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"The Cable Guy" (1996): Was the Cable Guy a Murderer?


Ash has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.

The Cable Guy is a 1996 black comedy directed by Ben Stiller and starring Jim Carrey in the titular role. It's always been a film that's done so-so, possibly because it's really funny but seems to be lacking as well.

I don't know what possessed me to watch this old comedy that I hadn't seen in years, but I was looking at it recently and I realized something: "Chip Douglas" probably killed the original cable guy.

The film opens with Steven Kovacs (Matthew Broderick) waiting for the cable guy to come and install his cable. He's just been kicked out by his (arguably mean) girlfriend, Robin (Leslie Mann), and needs cable installed in his new place.

The thing is, the cable guy never shows up. Instead, some weird guy calling himself "Chip Douglas" shows up in a work jumpsuit, pretending to be a cable man.

We find out later that Chip Douglas was fired from the cable company and no longer works for them. So what happened to the real cable guy who was supposed to show up at Steven's apartment? I can't remember the film ever explaining.

Because he was killed by Chip!

When "Chip" first appears, Steven mistakes him for the cable guy, who is running very late. Chip is confused ("Oh, I'm the tardy one?") because he has no idea what time the real cable guy was supposed to be there. He was late because he was busy killing him, stashing his body, and stealing his truck!

Where's my evidence for this little theory?

Well, for starters, Chip is ****ing crazy.

The second he appears in the film, it's obvious he's a stalker. He already has personal information about Steven getting kicked out by his girlfriend, indicating that he looked into his home address.

He's so insanely jealous of Steven's friendship with Rick (Jack Black) that he ruins their friendly basketball game -- in a hilarious scene where he uses Rick like a trampoline to make a slam dunk.

The entire scene toes the line of crazy just enough that everyone walks out of the game thinking that "Chip" is wildly insecure but ultimately harmless.

Whew, boy, were they wrong.

Chip talks Steven into going to a medieval restaurant with him, then proceeds to beat the living crap out of him, while quoting lines from Star Trek.

A clear indication that he has difficulty distinguishing fiction from reality.

He also makes a really gross Silence of the Lambs joke.

I've seen the Ed Gein biopic and there was nothing funny about a backwoods lunatic killing women and wearing their skin. But Chip Douglas takes glee in impersonating what was a deeply disturbed and cruel individual.

Chip's inability to see women as people is further underscored by the fact that he hires a *lady of the night* to seduce Steven at his karoke party.

The next morning, he talks about women like spoiled fruit to be inspected before purchase. Women are things to buy, treats for your friends -- not human beings.

Chip's sexist, dehumanizing views on women are so appalling that Steven (rightly) kicks him out, declaring their friendship over.

So Chip tries to win Steven's friendship back by assaulting the guy Steven's girlfriend is dating.

"Salt peanuts. Salt peanuts."

Poor Owen Wilson.

And when Steven still refuses to befriend him, Chip does any number of things to punish him, such as framing him for theft and getting him sent to jail.

He twists the knife by showing up to the prison and pretending to be his gay lover in the hopes that Steven might get assaulted.

Ah, yes. The classic bending for the soap joke. What men fear happening in prison, women fear just stepping out the door every day.

"I just wanna hang out! No big deal!!!"

"I just wanna hang out! No big deal!!!"

Aside from the fact that Chip Douglas is just nuts, this is also one of the darkest roles Jim Carrey has ever performed -- and this is my least favorite film of his precisely for that reason.

I grew up with The Mask and Ace Ventura and other whimsical films starring Carrey. To see him take on this demonic role is really . . . unsettling. Especially given how dark and bizarre the script demanded his performance to be.

This is a dark comedy, but sometimes it was just too dark. Like Jim Carrey had to channel Satan just to do it.

In this film, Carrey's hair is jet black, his face is pale and lined, his eyes are dangerous. He looks like a ghoul, and this was all a part of this character, as written for the film.

Why wouldn't Chip Douglas be a murderer? Look how he was written!

This is pretty funny, though.

This is pretty funny, though.

Granted, Chip looked his darkest during Steven's nightmare, but even during the regular scenes in the film, he still has the dark hair and the pale, lined face and deep-set eyes.

I realize he was supposed to look creepy -- that's my point! A guy written to be this creepy could easily be a murderer! He even winds up trying to kill Steven and Robin in the end, only to switch in a(n admittedly uncharacteristic) moment of guilt and attempt suicide.

"It's so sad that you know that."

"It's so sad that you know that."

All that being said, it was great to see Jack Black in a film where he was behaving like a normal human being, rather than the strange clown Hollywood tried to mold him into.

Not to say that I hated his entire career. Shallow Hal is actually my guilty pleasure. The film is incredibly problematic but I still always loved it for some reason: a shallow guy learning to see a woman's inner beauty. I liked the message the story was trying to convey, even if it did so in a clumsy way (rhyme unintentional).

I also loved him in the new Jumanji. I didn't bother to watch the entire thing, but I liked his scenes. He was hilarious.

I always loved him in this movie. His best moment is probably the part at the end where he figures out who "Chip Douglas" is and ridicules Steven for knowing some trivia about a really old television show that no one cares about anymore.

"There were no utensils during medieval times. Would you like a refill on that Pepsi?"

"There were no utensils during medieval times. Would you like a refill on that Pepsi?"

It was also great to see Janeane Garofalo as the Medieval Times waitress. I always loved her stand-up.

In the end, I'm pretty convinced "Chip Douglas" was a murderer.

The movie -- with its sinister lighting and emphasis on the Cable Guy's unhinged behavior -- seems to want you to think so.

© 2019 Ash

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