Area Girlfriend Still Hasn't Seen "Apocalypse Now": Reviewing The Onion from March 1, 2000
Just like today, Alex Trebek and Hillary Clinton were in the news ... and also Beanie Babies and Windows 2000
Welcome back to The Onion: 20 Years Later. Today, we’re looking at Vol. 36, Issue 07, from exactly 20 years ago: March 1, 2000.
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What issue is this?
This is the seventh Onion issue of the 2000s. Here’s what the web version looked like in 2010 and what it looks like today. Today’s website is missing the stories “Mommy Not Moving” and “All Of Family's Neuroses Projected Onto Dog,” which exist but are miscategorized.
What was the top story, and other impressions?
This story has it all: A premise that makes many people laugh out loud or ruefully nod their heads; characters that are ridiculous and yet real; people telling this supposed Onion journalist way too much information; and a story arc that just keeps building and building.
We learn it’s not just “Apocalypse Now” that Brandi Jensen won’t watch with boyfriend Mark Tillich, but also “Full Metal Jacket,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Glengarry Glen Ross,” “Wall Street” and “True Romance.”
Editor’s note: I haven’t seen any of those movies except for “Glengarry Glen Ross.”
This article build an entire universe in under 1,000 words, where we know about the the girlfriend’s best friend, the couple’s pop culture disagreements and the entire history of their relationship squabbles, as seen here:
Other infamous episodes that have occurred during the couple's 18-month relationship include Tillich's August 1999 insistence that Jensen listen to all of side two of the Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat, his January 1999 failure to talk Jensen into visiting the grave of Philip K. Dick during a Colorado road trip, and his ongoing unsuccessful efforts to get her to read Alan Moore's Watchmen, a 1986 postmodern-superhero graphic novel she described as "a comic book about a big blue space guy" and that he calls "nothing less than a total, devastating deconstruction of virtually every archetype in the genre's history."
Like I said up front, this is a massively good issue. Here are a few highlights you shouldn’t miss:
“Nation's Teens Disappointed By Banned Books”: Teens are always disappointed in their elders, and this is no exception. This article skewers a ton of classic books, and seemingly every teenager quoted has not read the books, just literally judged the book based on its cover. Such as:
In a letter sent to the ALA, the American Association Of High-School Students cited its members' other complaints with banned books, including: the monster in John Garner's Grendel isn't scary at all and doesn't even act like a monster; William Golding's Lord Of The Flies is not actually about a mutant insect man who can control the world's flies with his mental powers; and there is no reason to read Stephen King's Cujo when you can see it on cable 24 hours a day; plus, it's not that good, anyway.
“Alex Trebek Deftly Prolongs Agonizing Small Talk”: I won’t spoil it, but this holds up incredibly well.
“Local Welder Suffering From Welder's Block”: This is very much my dumb kind of humor. It’s not making fun of welding, really, it’s just Mad Libs-ing the word “welder” where you’d say “writer.”
“Bag Of Potatoes Desperately Searching For Dirt”: The Onion is known for coming up with the headlines first, then writing the stories. This is a story where I wish I could see the creative process. Clearly a jokey headline that the writer then turns into … a very short horror story.
“Comedian Confesses To Killing Them Out There”: When I say this a dumb issue, I mean it in the way Conan O’Brien calls a sketch “stupid” when he really enjoys it. The premise is a review of local comic Tony Campanelli, but twisted 10 degrees to the side so that it’s also a mass-murder story.
"It was horrible," Bogen said. "[Campanelli] was mercilessly spraying the place with one-liners. All around me, people were falling out of their chairs. When he did the bit about Michael Jackson as Dirty Harry, I thought I was done for."
Were the infographics good?
First, we have the exciting news of Windows 2000! All of these jokes are good, in my humble opinion, but my favorite joke is the random percentages assigned to each answer. This isn’t a survey! But we get a bar chart nonetheless.
We also have “How Are We Seeking Attention,” of which The Onion would probably not do the first joke today, but all the others are fun.
“Demanding ‘executive producer’ credit” is an extremely real Hollywood thing, and “Offering self as prize on bizarre game show” is basically what America is now, and also maybe my least favorite thing about American culture.
What real-life events/people were mentioned?
Hillary Clinton. Alex Trebek. Lynne Russell. Teri Garr. Pope Pius X. Marty McSorley. Donald Brashear.
More real-life people than usual in this week’s issue. The Hillary mention is an early example of what The Onion is today: Reacting to recent political news.
You might recall Hillary Rodham Clinton decided to go by Hillary Clinton after becoming a U.S. Senate candidate. “Hillary's Last Name Dropped From Senate Race” is a mildly funny take on that with the dateline of Oneonta, N.Y., where I worked at the local newspaper from 2005-09 (in real life, Hillary announced her candidacy there because outgoing Sen. Daniel Moynihan lived nearby).
