First Fridge Moment

Websites started kicking “nuke the fridge” around roughly three weeks ago, and Newsweek‘s Periscope columnist Sarah Ball has just had a go at it. It refers to Harrison Ford hiding in that refrigerator in Indy 4 to escape the effects of a nuclear blast, etc. The main reason the term hasn’t seemed all that vital to get into from this end is that it doesn’t seem all that different or distinct from “jump the shark.”


Sean Connery’s fridge moment in Thunderball.

The latter, of course, refers to suddenly being old news — having lost one’s place (position, toe-hold, whatever) in the media-culture firmament — due to some sudden, what-just-happened? tectonic shift in the state of things. The former is a cinematic term referring to some ludicrous, over-the-top piece of business that destroys the audience’s faith or sense of belief in the reality of an iconic character. Different, but not too far apart.
On top of which nuke-fridging has been around for since the mid ’60s, when a wave of pop absurdist movies (spy spoofs like Casino Royale, anarchic comedies like What’s New Pussycat?, social upheaval farces like The President’s Analyst) used deliberate and repeated nuke-fridgings as the basis of their comic attitudes.
On top of which the very first superhero fridge-nuke moment happened 42 and 1/2 years ago, so it’s not exactly a fresh concept.
The date was December 17, 1965, when Thunderball, the fourth James Bond film, opened in the U.S. Fans who’d relished Sean Connery‘s brawny machismo in Dr. No and From Russia With Love, and who had felt moderately brought down by the de-balling emphasis on high-tech gadgetry in Goldfinger, completely gave up the faith when Connery strapped on a flying backpack device during Thunderball‘s pre-credit sequence, and went whooosssshhhh….over the buildings!

The problem wasn’t just the jet pack, although that was pretty bad in and of itself. The problem was Connery wearing that idiotic crash helmet. Ian Fleming‘s James Bond wasn’t a scrupulous rule-follower. He was a bit reckless at times, liked to do things his own way. Wearing a crash helmet while flying a couple of hundred feet in the air might have been the prudent thing to do, but it looked wimpy and ridiculous and — let’s be blunt — clownish. It was the end of an era.

38 thoughts on “First Fridge Moment

  1. But that was a working Jet Pack. The pilot wasn’t up for going without the helmet.
    The big “wtf” moment in Thunderball is when the Disco Volente splits in two. That’s the “now you’ve gone too far” for me. But at least that happens at the end.
    And isn’t the greatest Fridge moment the slo-mo explosion in Zabriski Point (SP)?

  2. The “fridge” moment was the point where I knew for a fact that Indy IV would be a letdown. It is beyond me how an obviously intelligent and skilled filmmaker could include something so stupid. Then he goes and turns Shia LeBeouf into Tarzan…
    Let’s be honest, if that movie had been about any other character than Indiana Jones, it would have been an absolute dud.

  3. Never mind the fridge, the whole nuke sequence in Indiana Jones has nothing to do with the story.
    The two worst movies I’ve seen so far this year are Indiana Jones and Jumper. At least Jumper has ultra-cutie Rachel Bilson.

  4. If it’s any consolation, the producers absolutely did NOT want the helmet; there were not given a choice. Because this wasn’t really a special effect, but an actual, working device, they weren’t really allowed to mess around with it. The producers refused to use the helmet in all art and promo photos though…
    The moment might have been a “nuke the fridge” moment, whatever the hell that means. But clearly audiences loved it because Thunderball is definitely the most popular Bond movie of all time. Adjusted for inflation, the movie made $515 million in the US alone. Compare this to the latest bond film, which made 165 million, and that is in a US with twice the population.

  5. Talk about your old media mistake: love it when a journo first gets something wrong, then runs off on a tangent based on this mistake.
    “Jump the shark” has nothing to do with “media-cultural firmament.” It almost exclusively relates to a perceived wrong turn in the course of a film or TV series. Wannabe hipster types might have hijacked the concept to apply to non-popculture subjects (“Hillary’s camp jumped the shark with this PUMA nonsense”) but term used the majority of the time in relation to a show or franchise taking a creative nose dive.
    And no, the helmet thing doesn’t count. It might look ridiculous, but it doesn’t destroy the franchise like, say, entire Roger Moore era.

  6. I agrre with cphreek, the helmet was goofy (although not as goofy as Bond’s terry cloth robe/shorts combination in Gold finger) but it didn’t kill the franchise. There were still some solid Bonds after Thunderball.

