An Oral History of Shazaam
December 21, 2016 10:26 AM   Subscribe

An Oral History of Shazaam, the semi-beloved but instantly-recognizable 90's movie starring Sinbad, compiled by Amelia Tait.
posted by Greg Nog (68 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
SCP 3142: Self-Erasing Movie
posted by Etrigan at 10:30 AM on December 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


I totally remember Shazaam! Especially the part in the opening credits where someone accidentally paints over someone else's face.
posted by Kabanos at 10:31 AM on December 21, 2016 [53 favorites]


I always knew it was Kazaam! I also knew that it was the Berenstain Bears! I'm part of the conspiracy!
posted by imnotasquirrel at 10:34 AM on December 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


I love this article and that it details this phenomenon which, though probably like weirdness before it, can really have only happened now for the first time in human history because of the information technology that we have at our fingertips.

But somehow, maybe it's because we are dealing with the fallout of living in a "post-fact world" or maybe because late 2016 has sucked all my empathy out of me, but as I read this, I became SO VERY ANGRY at the people who refused to believe they were wrong about remembering this movie. I know it's absolutely dumb to react this way, especially that strongly, but I just wanted to shake them through my monitor.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:37 AM on December 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


I always knew it was Kazaam!

Close, but Sinbad wasn't in Kazaam! That movie actually starred Shaq.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:38 AM on December 21, 2016 [10 favorites]


Pop-up read:

"GOOD JOURNALISM IS NEEDED
TODAY MORE THAN EVER."

New Statesman, maybe you should customize that message depending on the article.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:38 AM on December 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


i started to have a meltdown reading the first few paragraphs like WAIT i thought SHAQ was in this and then it got to kazaam and i felt validated and all was right with the world
posted by burgerrr at 10:39 AM on December 21, 2016 [12 favorites]


Anyway, I never "remembered" Shazaam, but I should stop reading this article because otherwise the movie's going to start feeling real to me and then where will I be? Out with the rest of the people denying Kazaam for the (terrible) treasure that it was? You will not take Sinbad's Shaq's terrible rapping away from me.
posted by imnotasquirrel at 10:42 AM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


while Don believes the movie was intentionally “disappeared” because it embarrassed Sinbad

Wait, so Sinbad was embarrassed by Shazaam but not First Kid??
posted by imnotasquirrel at 10:45 AM on December 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


This is the worst because it is so obviously wrong. Everybody remembers Kazaam.

I did have a reality-questioning moment a couple of months ago, though, when my wife had no recollection of coffee vending machines that also dispense chicken soup. For a moment I thought, that does sound pretty absurd, maybe I'm wrong.

Of course I was not wrong, but it is a little absurd.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:50 AM on December 21, 2016 [14 favorites]


This was a fairly interesting article. If you described Shazaam to me then I would believe it existed, but had no memory of the movie (obviously) on my own.

As a digression, the "oral history" thing nearly made me scroll past with an eyeroll, but is actually very funny having read the article.
posted by codacorolla at 10:52 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


What about the Shazam! movie starring The Rock?

Oh, that was in the future.
posted by Kabanos at 10:54 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I totally remember Shazaam! Especially the part in the opening credits where someone accidentally paints over someone else's face.

this song is probably on the soundtrack too
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:12 AM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


I absolutely believe this movie existed - I know I never watched it (or Kazaam either), but I could swear I saw the poster for it, and saw it in boxes at the video store. I'm a Berenstainer, FWIW.
posted by Mchelly at 11:21 AM on December 21, 2016


And OMG that paint roller is killing me.
posted by Mchelly at 11:21 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Then again, no one ever believed me when I said there was a How The Grinch Stole Halloween movie, and I had the last laugh there.
posted by Mchelly at 11:22 AM on December 21, 2016


Oh man, there were so many paint roller gags in so many early 90's movies and sitcoms, but that bit from the opening credits of Shazaam! was some next level ish.
posted by Bob Regular at 11:42 AM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


Interesting how the concept of conflation doesn't come up here at all.
posted by me3dia at 11:44 AM on December 21, 2016


I'd write it off as people conflating Sinbad the comedian with the stories of Sinbad with Aladdin and its genie with Kazaam, and assuming that their remembering parts of Kazaam with Sinbad instead of Shaq were probably right because of twin movies. (Speaking of which, the Wikipedia list kind of stretches at times; both Some Kind of Hero and First Blood are listed as "a Vietnam War vet who returns home who then has trouble adjusting to civilian life", which is kind of ridiculous given the severe differences in tone between the two.)

