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10 Messages Hidden in the Background of Movies and TV Shows

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In 2015, various news outlets revealed that an episode of Homeland included Arabic graffiti protesting the portrayal of Muslims on the popular Showtime series. Some of the phrases written on the set’s walls included “Homeland is racist” and “Homeland is not a show.” The messages were seemingly left on the set without the producers’ knowledge or consent. A group calling themselves “Arabian Street Artists” took credit for the act, saying it was done to air their “political discontent.”

This wasn’t the first time that the background of films and television shows have revealed interesting hidden messages, props, or inside jokes. Here are 10 more examples. 

1. FUTURAMA’S SECRET LANGUAGE

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It’s hard to believe that Homeland and Futurama have anything in common, but it turns out that the latter also includes hidden messages in graffiti and signs. The show contains an alien language, which clever viewers have decoded—allowing them to find messages in the background like “laser tentacle surgery” and “used human probes.”

2. HIEROGLYPHIC R2-D2 AND C-3PO IN RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK

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In Raiders of the Lost Ark, as Indy lifts a huge rock to uncover the Ark, there’s a pillar featuring hieroglyphics that reference the famous Star Wars characters R2-D2 and C-3PO. There’s a second example later in the same scene, though it’s a little harder to see: on the back wall of the Ark, there’s a hieroglyph of Princess Leia with R2-D2 and C-3PO again.

3. HAN SOLO ON THE FIREFLY

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A 12-inch figurine of Han Solo frozen in carbonite can be seen in many episodes of the science fiction show Firefly. The prop department made this specifically for Nathan Fillion because he’s a huge Star Wars fan. And rumor has it that they used to sneak it into scenes as a joke, without informing the producers and directors.

4. CREW NAMES HIDDEN IN CORONATION STREET

In 2015, some crew members of the British soap opera Coronation Street got into trouble for sneaking their names on to props and sets, including football shirts, newspapers, and resident call buttons. Apparently it went too far when a prop master named Peter Eccleston put his own name on a hardware store. An on-set source told the Mirror, “They think getting their names on TV is a hoot and reckon it’s really funny. But to be honest there are quite a few people wishing for a change at the top to stop this nuisance.”

5. THE RECURRING PROP NEWSPAPER

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Prop masters have inside jokes that go way beyond putting names on a hardware store, though. There is one prop newspaper that has been spotted in a ridiculous number of films and television shows. You can see it in Angel, No Country for Old Men, Everybody Hates Chris, Desperate Housewives, Modern Family, and many other titles. The paper is from Earl Hays Press, a newspaper prop company in Sun Valley, California, and use of the newspaper has become a sort of inside joke within Hollywood—plus, it’s cheaper to recycle.

6. THE GROSS RESTAURANT NAME IN ANCHORMAN

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In Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) visits a Mexican food restaurant with a group of her fellow female coworkers. The restaurant’s sign says its name is “Escupimos en su Alimento.” Translated into English, that means “We spit in your food.”

7. THE ACCURATE, AND SOMETIMES HUMOROUS, WHITEBOARD IN THE BIG BANG THEORY

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CBS has a physics professor on the set of The Big Bang Theory to proofread and fact-check the scripts. In addition to making sure everything is scientifically accurate, he sometimes adds some humor to the whiteboard that sits in Leonard and Sheldon’s apartment. For instance, in the episode “The Jiminy Conjecture,” two of the characters get into an argument about a cricket. In the background, the whiteboard features Dolbear’s law, a formula that explains the relationship between temperature and the rate at which crickets chirp. The information on the board doesn’t get referenced much; it’s mostly for science enthusiasts to enjoy.

8. MAGNA DOODLE ART ON FRIENDS

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Beginning in season three, a Magna Doodle toy hung on Joey and Chandler’s door in Friends. At a certain point, a man on the electric crew began changing the drawing on the magnetic surface for each episode. Sometimes the message relatesd to the episode. For instance, in “The One with the Cat,” the apartment gets robbed, and the Magna Doodle displays the message, “Thanks for all your stuff.” A couple episodes later, Chandler gets a manicure. The Magna Doodle reads, “Nice nails, Chandler!”

9. TYLER DURDEN’S FACEBOOK PAGE IN THE SOCIAL NETWORK

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David Fincher directed both Fight Club and The Social Network. In the latter, he referenced an iconic character from his earlier film: Tyler Durden. At one point, Mark Zuckerberg is on his computer, working on Facebook. The words “Tyler Durden’s Photos” are briefly visible.

10. LOST PAINTING IN STUART LITTLE

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This is less of a hidden message than an (unintentionally) hidden object. In the 1999 film Stuart Little, the main characters are an affluent Manhattan family who happen to own a lot of nice paintings. In 2009, an art historian named Gergely Barki was watching the film with his daughter when he noticed a painting by Róbert Berény in the background. That particular painting had been missing since 1928 and was worth around a quarter of a million dollars. Barki eventually got in touch with an assistant set designer for the movie, who had bought the piece at an antique store in Pasadena for just $500. And the painting was returned.

