Why Does Everyone Hate the Cable Guy?
August 25, 2015
(The shortened opening)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. Jim Carrey has gone through a lot of ups and downs in his career, hasn't he?
(We see the poster for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and then the poster for Mr. Popper's Penguins)
NC (vo): Some big hits and cult favorites, while also some big bombs and forgettable projects. But people forget early on that there was a movie many thought would ruin his career.
NC: And that movie, kind of strangely enough, was Cable Guy.
(We see clips from the movie)
NC (vo): It's amazing the amount of hate this film got, both critics of Jim Carrey and fans as well saw this as one of his biggest blunders. "It's too dark!", many people said, it's just not the typical Jim Carrey thing. The film didn't even really bomb, but the hatred from it was so massive that several see it as a giant failure. Luckily, he made Liar Liar immediately after, and his status was right back on track.
NC: But years after its release, I have to ask the question... is it really deserving of so much hate?
NC (vo): The film, in case you don't know, is about a cable repairman, played by Carrey, who befriends a client, played by Matthew Broderick. When Carrey gets too clingy and Broderick tries to break the friendship off, Carrey obsesses over him and does all the typical stalker tropes you'd expect him to see, driving Broderick mad. At the time, people weren't used to seeing Carrey in such a villainous role.
(The clips from Batman Forever are shown briefly)
NC (vo): I mean, okay, he did Riddler, but...that movie was about as dark as a Care Bears episode.
Batman: It's the car, right? Chicks love the car.
NC: Hehehehe... (He gets an annoyed look)
NC (vo): This was the first time we saw him in dark shadows, gloomy backdrops and creepy glowing eyes. He was still goofy with a not surprisingly over-the-top lisp. But people said they just found it too jarring for Carrey to be in this role.
(We see a picture of Carrey as Joel Barish and Kate Winslet as his girlfriend Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
NC (vo): Funny, seeing as how Carrey would do much darker roles in the future, getting both critical and audience praise. The film was also a hard hit for its director Ben Stiller, who just had his show cancelled, got panned for doing the movie, and shortly after would get grilled for directing Zoolander.
(We see clips from Zoolander)
NC (vo): Yeah, there was a time when even this movie was despised, partly because of the controversy involving erasing the World Trade Center from the film shortly after 9/11. Nowadays, though, who even remembers that? We just see it now as a funny movie, it even has a sequel coming out.
(The posters for Meet the Parents, Night at the Museum, There's Something About Mary and Tropic Thunder are shown)
NC (vo): Since then, though, Stiller has happily gotten some pretty big hits. Even directed a film that got an Academy Award nomination.
(We go back to clips of The Cable Guy)
NC (vo): Which is why I ask now if we're more forgiving of strange humor and dark tones, is it possible Cable Guy isn't really that bad, it just came out at the wrong time?
NC: I mean, don't get me wrong, I wouldn't be shocked if you didn't like the film.
NC (vo): Carrey's voice can get a little annoying, not all the jokes work, and it's not exactly a comic masterpiece. But I think there is more to this movie than people are giving it credit for. First of all, it centers around torturing Matthew Broderick. Immediately a great setup. Second, the idea of an awkward stalker like this back then might not have been seen as so mainstream. Once in a while I'd come across a person who said, "Oh, yeah! I love that movie, I've known a few clingy people like that." But for most, they claim that Carrey was just acting too weird to even understand what he was doing.
(Some pictures of Internet nerds are shown, including Fat Nerd from South Park)
NC (vo): Now, with the Iinternet, online stalking, and people getting emotional over even the tiniest thing, look back on this guy. Don't you think you might have seen someone like this before? He's obsessed over TV from the past, thinks life is one big show, he has a problem with boundaries. Yeah, with the social media, we've all come across this guy now. Every day we see arguments and accusations from people who seem in their own sheltered world, one that's clearly not a part of reality. If you just replace Cable Guy with guy who never leaves the YouTube comment section, suddenly, this makes a lot more sense, doesn't it? Thus, you can now see where the humor is coming from. Those awkward people online talk tough, but hide behind the mother's skirt of ambiguity. Here, it's funny to imagine if that one guy didn't just like weird stuff, but was actually desperate enough to devote his entire life to you. Come on, you know that one person you speculated about. The one that was just a little too clingy. Isn't it funny to imagine they're doing creepy stuff like letting spiders crawl across their face, infiltrating your family or donning disguises to follow you? You don't think they'd really do it, in fact, they could actually be nice people. But admit it, it's funny to think how far someone being socially awkward can go.
(We see clips from the Mike Judge classic, Office Space)
NC (vo): It's like in Office Space, we've all known that uncomfortable stapler guy. He's weird, but you try to tell yourself he's harmless. That just makes it even funnier when he says he's gonna do something insane like burn down the building. It's one of the movie's most memorable lines from one of its most memorable characters.
(We see some clips from several movies with awkward characters)
NC: The awkward creepy person has also been used for comedy in Pitch Perfect, Key and Peele, There's Something About Mary and several others. So, yeah, it seems more and more we're understanding that these people do exist. To what extent? Well, that's where the comedy comes in. We like to imagine and push it further and further than what's probably more realistic, but that's what comedy's all about. So now that we have a better understanding years later not only how many of these kinds of people there are, but this film's intention to mockingly poke fun of them...
NC: ...is it possible that it was just misunderstood?
NC (vo): I'm not saying you have to like the film, as I said before, there's perfectly sound reasons to find it kind of annoying at times. But the arguments given in the past of it either being too dark or too weird doesn't seem to hold up anymore. We have opened up to the darker stuff and we have become more aware of strange clingy people in our everyday lives. Knowing this now, a lot of this is a lot funnier than you may remember. And compared to other things today, it's not even really that dark. Yeah, it's got some heavy shadows and weird shots, but the story itself, is it really that intense when you compare it to other dark comedies? Perhaps, much like Zoolander, if we're willing to relax and just accept the bizarreness of this scenario, especially now understanding the context more, there can be a pretty clever comedy. Watch it again this time and don't take it too seriously. The idea is wouldn't it be funny if the social shut-in you knew could do such over-the-top things, not that he actually is. It's an exaggeration, like a lot of great comedy. And it's definitely worth giving another chance. Yeah, it's still odd, and not every joke gets a laugh, but it deserves to be judged again with the more updated knowledge of its subject matter. It doesn't say or do anything shocking, it's just a funny film about extremes. At its heart, it's just a dumb, goofy comedy but it's a clever dumb, goofy comedy. And one that you can go back, rewatch, and probably say to yourself, "Hey, this isn't too dark for me."
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to.
(He gets up and leaves. The credits roll)