Austin Powers : International Man of Mysteryi was something of a cultural comedic icon when I was growing up. Putting your pinky to the edge of your lips after delivering a punchline à la Dr. Evil, saying “Oh behave !” or answering “Yes please !” when asked what “sex” you were à la Austin Powers, or even ritualistically shaving your testiclesii became widespread and a commonplace way to break the ice with people of all ages. It’s hard to think of another movie since then that’s been so quotable, so memorable, so widely watched, and has even aged as well as it has.iii I watched it last night and even after 18 years it still had me chuckling at the silly sight gags involving Austin Powers’ outdated powers of seduction, Dr. Evil’s tiptoeing clumsiness, and the cheeky irreverence that’s entirely lost from more contemporary comedies.iv
In the film, Austin Powers, secret agent and dick-swinger extraordinaire, had to acclimatise himself to London in the 90’s after being cryogenically frozen for 30 years. His aid in this endeavour is the shaggalicious Vanessa Kensington, played by the fetching Elizabeth Hurley,v the daughter of Austin’s lover from three decades prior and a secret agent in her own right.
Vanessa Kensington : Mr. Powers, my job is to acclimatize you to the nineties. You know, a lot’s changed since 1967.
Austin Powers : No doubt, love, but as long as people are still having promiscuous sex with many anonymous partners without protection while at the same time experimenting with mind-expanding drugs in a consequence-free environment, I’ll be sound as a pound!
Even today, with the power of the Internet increasingly eroding the puritanism and protestantism of the last few decades, Powers would have a bit of a time finding an environment offering a panoply of free love and top-notch drugs outside of perhaps the international rave scene,vi which, even if David Guetta is on the pop radio stations, isn’t embedded into everyday culture in nearly the same way. Times have changed… a bit.
Another sign of the times since 1997, much less 1967 : inflation.
Dr. Evil : Oh hell, let’s just do what we always do. Hijack some nuclear weapons and hold the world hostage. Yeah? Good! Gentlemen, it has come to my attention that a breakaway Russian Republic called Kreplachistan will be transferring a nuclear warhead to the United Nations in a few days. Here’s the plan. We get the warhead and we hold the world ransom for… ONE MILLION DOLLARS!
Number Two : Don’t you think we should ask for *more* than a million dollars? A million dollars isn’t exactly a lot of money these days. Virtucon alone makes over 9 billion dollars a year!
Dr. Evil : Really? That’s a lot of money.
Dr. Evil : Okay then, we hold the world ransom for… One… Hundred… BILLION DOLLARS!
Hahahaha !!1 Janet Yellen prints as much every single month ! To blow the socks of the fiat powers that be, you’d have to demand a ransom of 100 TRILLION today. So 18 years, 100,000% inflation. You do the annualised math.
The last thing worth noting about this movie is that even “the bad guys” really aren’t so bad. Sure, they want to take over the world (and come pretty damn close), but they’re also human, they have a sense of humour, and they too fly because they’re loved. Remember this the next time you see an anti-Bitcoin agitprop comedy.
It won’t be long, yeah, yeah, yeah…
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- 1997, written by Mike Myers and starring Mike Myers and Elizabeth Hurley. Directed by Jay Roach. [↩]
- I wonder where else I might’ve got the idea ? I suppose there’s always porn. In any case, as Dr. Evil noted, there really is nothing like a shorn scrotum. It is breathtaking and I do suggest you try it. [↩]
- Shrek (2001) might come close, and go figure that it also featured Mike Myers as the lead, but it was also animated and therefore wasn’t quite as broadly influential. Animated movies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Shrek also didn’t have nearly the soundtrack that Austin Powers did. I remember that CD well… [↩]
- It’s also remarkable to think that Mike Myers so successfully played both of the main characters in the film. Eddie Murphy sorta kinda not really made a similar effort in this direction in The Nutty Professor (1996) but there was really only the one dinnertime scene where he played more than one character. Myers played both leads throughout and absolutely nailed it. [↩]
- What ever happened to Ms. Hurley, you ask ? Father time. Since the early 2000’s, she’s been in two movies and you’re unlikely to have ever seen either of them, being Made in Romania (2010) and Viktor (2014). Other than that, she’s done some TV work. Since she was basically riding her looks, her decline was both necessary and inevitable. [↩]
- Then again, if you’re from the Internet, there’s always the Fetlife Meatlist and whatever replaced Silk Road. [↩]