You might not remember when hockey player Marty McSorley was in the news for viciously hitting (and injuring) Donald Brashear during a game 20 years ago. In fact, The Onion doesn’t remember, because the article doesn’t load anymore. Here’s the 2010 version of “American Voices,” which includes this gem:
"Hockey players need to learn to sit down and work through their differences through improved communication. That's the premise of my new book, Penguins Are From Pittsburgh, Oilers Are From Edmonton."
Most “Hey, it’s 2000!” reference
This issue is a time capsule of the year 2000, whether it’s Hillary running for Senate, or the mentions of CNN Headline News (and the magazine Brill’s Content), or Windows 2000, or the “adding rear spoiler to Geo” joke in the “How Are We Seeking Attention” graphic.
But I will award the prize to this headline: “Beanie Baby Collection Stares At Owner With 226 Cold, Dead Eyes.”
What columnists ran?
Are you tired of T. Herman Zweibel? Well, I am not.
This week, he writes “An Open Letter To Pope Pius X” seeking a papal intervention in the form of an annulment. Why? Because his grandson “recently eloped with a mackerel snapper of Irish extraction from the near-by village.”
Two things worth noting:
It’s easy to forget how much Protestants hated Catholics not that many decades ago! (And probably vice versa). This article plays into that enmity well.
Pope Pius X died in 1914.
For the first time in the 2000s, we have a weird but excellent recurring Onion feature, called “Ask A …” The idea is that people write in with questions, like in any advice column. The answers, however, have nothing to do with the questions and are just ramblings by the person identified in the headline.
Thus, in “Ask A Close Personal Friend Of Teri Garr,” we have our first questioner seeking parenting advice. The advice columnist's answer?
Did you say Teri Garr? Teri just happens to be a close personal friend of mine! We met on the set of Short Time, which I had a small role in. We did a scene together on the first day of shooting and just instantly bonded. By the time the movie wrapped six weeks later, we were practically inseparable. …
It’s a very dumb premise, but also can be fun. Sadly, like most Onion columnists, this appears to have been discontinued, with the last such column filed in 2016.
Finally, we have the delightful “People Don't Like It When You Call Them Stupid,” in which Mel Turpin cannot believe that his helpful advice is eliciting poor reactions, whether it be from a bank teller, waiter, police officer or judge. Eventually, poor Turpin gets pulled over for speeding, and it goes poorly:
The first sign of trouble from this state-supported moron comes when he asks, "Do you know how fast you were going, sir?" Boy, did I ever! Ninety-three! So I say to him, "I've got a question for you, officer: If you've got a radar gun right there in your cop car, why do you have to ask? What are you, stupid?"
What was the best horoscope?
I enjoyed Aries this week, which The Onion tries to play off as a downer, but I disagree. Pancakes are a hell of a consolation prize.
Aries | March 21 to April 19
Your love is a burning love, one whose tremendous depth and strength is not to be denied. Too bad it's a love of pancakes.
Was Bill Clinton mentioned? Was an animal quoted?
Just in passing — the last sentence in the Hillary story: '“Hillary is married to politician Bill Clinton.”
No animals talked, although “All Of Family's Neuroses Projected Onto Dog” has an entire family imagining that Woofers the dog shares their plight.
What holds up best?
I think “Nation's Teens Disappointed By Banned Books” is essentially timeless, and you could just swap out the last two words for anything — “parents’ social media use,” “presidential candidates,” etc.
Similarly, “Area Girlfriend Still Hasn't Seen Apocalypse Now” and “Comedian Confesses To Killing Them Out There” both feel very relevant now. Comics still use that terminology even as standup shifts to a Netflix/YouTube world.
What holds up worst?
I get the intent of “Mommy Not Moving,” but it’s more cruel than funny. Moreover, it doesn’t even commit to the headline bit of being told in the child’s voice. I don’t think that would have made it funnier, but it would have at least been logically consistent.
What would be done differently today?
Not much, I hope? I kind of love the mix of celebrities, real-sounding human interest stories, funny infographics and some political humor.
What was happening in the real world?
The Onion published on March 1, but printing a newspaper requires an earlier deadline. Therefore, here are news items from Feb. 21-27, 2000, as listed by InfoPlease and The New York Times front pages (subscription required):
McCain defeats Bush in Michigan and Arizona, while Pat Robertson campaigns for Bush. Dow dips below 10,000. Sotheby's and Christie's face antitrust accusations. China says Taiwan must rejoin. NATO needs troops for Kosovo. Iran reformists succeed in elections. US to order hospitals to track, reduce errors. “CARMAKERS TO BUY PARTS ON INTERNET.” Space shuttle Endeavour completes Earth-mapping mission. Police officers acquitted in Amadou Diallo death. Dale Jarrett wins Daytona 500. FCC debates who should pay for incoming cellphone calls. Big jump in preschoolers taking psychiatric drugs.Secret Service accused of racial bias. Carlos Santana wins 8 Grammys. “After Wedding Fiasco, Fox Vows No More Exploitation.” NYT profiles Afghanistan’s ongoing war and Taliban takeover.