Even the guy who worked at the video store; one of the things that used to astound me when I'd browse through video store shelves were the number of movies that I'd never heard of that went straight to video, and indeed, many of those were shitty knockoffs of better-known movies. Someone who'd had to deal with those movies day in and out may have simply assumed that all movies had shitty knockoffs, and simply built up the recollection of Shazaam out of the common factors of all the bad wannabes that seemed to speed up the heat death of the universe simply by existing.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:46 AM on December 21, 2016


The Mandela Effect example that gets me is the guy from Monopoly. Uncle Pennybags. He's in a striped suit, has a cane and a monocle and a top hat. Can't forget his iconic image, right?
posted by Nelson at 12:04 PM on December 21, 2016


Like Shazaam / Kazaam, the Uncle Pennybags thing has an explanation for confusion with an adjacent thing: the character Mr. Peanut. He's the one with the monocle, not Uncle Pennybags. But even knowing all this rationally I still remember the Monopoly guy with a monocle. I think it may be a phenomenon similar to deja vu, the persistence of the emotional experience of belief. Either that or it's a simple priming effect. Hence this second comment. My first comment mentioned the monocle; did I prime you to remember it?
posted by Nelson at 12:04 PM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


MCMikeNamara: Yeah, I'll second the angry part. The unwillingness to accept the very idea that their memories might be mistaken, the conspiracy-theory nonsense to justify how reality doesn't contort to their memories, and the construction of an unhealthy support group to block out the very idea that they could possibly be wrong is infuriating to me.
posted by SansPoint at 12:15 PM on December 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


I did have a reality-questioning moment a couple of months ago, though, when my wife had no recollection of coffee vending machines that also dispense chicken soup. For a moment I thought, that does sound pretty absurd, maybe I'm wrong.

Of course I was not wrong, but it is a little absurd.


?!?!

wasn't that a Futurama gag first?
posted by indubitable at 12:21 PM on December 21, 2016


indubitable: wasn't that a Futurama gag first?

It was Red Dwarf, first scene in the first episode.
posted by SansPoint at 12:23 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


To follow up on my previous comment...

If you're the sort of person for whom no proof is sufficient to convince you that your memories of a 90s Genie movie are wrong, it's not a huge leap to being the sort of person who can't be convinced that there isn't a pedophile ring operating out of Washington DC Pizza Shops.
posted by SansPoint at 12:27 PM on December 21, 2016 [19 favorites]


Seriously, does nobody remember those vending machines? They were a mainstay of hospitals and rest stops until at least the early 90s. And, given the prices in that picture, they're still out there.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:29 PM on December 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


The vending machines were definitely a thing. The chicken soup was crap--like a packet of Cup-a-Soup that you'd only used half of because payday was two days away--and the next three people who got coffee got a hint of chicken soup in it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:41 PM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


We had those coffee/soup machines in all the residence and lecture halls at my university, up until I graduated in 1999. They were pretty widely understood to be the coffee and/or soup of absolute last resort if none of the campus dining halls or coffee shops happened to be open.
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:41 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I too remember these machines.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:41 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


and the next three people who got coffee got a hint of chicken soup in it

This is how the conversation with my wife came up. She couldn't understand why I would know what chicken-flavored coffee tastes like.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:52 PM on December 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


no one ever believed me when I said there was a How The Grinch Stole Halloween movie

For the love of Seuss, it's called Halloween Is Grinch Night and it's one of the pinnacles of 20th century animated nightmare fuel.
posted by mykescipark at 12:54 PM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yep. It was my first FPP here. Take that, memory-hole!
posted by Mchelly at 12:56 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I nearly made a FPP about this but realised that the paint roller thing would come up and I'd start grinding my teeth again and I'm doing it right now argh
posted by threetwentytwo at 1:09 PM on December 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I am absolutely 100% positive I remember the paint roller TV intro thing but I also wonder how people are so sure about Berenstein because it's obviously wrong and provable. I suppose that has to do with proving a negative. I can find lots of examples with Berenstain and none with the e but if I can't really prove the lack of a paint roller gag, so it might still be out there somewhere.

