What Happens If You Watch Jaws, Mean Girls And Harry Potter Backwards?

By Katey Rich 2013-08-08 08:51:42discussion comments
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Reddit has given the world some silly games and ideas, but this might be the silliest one that we've completely loved. Over at this thread, which was picked up and Buzzfeed-ified here, user sixdoublefive321 starts the conversation: "If you watch the movie Jaws backwards, it's a movie about a shark that keeps throwing up people until they have to open a beach." From there, in the way of any Reddit thread, the other users run wild with it. The thread is actually four years old, but Buzzfeed recently picked it up, and because the Internet is a snake endlessly eating its own tail, we're picking it up too. Because it's August, and playing with your movies is as fun as playing with your food.


Is there any artistic purpose to this kind of game? For the most part, not really. Reading Black Swan as a story about curing insanity by sleeping with Mila Kunis pretty much negates the huge psychological impact of the story, and the Titanic spin-- "It's a heartwarming tale about a boat that comes out of the ocean and saves a bunch of drowning people"-- basically makes an already thin story even thinner. But imagine a version of this game which is a little less funny, and more poignant, about the changes that take place over the course of a movie. The Harry Potter example, while silly, really helps demonstrate the impact that Hogwarts has on a character who we come to see as a hero:


Or imagine Doctor Strangelove, about a bunch of ridiculous people who blow up the world by accident but are given the chance to piece it back together by actually listening to each other. Or Saving Private Ryan, about a old man remembering how his crew helped piece back together a small European village. Any time you take a war movie, the backwards results are kind of lovely, but none lovelier than the way Kurt Vonnegut put it in this passage from Slaughterhouse Five:

He came slightly unstuck in time, saw the late movie backwards, then forwards again. It was a movie about American bombers in the Second World War and the gallant men who flew them. Seen backwards by Billy, the story went like this:

American planes, full of holes and wounded men and corpses took off backwards from an airfield in England. Over France, a few German fighter planes flew at them backwards, sucked bullets and shell fragments from some of the planes and crewmen. They did the same for wrecked American bombers on the ground, and those planes flew up backwards to join the formation.

The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. The Germans below had miraculous devices of their own, which were long steel tubes. They used them to suck more fragments from the crewmen and planes. But there were still a few wounded Americans, though, and some of the bombers were in bad repair. Over France, though, German fighters came up again, made everything and everybody as good as new.

When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. Touchingly, it was mainly women who did this work. The minerals were then shipped to specialists in remote areas. It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody again.

The American fliers turned in their uniforms, became high school kids. And Hitler turned into a baby, Billy Pilgrim supposed. That wasn't in the movie. Billy was extrapolating. Everybody turned into a baby, and all humanity, without exception, conspired biologically to produce two perfect people named Adam and Eve, he supposed.

When we see movies and love them, we have the ability to imagine them in whatever order we like-- it's the magic that makes Pulp Fiction so great, the power that makes the ending of Back to the Future so tempting. This is a silly Reddit game, yes. But done right, it evokes those movies that live most powerfully in your brain, begging to be reshuffled and played with, allowing you to tamper with history and make it better, more ridiculous, sadder, or all three. Most of these examples are ridiculous. But we welcome your more powerful ones in the comments.
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