Costume design in movies is sort of in the same boat as dialogue in porn flicks; we’re vaguely aware that it’s there, but it’s not something anyone really pays attention to. Thankfully, this also means that movie costumes are the perfect place to hide clever little Easter Eggs for film maniacs with too much free time to find and childishly geek out over. And if you’ll excuse me, I believe that was my cue to start talking about how …
#6. The Joker’s Mask in The Dark Knight Was Based on the OldBatman TV Show
With The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan wasted no time in establishing that his interpretation of the Joker would be like nothing we’d ever seen before. In just the first five minutes of the movie, Heath Ledger’s character not only pulls off a daring daylight robbery of a mob bank, but simultaneously arranges the deaths of all of his accomplices, and he does it all while wearing a mask from Tim Burton’s reimagining of Snow White.
This quickly let us know that the character was a scheming, machine-gun-toting mastermind, which completely set him apart from all the other Jokers that we knew, especially Cesar Romero in the silly ’60s Batman TV show. That is, other than the fact that Ledger wore Romero-Joker’s mask throughout the entire bank robbery.
20th Century Fox Television
All evidence seems to point to the design of Ledger’s clown mask being modeled directly on a scene from “The Joker Is Wild,” an episode of the Batman TV series that also marked the first appearance of the Joker on the show. In the episode, Adam West’s Batman tracks Romero’s clown prince of crime to the Gotham opera company, where he’s secretly performing an aria fromPagliacci, because back then that was as close as the Joker could get to being an actual killer clown (look it up). As you can see, the similarities between Romero’s Pagliacci costume and Ledger’s mask are undeniable.
20th Century Fox Television, Warner Bros.
Good luck unseeing that anytime soon.
And if anyone out there is wondering why Nolan even bothered referencing an old comedy series that was campier than a Boy Scout jamboree: While it’s true that The Dark Knight was basically asuperhero version of Michael Mann’s Heat, the 1960s series is what has kept Batman alive in the public consciousness for decades, so despite its silliness, it still deserves all the respect it can get. The fact that the man who first brought the Joker to the big screen didn’t respect the character enough to even shave off his mustache for the role should really be beside the point.
#5. Jack Sparrow’s Attire Points to the Character’s Muslim Inspiration
You can fault the Pirates of the Caribbean movies for a lot of things, but to the franchise’s credit, it always kept true to the Disneyland ride it was based on by having almost nothing to do with real pirates, with Captain Jack Sparrow as the prime example.
“Everyone always thinks I’m high. I’m really just seasick.”
Try to put away your personal feelings for the movie or Johnny Depp and ask yourself: Does this man look anything like a classic pirate? I don’t know; between the mascara, the bandanna, and the braided beard, he more resembles a goth hippie or something. And what’s up with all the crap woven into his hair? Like this medallion here:
Huh. That looks suspiciously like the Turkish star and crescent, but … how? Call me crazy, but I faintly recall that Pirates of the Caribbean took place somewhere in the general vicinity of the Caribbean, so what is Jack Sparrow doing with an Islamic symbol in his dreads? Actually, if yousubscribe to a Reddit theory, the coin and the rest of Sparrow’s attire might actually be referencing the character’s real-life Muslim inspiration, the infamous pirate Jack Ward.
Pier Francesco Mola
“Actually, Disney sued. It’s ‘Jake Ward’ now.”
Jack Ward, also known as “Birdy,” was a 16th century English pirate who terrorized the Mediterranean and eventually converted to Islam, taking on the name Yusuf Reis. For 15 years, Ward/Reis sailed the coast of North Africa, plundering ships and commanding hundreds of men, until he became something of a pirate celebrity. There have been songs and entire theatrical plays written about the man, and by all accounts his larger-than-life, drunken legend eventually inspired one of Disney’s largest and sexiest cash cows.