This whole thing is interesting to me because my mom has always told me I'm wrong or making up simple facts to the point where I no longer trust what I think I know. It's gotten as absurd as a game of Trivial Pursuit we played where I got an obscure answer right and she said "I don't know how you do that" "Do what?" "Make up a cray answer and then have it show up on the back of the card." She was not joking. So since I second guess all the 'facts' I know I think I'm a bit less susceptible to the Mandela Effect because I may remember a thing vividly but I'm always ready to believe my brain made the whole thing up.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:15 PM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]




Sinbad – real name David Adkins

WHY IS NO ONE TALKING ABOUT THIS
posted by beerperson at 1:45 PM on December 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Well done on the presentation of this FPP Greg Nog. If this had been written as "Redditors With A Conspiracy Theory About a Fake 90s Movie!" I'd be doubting myself, but I totally saw 'Oral HIstory' 'Shazaam' and 'Sinbad' and almost ignored it thinking "Oh yeah, don't think I ever saw it, but I remember it on the video store shelves and it looked terrible!" Well, so, whether I want to or not I'm in on the conspiracy.

also, on the subject of twin movies - The Double and Enemy from a few years ago - both surreal doppelganger films
posted by mannequito at 1:49 PM on December 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


People are fusing Kazaam! and Houseguest in their recollections. Mystery solved. RIP Phil Hartman.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:57 PM on December 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm with MCMikeNamara and SansPoint here. This strikes me as the same unhealthy self-perpetuating delusional belief system that the various truthers have. Instead of 'crisis actors', it's giant Hollywood conspiracies to erase films, but it's the same illness.
posted by tavella at 2:05 PM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


My favorite story from another universe about Kazaam is that it started life as a script about a young boy befriending an older man who was made homeless by unscrupulous real estate developers. Through their friendship the kid comes to terms with his parents divorce, and the old man finds a new home. Then, once the script had been bought, the producers told the screenwriter they were going to make one small change: The older man be a rapping genie who lives inside a boombox, and will be played by Shaquille O'Neill.

Sadly, looking at the writing credits of the people involved, that's probably not the case.
posted by Kattullus at 3:38 PM on December 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yes. Memory isn't recollection: it's a story we tell ourselves (or allow others to tell us); moreover, it's a story that changes with each retelling.

I'm frequently angered by claims that politicians "lie" about events they recollect. They may be lying, but that's an awfully high bar to reach. It's more likely that they're simply mistaken. Thus, I can forgive George W. Bush claiming he saw the airplanes strike the towers live on television, or Hillary Clinton claiming that she had to run to cross the airport tarmac in order to evade snipers in Bosnia: they're just false or conflated memories. Literally everyone does this: it's part of what makes personal memory (and eye-witness testimony) so unreliable.

The difference is that when challenged on it, both Bush and Clinton both said, "Oh, I must have been mistaken," and didn't repeat their claims after being corrected. When Trump was told that Muslims did not publicly celebrate 9/11 in New Jersey, and that he had probably conflated his "memory" with footage of Palestinians on the West Bank at the same time, he continued to insist "No, I saw it."

