Explaining Machete to Aliens Who Have Just Arrived from Outer Space

Welcome to Earth! Thank you for not killing us immediately. Ha ha, just a little joke there. We've made a lot of movies about what might happen if aliens came to visit us, and it usually doesn't go well for us.

Oh, you've seen some of our movies? You know what I mean, then. I hope you didn't find them offensive. Obviously, we had no way of knowing what actual extra-terrestrials would be like, and it is the human tendency to fear the unknown. Plus, it makes for good drama. As it turns out, you guys seem quite decent and nonthreatening. I guess we were wrong!

Good, good, I'm glad you understand. Now, you'll probably want to meet our president and the other leaders of Earth, so -- pardon me? Well, sure, we can talk about movies for a minute. You don't have anything like that where you come from? Wow. Interesting. Movies are a pretty big part of our culture. You saw a -- yes, that's called a "trailer," sort of like a long advertisement for a movie, that's right.

For which movie? Machete? OK. Yes, it's new. The movie is just now being shown to people. Um, what did you want to know about it?

"What's the deal with this movie?"? Is that what you said? No, no, your English is great! Your accent doesn't even give away which part of the galaxy you're from. I just wanted to be sure I understood you.

Well, um, Machete. The deal with Machete. It's ... OK. So, there used to be places called "grindhouse theaters," where they would show certain kinds of movies. Usually really violent, really bloody, or really full of sex and nudity. Or some combination. Movies that couldn't be shown in regular theaters because of their disreputable content.

Hmm? If the movies were disreputable, why did people want to see them? Well, sometimes that's the appeal, you know? Something is forbidden, and that makes it more interesting. Is that just a human thing? Huh.

Anyway, there was a certain market for these movies, and they'd play at these grindhouse theaters. This lasted for a few years, and then VCRs made them obsolete because now you could watch whatever you wanted at home.

And then we found this guy called Quentin Tarantino. We're not sure where he came from. Legend has it he was born in a video store in the San Fernando Valley and raised by a clan of feral projectionists. He started making movies that were full of allusions to other movies, and people really liked that, because when you're watching something it's fun to be reminded that you have watched other things previously. Then Quentin Tarantino started talking about how he loved the old grindhouse theaters, and most of his fans were too young to remember them, but that didn't stop them from also claiming to have nostalgia for this thing that they had never experienced.

GrindhouseSo then, to capitalize on this manufactured love of grindhouse movies, Quentin Tarantino and his buddy Robert Rodriguez made two grindhouse movies of their own. They were called Death Proof and Planet Terror. I'm sorry, I've lost you. Yes, the original grindhouse movies were pretty cheap and not particularly well-made, and they played at sleazy theaters in the 1970s. No, no Tarantino and Rodriguez had plenty of money and skill. They just chose to make movies that were in the style of those other movies. And they played at regular movie theaters, as a double feature, just like the old days of double features, which, again, most of their fans were too young to remember.

Right. Well, to recreate the grindhouse experience -- or, rather, to create it for the first time, since the viewers had never been to a grindhouse -- Tarantino and Rodriguez scratched up the prints of their movies to make them look like they were old and battered. They also had some of their friends make trailers for other grindhouse movies, movies that did not exist but that seemed like the kind of movies you would see at a grindhouse. They showed these trailers between Planet Terror and Death Proof.

Yes, exactly. They made advertisements for imaginary movies. And people who saw these trailers said, "Ha, that looks like fun." One of these trailers was for a movie called Machete, which was in the style of movies about cops and bad guys and violence along the border between the United States and Mexico. Machete was very popular, as a fake trailer, so Robert Rodriguez went ahead and made an actual full-length Machete movie. He figured that if something was enjoyable when it was two minutes long, it would probably be 50 times as enjoyable when it was 100 minutes long.

Well, mathematically, yes, that's accurate. That's not really how human pleasure works, though. I was just making a joke.

So, anyway, they went backwards. Usually you make a movie first, THEN you make the trailer as a way of advertising it. In this case, they made a trailer, just for fun, and then decided to expand it into a real movie. The trailer you saw, though, that's not the trailer that started it all. No. The one that started it all was a joke. They made that, then they made a movie, then they made a real trailer for that movie.

What you saw was a trailer for a movie that was based on a trailer that was based on a style of movie that wasn't very good that played in a type of theater 35 years ago.

Ha ha, no, actually, that's NOT the flimsiest premise we've ever had for a movie. I wish! No, they're about to make one called Battleship, based on a children's game. There have been a few based on amusement-park rides, too. Ha ha, yes, like Ferris Wheel: The Movie. Now you're getting it!

Piranha 3-DWhat's the appeal of Machete? From what I understand, it has a lot of naked breasts, and a lot of gory violence. No, we don't like violence in real life. We abhor it. It makes us sad. We like it in movies, though. It's entertaining when it's not real. No, naked breasts are very popular in real life AND in movies. Well, yes, there are other places where people can see naked breasts and violence, if they want to, without someone having to make a movie specifically about them. There's the Internet, for example --

What? You don't know about the Internet? Wow. OK. Well, you see, it's this series of tubes....

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Eric D. Snider (website), for one, welcomes our new alien overlords.