For this project, we cut scenes from Eraserhead into a trailer one might see for a more traditional romantic comedy. Our take on the surrealist classic was very much inspired by the trailer for the classic De Niro vehicle Meet the Parents, a romantic comedy wherein a hapless fellow (Ben Stiller) meets his dearly beloved’s rather quirky parents. The trope of the “love interest with a catch,” often found in romantic comedy, lends itself well to Eraserhead, particularly in the organization of the dinner scene. The catch in Eraserhead is that the love interest has birthed a mutant; for the purposes of a romantic comedy, pregnancy itself was enough of a catch, and so simple fatherhood was an angle we chose to magnify. This scene also contains shots similar to those used in Meet the Parents, with cameras placed to fit whole families sat at a dinner table in frame, as well as rom-com appropriate lines like our protagonist oh-so-awkwardly stammering to Mary’s mother that he loves her daughter.
In our conversion, sound reigns supreme. Cheesy canned voiceovers provide setup to scenes that are in fact, quite unlike what is described. Obnoxious voice over work is a trope of the genre’s trailers and even of trailers in general. Though it’s near-impossible even for us to tell, Harry and the writer of this sentence actually alternated each voiceover segment. When coupled with the Hyrule Castle Courtyard theme from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the voiceover work creates an (in)appropriately whimsical and cheery atmosphere for the story. Another trope of the rom-com trailer is the sudden rock song, and it usually comes into play when a central tension of the plot is first revealed. We cut off our Zelda music with a cheesy record scratch, only to have our sudden rock song drop in the form of Fugazi’s “Waiting Room.” The recurrence of “Waiting Room” is used to frame the trailer, as snippets are played at the beginning, middle, and end.
Yet another rom-com trailer trope is emotional music that indicates the characters in the film will have character development and emotional experiences. Modest Mouse’s “Workin’ on Leavin’ the Livin’” fit the bill perfectly, as the majority of the song is based off of the “Lady in the Radiator Song,” originally composed for Eraserhead itself. It is perfectly ironic that a song about suicide and drunk driving should be used in the place of an uplifting song here, as it is totally conceivable that a rom-com trailer editor would expect so little of their target audience as to include so dark a song in this role.
In this trailer, what was originally played for discomfort or general oddness is played for laughs. For example, Mary’s father Bill’s quirkiness makes him seem like a classic sitcom dad instead of a lunatic who makes squirting chickens and makes sure pipes don’t grow [or makes sure that people know that pipes don’t grow. It’s left up to interpretation]. His more peculiar lines are edited out, and his quip of “This dinner’s getting mighty cold!” serves as an entertaining callback to the beginning of the trailer (when Mary first says “dinner’s almost ready”) rather than a bout of acute tone deafness. In a romantic comedy, directors are expected to keep things light and playful, and small jokes like this serve to maintain that tone. Our group not uses that trope and also subverts it by including the surrealist imagery of Henry tearing apart his offspring and being torn apart. Henry’s introduction to Mary’s parents is a cordial, if awkward, welcome, appropriate for greeting the parents of a love interest, whereas in the original film, bleak silence could occupy minutes of time before statements were responded to. Now? All that is left is rom and com.