We have to constantly call into question what we believe, what we see and hear, and what we have memories of. It's an exhausting, frustrating, and necessary part of being a rational human being.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 3:56 PM on December 21, 2016 [18 favorites]


With all the other confusion, I'm surprised nobody has yet brought up Shazam!, the TV series from the 70s. It's oddly burned into my brain somehow.
posted by hippybear at 4:33 PM on December 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


I was sure for a while that David Bowie had been in 1982's Cat People instead of Malcolm McDowell, managing to conflate Bowie's Cat People theme with his performance in The Hunger (1983). I seem to remember talking to someone else who had the same weird memory. I'm pretty sure this is just a brain glitch and not some kind of Flashpoint thing where history has been changed and some of us retain random recollections of the old timeline. But I would rather think history had been changed, because I think we can all agree that version of Cat People would have been much better.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:54 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


*is confronted with the fact that i've confused two tall black men in comedic roles for years* actually this is proof of alternate universes

Brutal.
posted by kafziel at 5:01 PM on December 21, 2016


I think we can all agree that version of Cat People would have been much better.

Wow, I really, really hate to say this, but in this case I'd have to disagree. McDowell actually looks like he might be part cat, and he also has a certain feline aspect to his manner; it may be the movie role that he was best suited for right after you-know-what. You know what role I would have liked to see Bowie in? A Vulcan in just about any of the incarnations of Star Trek.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:42 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


it may be the movie role that he was best suited for right after you-know-what.

Tank Girl?
posted by kafziel at 7:51 PM on December 21, 2016 [7 favorites]


I'm just upset because this distracts people from remembering Sinbad's towering performance in Good Burger.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:10 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


I also knew that it was the Berenstain Bears!

This VHS label disagrees with you, but the book has your back at least.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:38 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


This was a great article. But there is tiny voice though telling me that I haven't checked to see that the reddit thread exists, or if it's an obvious put-on. I worry years from they'll be a few of us saying "It's like when people vividly remembered that guy in a movie that didn't exist" and everyone will be "That doesn't happen" and we'll swear it does it was a thing and there was lots online then become obsessed with proving we're not crazy . . . .
posted by mark k at 11:03 PM on December 21, 2016 [6 favorites]


Nelson: My first comment mentioned the monocle; did I prime you to remember it?

Yep. And despite seeing both the earlier and present monocle-free versions of Uncle Pennybags at Wikipedia, he's still got a monocle in my mind. And if my brain is powerful enough to put a monocle on a trademarked cartoon icon, then it can do anything!

Wait, what?
posted by bryon at 12:10 AM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I had a similar experience, only mine had to do with the novelty/“human-interest” segments they put at the end of TV news broadcasts. I remembered, as a child, having seen one about the world's first one-legged bicycle diving competition. This was a sporting contest in which all the participants had one leg, and each participant had to pedal a bicycle off a high diving board and dive with it into a pool. There was, I think, some footage of this happening.

I have never afterward seen any evidence that one-legged bicycle diving had been a thing.
posted by acb at 3:47 AM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I also knew that it was the Berenstain Bears!

This can be explained by the -stein morphology being more familiar and/or plausible, explanations of why a surname derived from a Germanic word should have such an odd ending (transliteration via Cyrillic and/or Hebrew alphabets) being nonobvious, and finally the common word “stain” having sufficiently negative connotations to embarrass one into autocorrecting one's memory into the more plausible “Ber(e)nstein” to minimise awkwardness.
posted by acb at 3:51 AM on December 22, 2016


A pullquote from TFA:

“It feels like a part of my childhood has now been stolen from me. How does a movie simply vanish from our history?”

What is about the type of person who frequents Reddit that they always seem to be hyperventilating about their childhoods being stolen? (See: Mad Max, Ghostbusters, etc. ad nauseam.)

Is this some new form of manboy insecurity? Who precisely is doing this stealing? Where are they putting all these stolen childhoods? Do we need to form a gang of plucky and slightly nerdy cool boys to go rescue the childhoods?
posted by signal at 12:05 PM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think you're conflating stealing with ruining. The latter deserves the mockery you're giving it, where as the former is an understandable reaction to discovering one has been living with false memories.
posted by radwolf76 at 12:37 PM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


But there is tiny voice though telling me that I haven't checked to see that the reddit thread exists, or if it's an obvious put-on.

Oh it exists all right. That entire subreddit is a treasure trove of ridiculous conspiracty theories.

