‘Ted’ Theodore Logan was my second role model as a kid, and it wasn’t the coolness aspect as much as the almost transcendent happiness that he enjoyed on a day to day basis. For Ted (and Bill) hanging out, playing guitar and dreaming of making it as the biggest band in the world is exactly what you want to see celebrated when you’re 12. Like those who ascribe to the notion that we read to know we’re not alone, I watched this film and realised I wasn’t alone – my perspective on life was shared and shaped by these two characters. I revelled in their banter, I loved the seriousness with which they joked around and I shared their pain at being dismissed as scholastic slackers. The connection was personal and tangible.
I loved the Bill and Ted films so much that a friend and I could quote the whole film in one go, even now if I watch the film I know each and every line. It was not poetry, it was not the funniest comedy ever written, but it had a heart so big you were charmed every time. That the deepest philosophies could be expressed as bad song lyrics was a joy to behold, and the sight of Genghis Khan running riot with a baseball bat on a skateboard will stay with you. That, and everything you ever wanted in a mentor in the form of George Carlin, Bill and Ted had it all.
It was a curious philosophy, an innocent and curious mix of hippy sensibilities and MTV generational culture, the desire was not to overthrow the status quo, just to point out that there was another way, and both could co-exist happily. Early drafts of the script included our heroes being eyed up suspiciously by the ‘popular crowd’ of cheerleaders and football players. Bill and Ted are called miscreants which they take as a compliment and proclaim it to be ‘excellent’ as they are walking off to class. But Bill and Ted are not wasters, stoners, slackers. In essence they are open to everything and expect the best from everyone. It means living without prejudice and without boundaries, this is their greatest attribute.
The moniker slackers is a misnomer, this was about people who experience and discover the world in a different way. Any film which shows our main characters succeeding through attaining knowledge and not letting the knowledge change who you are should be celebrated high from as many rooftops as possible.
They are innocents in best possible way, without agenda and we have many other examples of these characters in literature from Forest Gump to Prince Myshkin is Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, the notion of a positively, good man is a universal one, and, though none of the others could play the guitar as well as our dynamic duo, showing how society treats these people holds it up to a particularly shiny mirror.
Their Excellent Adventure was a joyful romp through history, encompassing time travel paradoxes, familial conflicts, the notion of personal legacy, and the celebration of an eternal decree – ‘be excellent to each other’.
The subsequent Bogus Journey continued the tradition and portrayed Death as a petulant cheat and in doing so ruined The Seventh Seal for me forever. Alex Winter is terrifying as Granny S. Preston, and the notion that a song covered by Kiss would kick start a universal Utopian revolution is a fantastic one.
Again, being excellent to each other was the main edict and the teenage angst that paid off so well in the subsequent grunge years is noticeably absent in the films, so perhaps Bill and Ted never stood a chance and represent the last stand against the self conscious pity and dark horizons of the nineties.
As far as I know there are no talks of a remake, reboot, rehash or any other kind of reinvention and this is good news. Bill and Ted are of their time, and perhaps of no other. I have no idea what a 12 year old would make of the films today. Possibly they’d wonder if this is what Neo did before getting into hacking, but this is a real teen comedy that celebrates all that is good about being a teenager. Watch it and then try shouting ‘Excellent’ and not hearing a triumphant guitar lick straight afterwards.
If you’ve not seen the two films I’d recommend them, if you’re a child of the 70s 80s, hell, if you’ve ever been a child these films are for you. It is, like it’s main message, true for everyone and for all time.
Be Excellent to Each Other.
For those of you committed to Partying On please check out the definitive Bill and Ted site here at Billandted.org, it is nirvana for B&T fans and was most excellent reading.