twist. “We’ve got freedom and responsibility. It’s a very groovy time.” Translation: “he will continue to shag but will be careful.”
As true today as it was in 1997, and Mariano seems to understand that. Go then and sin no more.
Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.