  7. Notable nuke-the-fridge moment: Will Smith sucker-punching the alien in Independence Day.
    Will ain’t been worth shit since then. That movie was nothing but a cornucopia of of nuke-the-fridge moments. The fireball frying thousands of people in the tunnel, but the dog escaping at the last second. Will and Goldblum hacking into the aliens’ hard drive in a matter of minutes using a Mac laptop. Nuke-the-fridge has been the story of his career since then, except for Ali.

  8. Very strange comment, CinemaPhreek. I didn’t know that “jump the shark” is not allowed to be used for any other purpose other than describing TV shows. I guess that these “Wanna-bee hipster types” should be punished for using the English language in a way that does not conform to your strange sense of rhetorical etiquette. Let me say that any post that contains a phrase like “Wannabee hipster types” has Jumped the shark. What exactly does that mean? I guess it describes a certain kind of person who wants to be a hipster but has failed, as opposed to those who are hip, and are therefore allowed to use the English language in a way that is acceptable to CinemaPhreek. (Meaning: they are hip because they don’t use the term “jump the shark” for anything other than TV shows and movie franchises).

  9. Worse than Connery (or his stuntman) wearing a
    helmet to ride the jet pack was Daniel Craig wearing
    a life preserver while being escorted across the Thames
    to the press conference unveiling him as the new Bond.
    That almost sunk the franchise right there.

  10. That being said, the fridge moment in JUNO is when Juno’s stepmom tells off the ultrasound technician. JUNO jumps the shark when Juno and that guy from TEEN WOLF 2 talk about horror movies.

  11. Nemo – I’d say the “nuke the fridge” moment in Independence Day is the doggie outrunning the fireball.
    Is it Chain Reaction in which Keanu Reeves outruns a nuclear accident on a motorcycle? That’s pretty bad.
    I’m comfortable with “nuke the fridge” just because I’d do *anything* to get “jump the shark” de-emphasized as a piece of our cultural vernacular. Whatever meaning it might once have had has been gone for five or six years now. Now it’s just another buzzword being used by stupid people.
    Viva Espana!!!!

  12. Plus the director of Thunderball, Terence Young, or whoever was doing the second unit, blew the shot, because there’s no proof that they weren’t using a crane and wires, even though they weren’t.

  13. George – you should stick to your usual attempts at lame smartass comments (while almost never having anything of actual value to add to any discussion). Not to mention, strawman arguments are such lazy bullshit.
    I don’t claim it can’t be used in other areas, I just pointed out that it is usually used in exactly the same manner as people now want to use “nuke the fridge.”
    But considering how you finally came out of your little shell to say something, I must have hit a nerve there the hipster wannabe comment…

  14. ‘Jump the shark’ by the way, is more of a reference to a point in any endeavor where the creators or perpetrators have run out of legitimate ideas to continue their efforts, and resort to foolishness rather than shutting things down.
    I rather thought that HE had done that a couple of months ago when you suggested that voters should be given an intelligence test before being allowed to enter the booth, but somehow you’ve managed to soldier on.

  15. When Fonzie jumped a shark while wearing his trademark leather jacket, everyone knew the show had strayed a very long way from its roots. This included critics, audiences, and fans alike.
    But the problem with “nuke the fridge” is that it’s a cinematic moment not everyone had a problem with. Most critics singled out the film’s prologue as being a highlight, and most audiences enjoyed it for what it was, just chalking it up to, “Hey, it’s Indiana Jones.”
    As for Thunderball, I’ve never heard anyone regard the jetpack scene as a “jump the shark” moment. Or thumb their nose at the fantastical elements of Goldfinger. For decades, that film was regarded as THE quintessential Bond film. When you consider that it was basically the film that launched James Bond as a cultural icon and phenomenon…that’s quite a stretch to imply it somehow took the series off course.

  16. I guess I didn’t realize that phrases like “Jump the shark” and “nuke the fridge” are such sacred texts. But I guess there are originalists like CinemaPhreek who want them to retain some kind of special resonance. And yes, I want to be a hipster real bad. I want to look exactly like that guy with the chunky black glasses in the Verizon ad.

  17. The “nuke the fridge” moment of the Indiana Jones flicks isn’t the nuking of the fridge. It’s Indy, Willie and Short Round jumping out of an airplane on an inflatable raft in TEMPLE OF DOOM. Let’s face it – since RAIDERS, all the Indy movies have pretty much been a series of these moments. What’s the big deal?

