I always get a kick out of how popular Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail (Holy Grail for short) is today.  It’s become an enshrined icon of popular culture (and rightly so, I believe).  Geeks everywhere can spout off lines from a half dozen scenes on command, and many can do much more than that when it comes to reciting the litany.

But it wasn’t always so.  My folks used to take me to all sorts of movies when I was a little one.  The kinds that could only be seen at student cinemas in universities.  This was before the era of video cassette, DVD or online distribution.  Sometimes you’d see a movie and not see it again until twenty or thirty years later.  That’s how crazy it was back then.

I went with my folks and their best friend BK to see a new movie called Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail.  I was little, but I recall quite vividly taking in the various scenes from the movie and finding it all ridiculous and true.  I also remember students all around us looking disgusted or confused.  Some were getting up and leaving, dismissing the film with a gesture of their hand just like in those movies where the heroes’ film is trashed by the audience because they don’t understand the genius.

My folks thought it was brilliant, so I saw the movie again in a different university cinema.  I liked it (even though I was hardly old enough to have a deep understanding of what I was watching).  The reaction was the same.  Hippie students dissing the film and making fun of the scenes (“is this supposed to be funny, man?”)

When I was in college, I got a chance to see the movie once more in a university theater with fellow “hip” students.  The reaction couldn’t have been more different.  Genuine enjoyment, reenactment of key lines, copious laughter.

I think about all the icons of culture generated during that time period and how they’ve become assimilated into the mainstream or acquired devoted followings.  The individualized aspects, I think, get lost as people take up the compensatory message of the artistry and celebrate what the icon means in a participatory way.  But the conscious understanding of what the icon is telling us is seldom understood.  You can’t take Holy Grail seriously; it’s just a comedy, right?

Wrong.  It’s truth.  The movie’s a statement of where we are right now, on this planet.  That’s why it’s so “funny”.  You laugh, because otherwise you’d cry.  Or you’d scoff and say, “I don’t get this man.  Pass me that doobie.”