There are certain references ingrained in US popular culture that mean exactly the opposite of what most people think they mean. Let’s explore that niche…
For instance, the Police’s “Every Breath You Take”. Possibly the most ubiquitous wedding song and/or bride & groom dance song out there. The conventional wisdom (CW) apparently considers this a powerfully touching love song, a paean to romantic devotion.
record scratch It’s a STALKER SONG! It’s CREEPY! Sting himself is appalled that people us it to represent true love and devotion! Stop using it!
Another example is Howard Beale’s “I’m mad as hell” rant from the film Network. CW sees this as a giant middle finger to corporate media control, a “free yourself from media bondage” tour-de-force.
This is a little more nuanced than “Every Breath You Take”, but it’s still not what people think it is. Howard Beale is nuttier than a pecan orchard. He hears voices. Not only does he hear voices, he does what they tell him! His rant may actually sound like good advice, a great call to arms. But it doesn’t lead to anything. Beale is eventually co-opted by his corporate employer. His “mad as hell” revolution never actually happens…instead, it leads to his news show becoming a sideshow.
Last example, from the musical Gypsy!. The scene at the train station when Mama Rose sings “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”. Way too many productions play this scene as a great, rip-roaring celebration of optimism, and the song in popular culture follows that lead. “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” just when everything looks bleak.
However, it’s not optimism. It’s pathology. Mama Rose is so far gone in delusions of showbiz success that, having just lost the only elements of her troupe with real talent (in the world of this musical, anyway), she’s prepared to try to mold her remaining daughter, whom she’s been disparaging for her lack of acting talent the whole rest of the show, into a vaudeville star. Despite the fact that both that daughter and Rose’s lover, Herbie, are clearly appalled by the idea and had expressed an interest in retiring from the business when told that June had eloped and run away. The train station scene is a portrayal of a dominating personality running roughshod over her own loved ones’ wishes in order to keep alive her dreams of living the vaudeville life vicariously through her daughters.
So, who has more?