Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Has 'Jump the Shark' 'Nuked the Fridge'?

Back in The Day, a little sit-com called Happy Days ruled the airwaves - that is, until The Fonz strapped on a pair of water skis and jumped over a shark. Eventually, the phrase, "jumped the shark," came into use to describe TV shows that had lost their former level of quality. Eventually, the phrase came to mean anything that had lost its former luster.

In the latest installment of the Indiana Jones franchise, Indy survives a nuclear blast by hiding in a refrigerator. Thus began the latest phrase, "nuke the fridge" or "nuking the fridge." If we wanted to play semantics, "jump the shark" could apply to TV shows and "nuke the fridge" to movies, but they are interchangeable and both are applied across the board, to any situation, content, medium, media, or basic idea that has abandoned its former standard of quality.

The phrase has become so popular (at least online) that domains have been registered and websites are in the works. The New York Times even ran a story on the matter, quoting one observer as saying, "'Jump the shark' is for people over the age of 60, who remember the show."


I remember Happy Days. I guess it was about 30 years ago, but I remember it! Of course, it was one of my favorite shows, as it was for many kids. But the phrase, jump the shark, did not immediately come into the vernacular; I could trace the popularity of the phrase to the early days of the Web, in fact, as I first heard it used in such a manner around 1998-99. Further, Happy Days remained #1 for six years after that episode aired!

Though the Internet has rocketed pop-culture into hyperspeed, whether nuke the fridge will remain a mainstay in the vernacular remains to be seen. It may be that the zeitgeist is simply jumping the gun.

© C Harris Lynn, 2008
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