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How iPod docks have reshaped movies

Sang Tang

TV shows and movies often reflect the prevailing pop cultural themes of their day and age. One fixture from the eighties and early nineties was the boombox. Like big hair, Members Only jackets, and women wearing shoulder pad-laden tops, boomboxes were seemingly everywhere during that era. You'd be hard pressed not to find a boombox adorned on one's shoulder or booming away on a playground in many urban cities.

Much like how Sony passed the Walkman/Discman torch to the iPod, boomboxes have given way to iPod docks. On this eve launch of the potentially revolutionary iPad, which could displace books and magazines, let's take a stroll through memory lane and look at some flicks that may not be as relevant if made in today's technological age.

Long before he made Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky and Almost Famous, Cameron Crowe wrote and directed Say Anything. After getting dumped by Ms. pretty-, class valedictorian- and has everything going for her- Diane Court, Lloyd Dobbler sets out to prove that he's a "man" in a world "full of guys." In an effort to win back Diane's heart, Lloyd parks his car outside her house, whips out and perches his boombox above his head and plays Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes." Imagine this pivotal scene being played out with, say, an iHome. Definitely not as sexy.

Then there's Spike Lee's iconic "Do the Right Thing." One of the main characters is Radio Raheem. As implied in his name, Radio Raheem plays Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" on the huge, and I mean huge, boombox that he carries with him throughout the film. Hey, but it was probably big on purpose: how else could Radio Raheem make it that loud without something that big? Imagine Radio Raheem carrying a Bose SoundDock II. While he may be able to make the same amount of noise with the smaller Bose, he'll probably lose some of his muscles and machismo along the way.

Break dancing was a fixture of the eighties. And wherever there was a group of break dancers, there would also inevitably be a boombox. Boomboxes were heavily featured in the hip hop classic "Beat Street," a break dancing themed film. With blaring tunes coming out of their boombox, dancers strutted their stuff at a subway station. The music and the dancing, however, drowned out the dancers' ability to recognize that cops were coming. Some dancers got away, and others were nabbed -- including the owner of the boombox, whose mobility was limited because of the boombox. Had Beat Street been made today, he could have just taken off with his JBL iPod dock.

And, last but not least, there's Decepticon Soundwave, a Transformer (which was both an animated TV show and movie). As Megatron's right-hand man (he could never trust Starscream), Soundwave served as a second set of eyes and, more importantly, ears to the goings-on with the Autobots. Soundwave's chest also served as a tape deck, for which he would send out his tapes, which were disguised as animals, to record audio of the Autobots.

Soundwave would find it difficult to stay on Megatron's payroll today, as well as staying relevant for viewing audiences, if he came back as a boombox. No surprise, then, that he was back sans the tape deck in "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen."

These days, Apple products show up on many a movie and TV show. Depending on how central they are in the plot, their relevance can also be marginalized or altered significantly in the future. "What are these tens of heavy books that these college students are carrying? I carry all of my textbooks in my iPad."

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