On September 12th, 1910, Gustav Mahler premiered his eighth symphony in E-flat major. Often referred to as the “Symphony of a Thousand”, Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 encompassed a full choir, orchestra, and even an organ. Mahler believed this piece was a representation of the eternal human spirit. Listen to this piece, allow the music to coax your spirit into sheer awe. A landmark in classical music, Mahler’s impression on music and culture as a whole is immeasurable.
Since then, society and culture haven’t really changed too much. People still crop dust you when you hold the door for them. Doctor Who has now been going on longer than the Roman Empire. Baseball is still kind of around (go ‘stros though). But even with all that, we are fortunate enough to experience events that smith our culture like a hammer on iron. In 1996, humanity experienced probably the greatest event to modern culture since Mahler 8: Space Jam.
Act I: Set-Up
Swackhammer (Danny Devito), the owner of an alien theme park, is looking for a new attraction to boost customer attraction. A vicious and vile man, Swackhammer exploited every ounce of his employees and ideas down to the very bone. Due to this, his park has grown barren and his pockets empty. Introduce the world of Looney Tunes and its cavalcade of eccentric characters. Once Swackhammer realizes exploiting the Tunes is the answer to what ails him, he tasks his employees, the Nerdlucks, to capture the Tunes.
Once the Nerdlucks arrive at the Looney Tunes world, they agree that the only way the Nerdlucks can take the Tunes is through a game of basketball. In response, the Nerdlucks take the basketball skill of legendary players, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, Shawn Bradley, Larry Johnson, and Muggsy Bogues. Through this, the Nerdlucks become the “Monstars.” Once the Tunes realize they can’t manage to take on the Monstars at their current state, they get Michael Jordan to assist in their efforts.
Act II: Accomplishment
Objectively speaking, if you watched the movie today there is a lot to criticize it for. With that said, it doesn’t mean its impact on our culture is any less important. Being born in 1997, there is a tight grip that Space Jam had on my generation. Walking down the halls, hearing people hum or sing music from the legendary soundtrack by [REDACTED] and Seal. Everyone wanting to one day become a part of the NBA. Air Jordans became more popular with younger audiences. It’s bizarre it took this long for us to get a sequel.
Michael Jordan was already an established and accomplished athlete. But Space Jam launched him into another stratosphere of cultural significance. Critical and public response for the movie was overwhelmingly positive (the only film on Rotten Tomatoes to sit at 101%).
Act III: Legacy
The number of resources to create this movie must have been insurmountable. Crossing superstar athletes, an array of successful comedians, and the use of a legendary cartoon is not something to dismiss. Continuing in the same vein as Mahler did, Space Jam is a look into the human spirit. Our collective will and drive to something bigger, something greater. How our ideas and our accomplishments blend into one singular effort. THAT is what Mahler 8 is, THAT is what Space Jam is.
When you break it down, this is the most ironic movie ever. Space Jam is about a large corporate overlord looking for his next big exploitable object. The Looney Tunes aren’t interested in being exploited so they resist and fight to the very end. At the time Space Jam was released, Looney Tunes had already had its time in the sun. 30 years later, Space Jam suspends these characters from a corporate puppet string. Throw in a legendary athlete and bam, rake in the cash. But, what do I know, I’m just some dude with a finance degree.
Act IV: Finale
The marriage of both basketball and a 1930’s cartoon shouldn’t work on paper. Somehow, someway, Space Jam exceeds any misconception of this notion. An event like Space Jam comes when the world needs it most but when no one was asking for it. Now, I’m eagerly awaiting for the next big cultural event to melt our collective subconscious in the same vein Space Jam was able to. Who knows, maybe we’ll see a crossover between curling and The Flintstones with a soundtrack done by DaBaby. Whatever that ends up being, I’ll be in a theater, shoveling popcorn into my mouth like a madman. – Jacob Mauceri
Space Jam is now available on Blu-ray and Digital HD.