The Kansas City Royals put a cut-out of Bernie from Weekend At Bernie’s in the stands as they played. At first blush, this is nothing more than a funny sight gag—a cute way to break up the tide of fan photographs filling stadiums during COVID-19 by offering a nod to a classic comedy. We have tried as hard as we can to leave it at that. We’ve tried to see this cut-out and just have a nice, pleasant, fleeting laugh at the creative decision. It’s a good joke.
It’s also, god help us all, something that leads to increasingly disconcerting thoughts the longer you look at it.
While Korean baseball teams have stuffed their stands with teddy bears and one Japanese stadium used a group of singing, dancing robots as an audience, America, like the subject of a Leonard Cohen song, wants it darker. Bernie Lomax is a dead man, after all, and, notably, he’s a dead man who is carted around throughout the length of a movie by people who like to pretend he’s actually still alive.
The grade 9 English class metaphor is easy to spot. Here is one of cinema’s most famous corpses, propped up like death hasn’t come for him, watching as MLB players compete in a disease-ridden battle royale for the benefit of their corporate overlords and the amusement of a country seemingly helpless in the face of a deadly pandemic. Bernie, mixed in with so many other frozen depictions of real people who can’t safely attend a baseball game, is an ominous symbol watching over all of this.
But no, we can’t think this way. The only choice we have to get through 2020 is to ignore the most horribly on-the-nose stuff we see in front of us, look on the bright side of things, and keep trucking. And hey: Maybe the Kansas City Royals don’t even know the plot of Weekend At Bernie’s. Maybe they just liked the laid-back attitude of a mustachioed Terry Kiser slumped motionlessly in his seat. Maybe that’s all there is to their choice, and we should just hum a few bars of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” from beneath our face masks as we get on with the day.
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