Gridbug Chasers

In the 1982 science-fiction fantasy TRON, there comes a moment inside the computer world where the protagonists are imperiled by “gridbugs”.


Clearly a threat.

The danger is underlined by dialogue spoken by Cindy Morgan, as the shapely input/output program Yori:

“This isn’t going to be easy. If those gridbugs get us, we’ve had it.”

The gridbugs in question get a ten-second interlude, complete with a unique and rather corny soundtrack cue, and then go on to never affect anything or even be mentioned in passing again.

Since childhood, I have theorized about the gridbugs. Were they comic relief mandated by Disney, to leaven the mood? Were they a late addition, or a vestige of an earlier version? Why did they necessitate their own Looney Tunes-style theme music? Why were they in the movie at all?!?

I was “chasing gridbugs”: fixating on a miniscule part of a popcorn movie that isn’t meant to be scrutinized or otherwise obsessed over in the first place, and killing the thing in the process. 

There is nothing noble in this. It is a way for people like myself who have seen a movie too many times to elevate themselves socially, at least in our own minds. It feels like knowledge, and it adds the superiority that comes with knowing you caught someone “off their game”. 

There used to be books of movie goofs. They were prized by hateful nerds and other killjoys who like to urinate on fun. The information ranged from legitimate mistakes, to pedantic realism, like the fact that Superman would obliterate Lois Lane if he caught her plummeting from a high-rise.



To get to that point, you have to overlook the fact that Superman is a guy in long underwear and a cape who can fly with no visible means of propulsion, and that oh yeah– it’s all made-up fantasy bullshit anyway, and you’re fixating on a tiny detail of it, like an insane shut-in would.

Thus, I forgot all about gridbugs until I watched TRON again, and then I forgot all about the gridbugs. That’s not what I’d call a dealbreaker. Especially when TRON is, at heart, a stupid movie that happens to have a lot of cool shit in it.

This unfortunate ability to obsess over a movie’s “gridbugs” came as a result of the easy movie ownership 21st century life affords. When I rewatch Michael Bay’s Transformers movies on DVD, there are healthy chunks of film I skip to get to the robot parts. In the theater, I have to choke these down, so I might as well enjoy myself while I do (I’m usually baked anyhow). This is why you don’t hear me ranting about Shia LaBeouf ranting about masturbating or killing people. I have a fast-forward button. Once he starts spitting and babbling, I have the means to zip through it to the good stuff.

Scalpel and Shia, from Revenge of the Fallen (2009). Ironically, fast-forwarding to get this screenshot was a huge pain in the ass.

Scalpel and Shia, from Revenge of the Fallen (2009). Ironically, fast-forwarding to get this screenshot was a huge pain in the ass.

If I had a point here, it would be perspective. Try not to focus on gridbugs. One of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen was Wise Blood, starring Brad Dourif. It’s where the samples at the beginning of Ministry’s “Jesus Built My Hotrod” came from. Dourif delivers a haunting, bravura performance, under the direction of the legendary John Huston, based on a novel written by Flannery O’Connor.

It’s also got the guy who played RAM in TRON wearing a gorilla suit, sneaking around to doopity-doop music.

Dan Shor.

Dan Shor (I assume). Doopity doop.

I shouldn’t even tell you about that; I might place undue emphasis upon it, and prejudice your opinion of a brilliant film. It’s not even that distracting, or cringe-inducing. Comic relief in film used to be a lot less subtle.

From Breakfast At Tiffany's. Starring Mickey Rooney as "Mr. Yu no want to watch this no more".

From Breakfast At Tiffany’s. Starring Mickey Rooney as “Mr. You no want to watch this no more”.

When I like a movie, I accept its flaws, as flaws are inherent to film. Even the most perfect films reveal flaws if you dig deeply enough. It’s up to you to determine how deadly the gridbugs are. They can only ruin a movie if you let them.

Plus, there’s always the chance that the gridbugs you’re chasing make you look ridiculous to everyone else, who see them for the trivial things they are. After all, they’re only movies.

a) not a gridbug, and b) UTTERLY FUCKING AWESOME.

a) not a gridbug, and b) UTTERLY FUCKING AWESOME.

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