At the climax of the Oscar-nominated There Will Be Blood, Daniel Day-Lewis looms over costar Paul Dano and vanquishes him with one of the strangest exclamations in film history: ”I…drink…your…milk shake!” his oilman sputters, magnificently. ” I drink it up! ” He throws in a gigantic Hannibal-Lecterian slurping sound for good measure. The moment is weird, vaguely hilarious, and unsettling.
It’s also all too easy to parody or misappropriate, which is what’s happening now. In case you hadn’t yet heard, ”I drink your milk shake!” — which Blood’s writer-director, Paul Thomas Anderson, has said he took straight from a transcript of the 1924 congressional hearings on the Teapot Dome oil-drilling scandal — has already entered the vernacular as a catchphrase, even though the movie’s grossed only $21 million so far. On YouTube, you can watch a ”There Will Be Milkshakes” music video, created by 18-year-old Kevin Kunze, who cut clips from the movie’s trailer to Kelis’ 2003 song ”Milkshake.” (How original!) After that you can jump over to idrinkyourmilkshake.com, where — unless you register as a user — an audio file spits out the line every single time you click on a new page, in an attempt to render you more insane than Day-Lewis is for the duration of the movie.
Admittedly, there’s an upside to all this — perhaps an ”I Drink Your Milkshake!!!” T-shirt heightens awareness and gets bodies into theaters. And idrinkyourmilkshake.com has morphed into a fine discussion site for Anderson’s films. But the ironic, Internet-fast catchphrasing of a movie as rich and serious as Blood — and a performance as emotional as Day-Lewis’ — is more than a little depressing. It reduces art to a punchline; it puts an epic in a blender and comes out with…a milk shake.