So far the funniest one I've seen for the Sinbad thing is a suggestion that this is an early set up for a viral marketing campaign for a 2019 The Rock movie called Shazam!

I also found some people debating whether everyone who was born in the year 1980 went down their own branch of reality and have just now skipped over into everyone else's reality.
posted by mannequito at 1:23 PM on December 22, 2016


Though sometimes you have the reverse thing. I remember a few years ago I had a sudden recollection of my family getting a bunch of random sodas from a shop that sold nothing but soda and was attached to a gas station. Glass bottles, you'd pick out whatever kinds you liked and put them in some kind of carrier, and then bring the bottles back later. Which seemed like the sort of random improbability (attached to a gas station? only soda?) that was the hallmark of a remembered dream.

But I did some poking around at the time and found references to such a business having existed.
posted by tavella at 2:04 PM on December 22, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thanks to you people, I've been reading the posts on r/MandelaEffect for the past two hours and I now want to burn down the entire internet.
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:25 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Tavella, was that The Pop Shoppe?
posted by bryon at 5:10 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure it was, the plastic crate looks right and one of the retro sites mentions there being a location right near where we lived. Only thing that doesn't match is that I picture the bottles being longnecks when I remember, and the pictures online of the old bottles show them as stubbies. But I figure my local bottler may have used the tall ones, or I'm just retroactively mapping it onto the memory of 'soda bottle'.
posted by tavella at 5:21 PM on December 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


They were shortnecks where I live, too. The pop wasn't bad, but the mixing and matching of the little bottles was the real fun. (Aside from an entire store devoted to pop!)

Um, to get back to the post ... The Pop Shoppe didn't sell VHS tapes of Shazaam.
posted by bryon at 9:36 PM on December 22, 2016


Also, Chuck Wendig has thoughts and feels about this subject.
posted by bryon at 10:01 PM on December 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


Next you're going to tell me there was never an animated TV series based on the Gummy Worms.
posted by duffell at 6:34 AM on December 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


Best theme song.

Gummi Worms
Slithering around and spreading germs
Hope to gain a seat in the midterms
They are the Gummi Worms!

posted by uncleozzy at 6:38 AM on December 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


Life is like a hurricane / here in Gumberg / gummy race cars, gummy planes / it's a gum blur / vermiculaaaation / plus masticaaaation / Gum Worms! A-woo-oo!
posted by Greg Nog at 7:02 AM on December 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


The one that I can't shake from my own memory would be from an alleged lost decade between the 70s and 80s. It was a coffee commercial, images busy city streets, with the final doo-do-do part of Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side playing. The voiceover says "You're the movers and the shakers. You're the coffee generation" just as the saxophone part comes in. I loved the music and when I "first" heard Walk on the Wild Side many years later, I thought, "oh THAT's the music from that coffee commercial!"

No one else remembers it and I can't find references to it anywhere on the web. I suspect Walk on the Wild Side must have been playing on a radio in the room while I was watching TV. But that commercial is burned into my memory so incredibly vividly that it's hard to convince myself it may not have been real. To my partial credit, there is a similar one from 1984 on youtube with Hold on Tight to Your Dreams (and some cool cameos including Kurt Vonnegut!): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR3zpPZnCbE
posted by treepour at 9:05 AM on January 11, 2017


The one that I can't shake from my own memory would be from an alleged lost decade between the 70s and 80s. It was a coffee commercial, images busy city streets, with the final doo-do-do part of Lou Reed's Walk on the Wild Side playing.

Are you maybe melding a coffee generation ad with this ad that Lou did for Honda scooters? It features that part of Walk on the Wild Side, and is from about the right time period.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 5:43 PM on January 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


Lentrohamsanin, that's it! I can't tell you how overjoyed I feel to have this admittedly trivial mystery put to rest!
posted by treepour at 10:25 AM on January 15, 2017


It's a good try Greg Nog, but uncleozzy wins with Slithering around and spreading germs.
posted by JHarris at 8:01 PM on January 16, 2017


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