  18. “Let’s face it – since RAIDERS, all the Indy movies have pretty much been a series of these moments. What’s the big deal?”
    Exactly. And if Raiders had been released in 2008, we’d probably have “Opened The Ark” being submitted to Urban Dictionary instead. You can just imagine the howls of “it was a serious movie up until that point!” Or criticisms that such a literal deus ex machina was a major cheat on the part of the writer!
    “Nuke the fridge” fails as a phrase, because most people accept and recognize the character of Indiana Jones as a pulp hero. If Jason Bourne or Michael Clayton had attempted the stunt, then it would be a true “WTF?” moment. But for someone who is basically a modern day Doc Savage, it’s the type of silly escapism that most tend to accept…and even expect.

  19. I would suggest:
    to jump the shark – the creative decline of a serial endeavor (or a career) that was once an artistic and/or commercial success; usually can be traced back to a single event that marks the transition between the two, but not always
    (e.g. Woody Allen really jumped the shark with Curse of the Jade Scorpion and Hollywood Ending)
    to nuke the fridge – a scene/sequence within a single work (rather than a series/career) that goes beyond suspension of disbelief and/or artistic daring and instead lands squarely in the camp called “silliness”; makes no comment about the quality of what came before or comes after.
    (e.g. While I quite like Sonic Youth’s Goo, they really nuked the fridge with the track “My Friend Goo”)
    Problem solved.

  20. Thunderball is most certainly crap, but Sean Connery could have worn a helmet for the entire thing and it would have been ten times better than Moonraker.
    He could have worn elevator shoes with goldfish in them, pokadot suspenders, and one of those neck braces…for the entire movie…and it still would have been better than Moonraker.

  21. Speaking of movie-inspired phrases, has anyone ever investigated ‘carrot and the stick’ It is commonly used today to mean that someone is being offered a goodie or a punishment as motivation, but I am convinced that the true source of the phrase comes from the Little Rascals where a carrot, tied to a stick, was placed just outside of an animal’s reach so that it would pull a cart in an attempt to obtain the reward.

  22. After Raiders of the Lost Ark, the character of Indiana Jones was spun off into a comicbook series that lasted for about 3 years. In these “further adventures”, Indy survived everything from demons to dragons to interdimensional vortexes.
    Then came Temple of Doom, with its heart-ripping cult and over-the-top mine cart and life raft sequences. It was soon followed by Last Crusade, which culminated with Indy meeting a centuries-old knight in a little cave.
    In the 90s, the character continued via a line of novels, graphic novels, and videogames. These found him surviving everything from interior worlds within the Earth to giant serpent demi-gods to interdimensional vortexes (which he actually crossed over into).
    Throughout all of his adventures, the legends/religions have all been proven true, the magic has always worked, and he has always survived via extremely over-the-top methods.
    So…yeah, I’m not sure why the fridge thing was really that big of a deal. I guess I can understand if a viewer had always assumed the character was supposed to be realistic. But not the fans/geeks who grew up with Indy’s expanded universe…yet still cried foul over the A bombs and aliens.

  23. Those who complain about the ‘nuking the fidge’ sequence of Indiana Jones have completely missed the point of that series of movies.

  24. Nuke the Fridge just doesn’t work as slang since the scene wasn’t about them dropping the bomb on the fridge. This is just film critics being upset that they can’t come up with a catchy phrase like the people who love TV. Want to know a better phrase to let people know when a film is toast: “Mike Myers is the Love Guru!”
    No matter how they shot the jetpack scene, people would still swear the entire things was done with “movie magic.” That’s why Houdini’s stunts he did on film didn’t amaze audiences. People thought it was merely a camera trick rather than his own amazing stuntwork.

  25. The fridge-nuking moment was when the groundhog, prairie dog, whatever, stuck his head out of the ground. Granted, it was the first moment in the movie, but …….

  26. I agree that the Indiana Jones series “nuked the fridge” when they jumped out of the airplane with the life raft. Granted, there were “implausible” moments in Raiders (the submarine didn’t submerge even once?) and it had the fantastical ending, but, at least to me, nothing where you said, “Oh, come on!”
    Then Temple of Doom started with such promise, with the nightclub fight that’s one of the best-directed scenes in the whole series. Then, pow, you run directly into the life raft thing. The series got progressively more outlandish after that.
    Whether that’s a bad thing is up to individual taste.
    Incidentally, I’ve also referred to these moments with the immortal phrase, “He never got out of the cockadoodie car!”