The Islamic coin is just one clue, but there is more to support this theory. Jack Sparrow’s headband, for example, does sort of kind of resemble a turban style worn in Islamic countries, plus the type of mascara he wears is known as kohl, which was primarily available in North Africa, where Jack Ward operated. Also, after hours of Googling, I discovered that sparrows are in fact birds, and “Ward” and “bird” both have four letters, and also Jack Ward was nicknamed “Birdy,” ergo ipso facto randomus latinus, Disney is secretly converting children to Islam with the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
#4. Castiel from Supernatural Is Wearing the Coat of an Asshole Demon Hunter
Warner Bros. Television
Supernatural is a show that started out as a story about two brothers hunting monsters before ultimately focusing on how adorable Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki are together.
Warner Bros. Television
As the show slowly changed focus from horror to a kind of magical dark comedy, Supernaturaleventually introduced a new leading character: Castiel, a demon-hunting angel from heaven who dresses like Columbo and whose main shtick is that he just doesn’t get how the human world works. Here he is watching porn for the first time:
Warner Bros. Television
Yeah, it’s kind of a lame joke, but Misha Collins plays Castiel with such a beautiful mix of childlike naivete and deadpan seriousness that you can’t help but constantly laugh at his antics. In fact, Collins did such a great job with making the character his own that you can hardly tell anymore that Castiel was sort of meant to be a parody of John Constantine.
DC Comics, Warner Bros. Television
Non-comic book fans may not immediately get that reference, but they might remember the 2005 movie Constantine starring Keanu Reeves, which made film history by showing Shia LaBeouf gettingbrutally beaten to death. Well, that movie was actually loosely based on the excellent comic book series Hellblazer starring John Constantine: a chain-smoking antihero conman who investigates paranormal phenomena in an old trench coat and loose tie.
And probably watches a lot of porn.
Eric Kripke, the creator of Supernatural, freely admits that Castiel’s clothes are the same ones worn by the occult sorcerer with cancer. Thematically it does make sense, because Supernatural is about working-class guys taking out paranormal threats, which also happens to be the summary of pretty much every Hellblazer comic ever. Although, as far as I know, Constantine never once uttered the phrase “Hey, Assbutt!” so that’s at least one thing Supernatural has over Hellblazer.
#3. A Powerpuff Girls Villain Pays Homage to the Series’ Japanese Influences
Cartoon Network Studios
When I first saw The Powerpuff Girls on the old Cartoon Network, I really didn’t get it. Then I discovered Japanese TV shows and the concept of satire, and suddenly everything clicked.
Cartoon Network Studios
“So it’s like stealing, but OK?” -Me, circa 1996
The huge eyes, the giant monster fights, the Sailor Moon-esque juxtaposition of superheroism with the mundane problems of everyday life: That stuff made a lot more sense once I realized it all traced back to Japanese television. Sure, the satire wasn’t especially clever or anything, but it made me feel smart when I first understood it all those years ago. Then I found out about the show’s other super obscure references that I’d missed and felt stupid all over again. (The Powerpuff Girls turned out to be a real emotional roller coaster for me.)
Take Mojo Jojo, for example — one of the series’ chief antagonists who happens to be a superintelligent green monkey in go-go boots:
Cartoon Network Studios
You’d have that face too if you had that much Rule 34 made about you.
At first glance, he looks like any other ’90s supervillain, right down to the dome housing his cartoonishly oversized brain. But when designing the character, series creator Craig McCracken actually based his look on two characters from old Japanese TV shows that most Japanese people don’t even remember. For instance, the green simian/space magician look was based on Dr. Gori, the main villain from the 1971-72 Fuji TV series Spectreman.
“You damn dirty ape!” -NOT an actual quote from the series, if you can believe it.
Embodying the tokusatsu genre made famous by Power Rangers, Spectreman was a show about a super cyborg fighting the monsters created by the mad scientist Gori (think an illegitimate love child of Rita Repulsa and Dr. Zaius). The series also had a heavy-handed environmental message, which luckily never made it into The Powerpuff Girls, unlike the costume of the main hero from another Japanese TV series: The Kagestar.
It’s like if Deadpool and the Red Ranger had a special needs child.
