1/8/09

RVOD044 Overcoming Fear

(1950, Educational/Short, b&w)

Riffers:

Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy

Fix your damaged self today!

Rating: ***

In a nutshell:


Aquaphobic Bill finally learns to swim.

Summary:

Kevin's sea anenome disguise isn't fooling anyone.Teenage Bill’s mortal fear of water does not prevent him from hanging around at the community center pool. He watches his friends play from the sidelines while an internal monologue, steeped in self-loathing, cycles constantly through his head. When one of the girls nearly drowns in an unlikely beach ball accident, Bill is first on the scene, but he can’t bring himself to jump in after her. His shrill girlish cries bring more competent swimmers to the rescue.

Disheartened by his own cowardice, Bill heads back to the locker room where he can hate himself in peace. Now the narrator steps in, a swimming instructor named Barker. Barker’s largely irrelevant pep talk about high-jumping dogs and bicycle safety regulations lifts Bill’s spirits. One short training montage later, Bill is a champion swimmer.

Thoughts:

Domesticated canine terror rains down from above!So, is Bill afraid of water because a dog jumped over Mr. Barker’s baby sister? Or does his crippling aquaphobia result from a displaced sense of shame over his support for the new city bicycle ordinances? Or are these the cure for his fears? Does riding your bike on the street while snuggling a puppy soothe all ills?

Oh wait, I know. Bill is actually a slightly older Orv from One Got Fat. He changed his name and moved to a new town after witnessing the grisly bicycle-related deaths of his monkey friends, tamping the guilt and shame deep down inside until the bicycle ordinance meeting brought it all out again. Since he ate his dead friends’ lunches in their honor that day, he associates this guilty feeling with overeating. Now he has the overeaten/guilt feeling all the time, which triggers a subconscious aversion to swimming until after that feeling has passed. Hence, his fear of water. Yes, it’s all so clear to me now.

The commentary wobbles from amusing to hilarious and then back to amusing again. As the narrator revisits Bill’s fears time after time in the opening scene, Kevin notes, “Bill’s fear of water kept him foul-smelling and greasy throughout childhood.” As Bill continues to hate himself in the locker room, riffer Bill says, “He’s like Charlie Brown’s more depressed brother.” When Barker comes up to say, “I’ve, um, noticed you out there,” Mike calls it, “Things you don’t want to hear in the locker room.” These parts are reasonably funny, but the very best part of Overcoming Fear is the dog scene. As soon as the neighbor’s rowdy dog starts frightening Barker’s baby sister, they kick into high gear, with Kevin guessing that its probable possession of a firearm adds to its menace, Bill freaking out about its ability to perform a six foot vertical leap, and Mike noting that it will likely be drafted by the Knicks. It’s worth watching for that sequence alone.