  27. Those who complain about the ‘nuking the fidge’ sequence of Indiana Jones have completely missed the point of that series of movies.

  28. I think we need a new phrase for when an artist has creatively jumped the shark or nuked the fridge and then redeems him/herself.
    Such as Ang Lee may have jumped the shark with The Hulk, but he “blanked” with Brokeback Mountain.
    Or Woody Allen nuked the fridge with Hollywood Ending, but “blanked” with Match Point before he jumped back over the shark with Scoop.
    Any suggestions?

  29. Wilbury: “Worse than Connery (or his stuntman) wearing a helmet to ride the jet pack was Daniel Craig wearing
    a life preserver while being escorted across the Thames
    to the press conference unveiling him as the new Bond.”
    I thought it was the fact that the new Bond had to rip off Speed and Titanic, for it to be considered “edgy”, which is what did it.
    Jake: I imagine the novels and comics, while canon, don’t necessarily count as relevant to the series as much as the movies. Otherwise, we’d be complaining about Indy encountering historical figures, such as Pancho Villa, in the teen series spin-off.
    Reedy: Lee didn’t jump the shark with the Hulk. He just briefly slid off the diving board.
    Anyway, A History of Violence’s “nuke the fridge” moment was the sex scene on the stairs; it later continued with the dinner scene where you think they’re paying a tribute to those pro-beef ads.

  30. Just to pile on: you can nuke the fridge, but still come back from the creative brink of bankruptcy. Where as, once you jump the shark, that’s it. You’re gone.
    Also, the judgment depends on the rules and character dynamics that you’ve set up in previous movies/episodes. How far you go in violating those rules determines whether you’ve nuked the fridge or jumped the shark.
    So, for instance, Happy Days nuked the fridge in the episode in which Fonzie went blind, his friends took his motorcycle apart so he could sell the parts and then he reassembled it. Blind.
    It jumped the shark when he jumped the shark.
    The easiest example to use is the Matrix trilogy. The Matrix was ridiculous, but worked within the very logical rules it set up for itself.
    It nuked the fridge in Reloaded when Neo had an alley fight in which he fought a hundred Smiths, but there was no sense of danger or logic in his fight, even for a computer simulation. They all pile on, he does his little spinning-stick move and kicks them off.
    It jumped the shark in Revolutions when nothing mattered anymore. Everything was a glut of humans in CGI power-loaders shooting at other CGI squids while Neo fought a city of Smiths who sat around and watched another Smith fight him in the rain. (Didn’t you ask why the other Smiths just sat there and watched? I did.)
    So, bringing this back to where it began:
    Raiders of the Lost Ark was: perfect. Established the rules.
    Temple of Doom nuked the fridge when: Indy, Willie and Short Round plummeted out of the plane in the life raft.
    Last Crusade jumped the shark when: they took the resourceful, intelligent characters of Sallah and Marcus Brody and reduced them to comedic stereotypes… among many, many other crimes.
    Crystal Skull was: an abortion of cinema that should never have been made.

  31. “It nuked the fridge in Reloaded when Neo had an alley fight in which he fought a hundred Smiths, but there was no sense of danger or logic in his fight, even for a computer simulation. They all pile on, he does his little spinning-stick move and kicks them off.”
    There’s no sense of danger, because he’s finally recognized his true abilities. Plus, the Smiths aren’t the real threat any more.

  32. “Nuke the Fridge” jumps the shark for snarky phrases meant to point out something is over.
    The only difference between the fridge in Indy 4 and all the silly moments in Raiders is that I’m not in 5th grade anymore.
    Also, the movie around the silly moments in Raiders was so goddamn entertaining, there wasn’t any time to be distracted by foolishness….the 4th one? not so much. And I say that as someone who didn’t hate the last one.

  33. “Nuke the Fridge” jumps the shark for snarky phrases meant to point out something is over.

    The only difference between the fridge in Indy 4 and all the silly moments in Raiders is that I’m not in 5th grade anymore.

    Also, the movie around the silly moments in Raiders was so goddamn entertaining, there wasn’t any time to be distracted by foolishness….the 4th one? not so much. And I say that as someone who didn’t hate the last one.

  34. To be serious for a moment, doesn’t the whole nuclear bomb thing forshadow the ending… that too much knowledge is potentially fatal?

  35. Why has AUNT SASSY been BANNED???
    I miss her insightful comments on film, and her bitchy commentary. She added a refreshing viewpoint to this site.
    FREE AUNT SASSY!!!

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