Recognize the spiral pattern on his head? According to McCracken, the heroic Kagestar’s helmet served as inspiration for Mojo Jojo’s brain jar. Was it a subtle indication that there’s still some good in the villainous monkey? Actually, considering that The Kagestar‘s main villain was a Nazi scientist called Dr. Satan, it’s a safe bet that its influence on the cartoon didn’t go past the wacky helmet design.
And since we’re already on the topic of ripping off Japan …
#2. O-Ren Ishii’s Kimono References the Movie That Inspired All of Kill Bill
Quentin Tarantino is something of a hero of mine, because he managed to make millions of dollars by filming the daydreams I used to have during boring math classes. I first became aware of this in 2003 with Kill Bill, which told the story of Uma Thurman revenge-murdering a bunch of cartoon caricatures with a katana, like when she kills Lucy Liu in a snow-filled Japanese garden.
The gun dragon was unfortunately cut for budgetary reasons.
What’s interesting about that scene is that, well, have you ever wondered why Liu’s O-Ren Ishii was wearing a white kimono before Thurman’s Beatrix attacked her? Sure, it looks stylish as hell, but in Japanese culture, white kimonos are usually reserved for priests, brides, and the dead, so it doesn’t make sense for O-Ren to wear one … unless she was planning to marry that crazy girl with the ball and chain before Thurman interrupted them, like in all those fan-fics I’ve written.
The ball and chain feature prominently during their wedding night scene.
There might be a perfectly rational explanation for her attire, and it’s that it was a nod to the 1973 revenge flick Lady Snowblood, a tale about a 19th century woman seeking bloody vengeance on the men who killed her family, aka the backstory of Thurman’s and Liu’s characters. Tarantino never made it a secret that the movie influenced a huge portion of Kill Bill, right down to the costume O-Ren wore and her snowy battle arena, which mirror scenes from Lady Snowblood.
The umbrella also features prominently during the wedding night scene.
It might not be the exact same outfit, but the connection between the two movies is definitely there. On the other hand, the part where Thurman chops off the top of O-Ren’s head all Hannibal style? That shit’s entirely on Tarantino and whoever failed to send him to a child psychiatrist back when there was still time to help him.
#1. Darth Vader Is Meant to Look Like the First Costumed Supervillain
Masked heroes have been a part of Western culture for hundreds of years, but for the longest time they were mainly resigned to punching your run-of-the-mill criminals who refused to put on silly costumes and call themselves things like Sergeant Death or Doctor Dick-Stab. This all changed in 1938 with the release of the Republic Pictures serial The Fighting Devil Dogs, which introduced the world to the Lightning, whom some call the world’s first costumed supervillain.
And his sidekick, Bald Hitler, who apparently had the power of super molestation.
The serial tells the story of a bunch of Marines taking on the costumed leader of a terrorist organization because he was trying to take over the world using light-based sci-fi weapons, and because Hitler still needed a few more years to classify as a credible villain. By now we’ve of course seen a million villains like the Lightning, but he allegedly started it all and inspired such famous baddies as Doctor Doom, Cobra Commander, and especially Darth Vader.
Republic Pictures, Lucasfilm
“Inspire” is one way to put it.
The famed Sith Lord has actually gone through many changes since the first draft of Star Wars. Initially he started out as a human general, then a Sith named Prince Valorum, before Ralph McQuarrie and George Lucas started playing around with the idea of a character that needed a respirator. This resulted in initial sketches where Vader resembled Dark Helmet from Spaceballs …
… or something akin to a Sith version of a Stormtrooper:
Who was also a Las Vegas stage magician.
The next sketches, however, show Vader much closer to how we know him now: sporting a slicker helmet, darker armor, and a proper cape, exactly like the Lightning in The Fighting Devil Dogs.
Lucasfilm, Republic Pictures
In the end, lightning kills Vader, so it all worked out.
It’s generally accepted that Lucas and McQuarrie used the Lightning as the basis for their final Vader design, probably thinking that, hey, the entire movie already started out as a ripoff of another old movie serial, so if they can’t be original, they can at least be consistent.