Happy Groundhog Day!
I’d like to take this time to outline a theory I have about Ned Ryerson from the 1993 movie Groundhog Day: there is evidence that Ned Ryerson has also been experiencing the same day on repeat.
Ned Ryerson (portrayed hilariously by Stephen Toblowsky) is an insurance salesman who approaches Phil on the streets first thing in the morning on Groundhog Day. Phil does not remember him, but Ned is able to pull out a ton of references to the past (including the fact that Phil’s sister is named Mary Pat), claiming they are actually old high school acquaintances. He then exploits this connection to attempt to sell Phil insurance, even though at no point does Phil ever show signs of remembering.
The scene in question, in case you’ve forgotten:
(The video is all the Ned scenes, but we’re just addressing the first one)
NED: Phil? Phil Connors?! I thought that was you!
PHIL Hi, how you doing, thanks for watching-
NED Don’t say you don’t remember me, ’cause I sure as heckfire remember you.
PHIL Not a chance
NED Ned! Ryerson! Needlenose Ned? Ned the Head. Come on, buddy. Case Western High? Ned Ryerson, did the whistling trick with my belly button in the talent show. Bing! Ned Ryerson, got the shingles real bad senior year almost didn’t graduate. Bing again! Ned Ryerson, I dated your sister Mary Pat a couple of times– ’til you told me not to anymore. Well?
PHIL Ned Ryerson?
How does Ned have all these details from the past, when Phil obviously doesn’t remember him? Well the interesting thing about this conversation is that it parallels another conversation later in the movie… specifically, one that Phil has with a complete stranger named Nancy Taylor:
PHIL Nancy? Nancy Taylor?! Lincoln High School! I sat next to you in Mrs. Walsh’s English class!
NANCY Ooh.. I’m sorry?
PHIL Phill Conners!
NANCY Wow, that’s amazing! (still obviously confused)
PHIL You don’t remember me, do you?
PHIL I even asked you to the prom!
NANCY Phil Conners?
PHIL I was short and I’ve sprouted.
The initial introduction is almost the same. Phil, thanks to information he garnered from a cryptic conversation that Nancy won’t remember, is establishing a faux history in order to get what he wants (sex, in Phil’s case).
So if Ned is caught in a time loop, why go through the effort of finding out information about Phil just to use it to sell insurance?
Simple: Because Ned believes that’s his way out of the loop. Phil’s way out, as established in the movie, is to hook up with his producer, Rita, with whom he’s in love. He can’t do this through nefarious purposes (and believe me, he tries), he has to do it by using his powers to create a better world for everyone.
But Ned’s key, at least in his mind, is much simpler. He needs a big fat commission check from a major insurance sale. But he’s stuck in Puxatawney… how is he going to find someone rich enough? But look here… this big-shot television weather man from Pittsburgh is in town. That’s his target. So on Ned’s previous day, he grilled Phil for information about himself, and now he’s trying to score. Unfortunately for him, that’s the day Phil got stuck in the same time loop.
“But why doesn’t Ned remember that he’s stuck in a time loop?” you ask.
Because they aren’t stuck in the same degree of the loop. Ned’s loop and Phil’s loop run independently of one another. Ned might be on Day 502 of his own loop when he grills Phil for information. Then, Day 503 of Ned’s loop – the day he attempts to use this information – becomes Day 1 of Phil’s loop. So Day 2 of Phil’s loop is still Day 503 of Ned’s loop, from Ned’s perspective.
So did it work?
In the end of the movie, we find that Phil bought a shit-ton of insurance from Ned. If that was Ned’s way out, then it did work, and he woke up the next day as well.
But personally, I think that it probably did not. Phil couldn’t arrive at February 3rd by manipulating Rita, he had to actually become a better person (oooh relationship metaphors!). Ned, 502 days in, is still trying early tactics. And now that Phil has escaped the loop, Ned will wake up on his Day 505, and it will still be February 2nd. But it will be Phil’s perfect February 2nd that he created.
Poor Ned is going to have a hell of a time trying to make Puxatawney a better place in the shadow of a man who already did.
When I was a kid, Tim Allen was in a holiday movie, the title of which was a clever pun. Unfortunately, the film’s target audience was too young to get said pun. So a whole generation spent the rest of their lives misspelling the jolly old elf’s last name.
Seriously, look at the poster for The Santa Clause. The E is in a different font to show that it doesn’t belong. They even explain it in the title… “A clause, as in, the last line of a contract”. The character is SANTA CLAUS. No E.
But that’s not why it’s disturbing. Nor is it the insensitively illogical casting of David Krumholtz as a Christmas elf.
Here’s the deal: Character deaths have fallen out of vogue lately in children’s movies. Death scenes are generally reserved for a villain. In the 90s, it was more popular… a year earlier, Simba witnessed his father’s death, and Scar died at the end. But the deaths meant something.
But in The Santa Clause, 2o minutes haven’t passed before a character has died. Is this the death of a villain? No, it’s quite the opposite… it’s the death of Santa Claus. And how is the death of a beloved character treated? It’s played for laughs. “You killed him!” exclaims Charlie, the son of the main character who takes up the sleigh and coat of the freshly dead Patron Saint of Christmas. And who is this Santa? Is it the original Santa Claus? I assume that, like Scott Calvin, he is a man who had the unfortunate luck of putting on the suit some years before. He probably has a family of his own… but no attempt is made to find his family. In fact, they have no way of knowing he is even dead! His body disappears as soon as he dies…
Let me rephrase this: Santa Claus Falls to his death. In the first 15 minutes of the movie. He does this in the presence of a five-year-old boy. His death is laughed off before being dismissed and forgotten.
I would like to watch a spinoff called “A woman living in Detroit finds out her husband, who has been missing for 17 years, actually spent 10 years as Santa Claus, bringing happiness to children all over the globe, but his death was forgotten and covered up.” Actually I guess that’s kind of a long title. But seriously… it would have been better than the shitty sequels we got.