Tuesday, February 03, 2009

It's Groundhog Day!

Every year, on February 2nd, the world's media (or rather a small proportion of it) turns its attention to the small town of Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania, USA. In particular they go there to observe a character called Punxsutawney Phil. Phil is a groundhog. But not just any groundhog... Phil is a special groundhog, because legend has it he has an uncanny ability to predict how long winter is going to last. According to his very own website, http://www.punxsutawneyphil.com/:
"At sunrise, Phil will emerge from his burrow at Gobbler's Knob, and his handlers will announce whether or not Phil has seen his shadow. If Phil sees his shadow, legend has it that we can expect six more weeks of winter weather. No shadow indicates an early spring."
Back in 2001, one guy, an economist, even undertook some kind of analysis of Phil's forecasting data and concluded that over the years he had been around 70% successful and predicting either an early or late Spring.

That's all very well, but the thing that actually interests me about this rather strange tradition is the 1993 movie Groundhog Day that's based around this rather quaint annual event. In the film Bill Murray plays TV weather forecaster Phil Connors who is assigned to cover the event for something like the third or fourth year running. Connors is, to say the least, fairly cynical about the whole thing and can't wait till the piece is done so he can get the hell out of Punxsutawney and back to civilization. The trouble is, a blizzard means that all routes out of Punxsutawney are blocked and so he has to stay there for a second night. The next morning he is woken up at 6am, just like the morning before, by the same song on the radio (Sonny and Cher's I Got You Babe). He initially thinks that the local radio presenters must have simply forgotten to change the script from the previous morning, but slowly as he goes about his day he realizes that he is actually living the previous day again. It's still Groundhog Day! Eventually the end of the day comes again and he's back in his hotel bed (because just as with the previous day a blizzard prevents him from leaving town). At 6am the next morning he wakes again to the same song on the radio! And so it goes on... every morning he awakes only to relive Groundhog Day. Imagine that! Imagine having to live the same day over and over and over again. Once the realization sets in that no matter what he does, Phil Connors is going to relive the same day again and again he even tries a variety of ways of killing himself... only to find himself waking up at 6am on Groundhog Day to the sound of I Got You Babe. There's no way out.

Eventually Connors resigns himself to the fact he is going to have to relive Groundhog Day ad infinitum, and so starts throwing himself into his recurrent daily activities. By doing this he finds he actually enjoys having the opportunity to relive the events of the day again and again and discovers that he can learn from his earlier encounters with the day's events. The question is, will he ever live to see the day that follows Groundhog Day or is he destined to remain in this day for ever? And do you ever get that feeling you've been here before?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really didn't like that film.

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