The Blues Brothers, an Unacknowledged Christmas Classic

Dec 27, 2021

Over the last two evenings, we watched those Christmas movie classics (I kid, I kid) The Blues Brothers and Animal House. One thing that really struck me was how much America has changed since the first time I saw those films. I mean, those movies were already ten or fifteen years old by the time I saw them, but it was still pretty much the same US of A that you see in those films. I grew up in a Midwest world of greasy diners, rusted-out American cars, smoky bars, dingy pawn shops, record stores that were incredible, jukeboxes that played 45s and took dimes, cheap domestic beer served in pop-top aluminum cans, and live music as a valued and intrinsic part of everyday culture.

Okay, I know that a few decades have passed and I’m not nineteen years old anymore, but it struck me how much has changed In that time. Yeah, we have the internet now, and great things are possible that we only dreamed of. There is an underlying theme of racism and misogyny in those old films that leaves a bad taste today, that cannot be ignored. But. I think about how people used to go out to see live music all the time in the old days because they were bored and there was nothing else to do. In my mind, I’m not sure if it’s true or just rose-colored glasses, but people seemed to be WILDER and have more FUN. Sometimes I think we’ve all been conned with the glitz and distraction of modern technology.

Watching the Blues Brothers ride around Chicago circa the early 1980s, all I could think was how much I miss that period of time—the activity of the people on the street, the roar of the crowds who went crazy for great live music. But then again, my kvetching is merely human nature. I’m sure there were old farts sitting around at one point bitching about how the 1640s were nowhere near as cool as the 1610s. However, every time another old neon sign goes dark or some hundred-year family business closes or another mixed-use aluminum-and-glass condo goes up in the sky, I miss that last gasp of the old, weird America. Nostalgia and wistfulness—aren’t we allowed these things in the week between Christmas and New Year’s? Now come on, let me see you shake a tail feather…