I’ve been putting up with horrible rainy weather for what feels like ages, and I’m sick of it. It’s supposed to be summer! I should be frolicking in the sunshine, not cowering from the outside world.
So I thought I’d cheer myself up with a look at the important umbrellas of pop culture. If I can’t entirely avoid the damp and drizzly world, at least I can take pride in the proud history of these protectors.
Singin’ in the Rain
Confession: I’ve never actually watched this film all the way through. (I know, I know…I keep meaning to and one day I will get around to it.) However, having wandered in on people watching it enough times I’m certainly familiar with many of the song and dance numbers- including Gene Kelly doing the title song, complete with puddles to splash in, an umbrella to twirl, and (as rumour has it) a 103-degree fever.
As the series was shot, like many others, in Vancouver (cos Canadia be cheaper) there was a lot of insidious rain to be dealt with during production. Danny in Studio 60 refused to go shoot there, but bitching about Vancouver can lead to problems- it got David Duchovny (Mulder in The X-Files) into trouble when he light-heartedly complained about the weather on the radio. At least it led to lots of cute Mulder and Scully under an umbrella scenes, and apparently there’s a trope for that too.
Supernatural definitely owes a debt to The X-Files. Not only in terms of the paranormal investigating duo tackling the Monsters of the Week- but they’ve also used a lot of the same cast and crew (Kim Manners, John Shiban, Steven Williams, William B. Davis…etc etc etc). Plus the opening credits to the alien-tinged episode ‘Clap Your Hands If You Believe…’ were an obvious homage. The boys have also compared themselves to Mulder and Scully (Sam has to be the read-headed woman) and the nod to their umbrella moments in the Kim Manners-directed ‘Bugs’ just made the connection all the more obvious.
Even if you’ve been living under a rock for the past five years I refuse to believe that you haven’t heard this song. Repeatedly. It became a huge hit worldwide, sparked curse controversy, and has been covered a whole lot. I once left my umbrella in a place that was playing the song on a loop and was too embarrassed to go ask for it back because I thought the request sounded too ridiculous. Pop music truly does impact on our lives.
The original super-nanny had a magical parrot-handled brolly which spoke (it was voiced by David Tomlinson in the Disney musical, who also played Mr Banks). The best thing about the talking umbrella seemed to be that if it got snarky, Mary could shut it up easily with a well-placed hand. If only hushing everyone in real life was that easy. It also served as a pleasant mode of transport, not to mention a refuge from the rain- something you never want to be caught without in London town.
How I Met Your Mother
Ted’s already admitted to his kids that he met their mother through a yellow umbrella mix-up- so why the hell is his story taking so long to tell?! Ted accidentally appropriated and returned said umbrella to the woman, and will presumably happen upon it again and strike up a conversation that’ll lead to them getting together and having kids. Although given how ridiculously camp he looks with the thing there’s always hope that instead he’ll take the opportunity to come out of the closet.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy very rarely got any credit for keeping the population of Sunnydale- and indeed the world- safe from monsters and Armageddon. However, in ‘The Prom’ she was presented with a Class Protector Award in the shape of an umbrella- symbolising her defensive role. She was deeply touched by the acknowledgement, and when Sunday- a bitchy vampire- damaged it in ‘The Freshman’ it angered Buffy enough to give her the strength to beat the vamps she’d been losing spectacularly against just moments before.
In ‘The Substitute’ new gal Holly Holiday (Gwyneth Platrow) battled with Mr Schuester for the glee club’s affections- and his job. By the end of the episode the tension was resolved, in true Glee style, with a mash-up. By incorporating Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ into their rendition of the classic ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ they once again gave an old tune a new twist. Plus including this example neatly references two of the other items on the list- how’s that for meta?
Rain suddenly became charming and whimsical in this French film rather than irritating and, well, wet. It’s set in Montmartre, a part of Paris that I automatically associate with precipitation- probably due to the paintings of the Impressionists. Audrey Tautou’s cute pixieish looks and the red polka dot umbrella created an adorable- and iconic- image. Incidentally Yann Tiersen- who composed the music for the movie- has also covered ‘Le parapluie’ for a Georges Brassens tribute album. Clearly everyone Amelie-related tends to have umbrellas on the brain.
‘The Umbrella Man’
‘The Umbrella Man’ is a Roald Dahl short story- and also the name under which the tales collected in The Great Automatic Grammatizator and Other Stories were published in the US. (Maybe it was a Philosopher’s Stone vs. Sorcerer’s Stone deal, and someone decided that Americans would be put off by long words in the title and decided to focus on something more soothing- like shelter.) The story itself is about a con involving a fancy umbrella and pubs- two things it’s practically impossible not to like!
Tell us about other umbrella-heavy pieces of pop culture, or your favourite cover of the Rihanna song, in the comments!