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For Authors: July 28, 2021 Issue [#10893]

 This week: Easter Eggs
  Edited by: Max Griffin 🏳️‍🌈
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Table of Contents

1. About this Newsletter
2. A Word from our Sponsor
3. Letter from the Editor
4. Editor's Picks
5. A Word from Writing.Com
6. Ask & Answer
7. Removal instructions

About This Newsletter

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Word from our sponsor

Letter from the editor

Easter Eggs are fun.

No, I’m not thinking of the colored ova of chickens that we hide on Easter, although I admit those are fun, too. I’m thinking of Easter Eggs in movies, TV shows, and fiction. You know: The ones that are hidden references to other works, popular culture, or history.

According to folklore, the term “Easter Egg” arose in connection with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Apparently the crew held a conventional Easter Egg hunt on the set one evening. The story is that they failed to remove all the eggs before shooting resumed the next day. In the ensuing scenes, eagle-eyed fans spotted the eggs scattered around Dr. Frank-N-Furter’s lab, and the hunt for Easter Eggs was on.

But the idea of “Easter Eggs” predates the 1975 release of the cult film. The great Hitchcock appeared in a cameo in nearly every film he made. He came to regret this since it distracted his fans from the web of intrigue he built on the screen, and so he placed his appearances ever-earlier in his movies. It also sometimes challenged his imagination. In Lifeboat which has a limited cast and is set in lifeboat at sea, his cameo consisted of his photo in a newspaper story that flashes on the screen.

Today a search for “Easter Eggs” followed by a title can give rise to numerous websites devoted to exposing these hidden references. Some of the examples are amusing.

For example, when Indy is in the well of souls in Raiders of the Lost Ark, a sharp-eyed viewer can discern R2D2 and C3PO engraved amidst the Egyptian hieroglyphs on the wall. In Return of the Jedi, three of Jabba the Hut's workers on his barge are named Klaatu, Barada, and Nikto, a reference to the classic SciFi film The Day the Earth Stood Still.

In his second hit sitcom, Newhart, Bob Newhart and his writers inserted at least two clever references to his earlier series, The Bob Newhart Show. In the first series, Bob played a psychiatrist in Chicago, and two of his memorable patients were Mr. Carlin and Mr. Pettersen. In the later series, Bob plays an innkeeper in Vermont who, in one episode, visits a psychiatrist. Before the visit, he sees Mr. Carlin and Mr. Pettersen, and the psychiatrist comments that he’s spent years “undoing the damage from that quack in Chicago.”

The second Easter Egg is even better. In the final episode of Newhart, inn keeper Bob wakes from a dream in bed. But he’s not in bed with Mary Frann, who played his spouse in Newhart. Instead, he’s in bed with Suzanne Pleshette, who played his spouse in the earlier series. In fact, the set is exactly the same as the bedroom from the earlier series, down to the sheets that Suzanne Pleshette designed. When Bob wakes, he says he just had this goofy nightmare about owning an inn in Vermont. This is an awesome homage to the older series and a great Easter Egg.

In Toy Story, the carpet in Sid’s house is the same carpet in the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. Those two movies are exactly alike...not!

The Simpsons often includes Easter Eggs. For example, in the ninth episode of season two, there’s a shot-by-shot replication of the famous shower scene in Psycho, but this time featuring Homer and a can of red paint. When the Simpsons celebrated their twentieth anniversary, Fox featured Easter Egg tributes to the Simpsons in some of their hit series. In Bones, Homer’s brain appeared in one of the show’s scans of a victim. In House, the eponymous doctor referred to a buxom guest star’s breasts as “Patty and Selma,” Marge’s sisters.

Easter Eggs are generally simpler and less disruptive to insert in visual media, but they appear in fiction, too. Cordwainer Smith used anagrams to reference the Kennedy assassination in his 1965 novella On the Storm Planet. In 1986 in It, Stephen King references Paul Sheldon, who turns up in 1987 in Misery. Many authors slip in references to Shakespeare, Poe, or other literary figures.

I confess I’m not immune to the temptation. I’m a sucker for the Bard. I also might stick in a reference to song lyrics and have a character turn “a whiter shade of pale,” or think of a past event when he “wore a younger man’s clothes.” These are pretty obvious, but in one case I had my character live at the same address as Kafka while he was writing “Metamorphosis.” I challenge anyone to find that one!

Easter Eggs don’t have to be to fictional references. In Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle, Stalin appears as a character, including lugubrious dialogue. This kind of Easter Egg is pretty common in historical novels.

Easter Eggs can be fun, but they can be addictive, too. Just as Hitchcock came to regret his cameos, they can distract from what we are otherwise trying to achieve. But, used with discretion, they can be fun to write. Once readers catch on that they are there, they can be fun for the readers, too.

Editor's Picks

"Saturday Night"   by Daisan
"Invalid Item"   by A Guest Visitor
"The Winners"   by The Puppet Master
"The Trip"   by D. Reed Whittaker
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