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The Dark Crystal Is Coming Back to Theaters
The Jim Henson Company
The Jim Henson Company

In 1982, Jim Henson and Frank Oz dared to venture into somewhat gloomier territory with the release of The Dark Crystal. Though the film, which centers on two Gelflings (a sort of creepy elf-like creature) attempting to save their species and restore peace to the world, wasn’t a huge hit at the box office, it has developed a large cult following in the more than 35 years since its release—even among those kids it scared the hell out of back in the day. Now, as Netflix preps its prequel series, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, for release later this year, Nerdist reports that the original film will make its way back into theaters next month.

As part of Fathom Events’s ongoing effort to breathe big-screen life back into classic films with limited releases across the country, The Dark Crystal will be playing in more than 500 theaters nationwide on February 25 and February 28. In addition to the original film, the screenings will also feature a brand-new introduction courtesy of Lisa Henson, Jim’s daughter and current president/CEO of The Jim Henson Company, who will talk about the making of the film and how it fit within her father's creative legacy.

To find out whether The Dark Crystal will be coming back to a theater near you, log onto Fathom’s web page for the movie and type in your ZIP code; tickets are on sale now.

[h/t: Nerdist]

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15 Things You Didn't Know About Betty White
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Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

Happy birthday, Betty White! In honor of the ever-sassy star of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls's 96th birthday, let's celebrate with a collection of fun facts about her life and legacy. 

1. HER NAME IS BETTY, NOT ELIZABETH

On January 17th, 1922, in Oak Park, Illinois, the future television icon was born Betty Marion White, the only child of homemaker Christine Tess (née Cachikis) and lighting company executive Horace Logan White. In her autobiography If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't), White explained her parents named her "Betty" specifically because they didn't like many of the nicknames derived from "Elizabeth." Forget your Beths, your Lizas, your Ellies. She's Betty.

2. SHE'S A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD HOLDER.

In the 2014 edition of the record-keeping tome, White was awarded the title of Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Female) for her more than 70 years (and counting) in show business. The year before, Guinness gave out Longest TV Career for an Entertainer (Male) to long-time British TV host Bruce Forsyth. As both began their careers in 1939, they'd be neck-and-neck for the title, were they not separated by gender.

3. HER FIRST TELEVISION APPEARANCE IS LOST TO HISTORY.

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Even White can't remember the name of the show she made her screen debut on in 1939. But in an interview with Guinness Book of World Records, she recounted the life-changing event, saying, "I danced on an experimental TV show, the first on the west coast, in downtown Los Angeles. I wore my high school graduation dress and our Beverly Hills High student body president, Harry Bennett, and I danced the 'Merry Widow Waltz.'" 

4. WHITE'S RISE TO STARDOM WAS DERAILED BY WORLD WAR II.

Before she took off on television, White was working in theater, on radio, and as a model. But with WWII, she shelved her ambitions and joined the American Women's Voluntary Services. Her days were devoted to delivering supplies via PX truck throughout the Hollywood Hills, but her nights were spent at rousing dances thrown to give grand send-offs to soldiers set to ship out. Of that era, she told Cleveland Magazine, "It was a strange time and out of balance with everything." 

5. HER FIRST SITCOM HIT WAS IN THE EARLY 1950S.

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Co-hosting the Al Jarvis show Hollywood on Television led to White producing her own vehicle, Life With Elizabeth. As a rare female producer, she developed the show alongside emerging writer-producer George Tibbles, who'd go on to work on such beloved shows as Dennis The Menace, Leave It To Beaver, and The Munsters. Though the show is not remembered much today, in 1951 it did earn White her first Emmy nomination of 21 (so far). Of these, she's won five times.

6. WHITE LOVES A PARADE.

From 1962 to 1971, White hosted NBC's Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade alongside Bonanza's Lorne Greene. But that's not all. For 20 years (1956-1976), she was also a color commentator for NBC’s annual Tournament of Roses Parade. However, as her fame grew on CBS's The Mary Tyler Moore Show, NBC decided they should pull White (and all the rival promotion that came with her) from their parade. It was a decision that was heartbreaking for White, who told People, "On New Year's Day I just sat home feeling wretched, watching someone else do my parade."

7. SHE HAS BEEN MARRIED THREE TIMES.


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White and her first husband, Dick Barker, were married and divorced in the same year, 1945. After four months on Barker's rural Ohio chicken farm, White fled back to Los Angeles and her career as an entertainer. Soon after, she met agent Lane Allen, who became her husband in 1947, and her ex-husband in 1949 after he pushed her to quit show biz. She wouldn’t marry again until 1963, after she fell for widower/father of three/game show host Allen Ludden.

8. HER MEET-CUTE WITH HUSBAND #3 HAPPENED ON PASSWORD.

Bubbly Betty was a regular on the game show circuit, but she met her match in 1961 when she was a celebrity guest on Password, hosted by Allen Ludden. Though White initially rebuffed Ludden's engagement ring (he wore it around his neck until she changed her mind), the pair stayed together until his death in 1981. Today, their stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame sit side-by-side.

9. WHITE ORIGINALLY AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF BLANCHE ON THE GOLDEN GIRLS.

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Producers of the series thought of White for the role of the ensemble's promiscuous party girl because she'd long played the lusty Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Meanwhile, they eyed Rue McClanahan for the part of naive country bumpkin Rose Nylund because of her work as the sweet but dopey Vivian Harmon on Maude. Director Jay Sandrich was worried about typecasting, so he asked the two to switch roles in the audition. And just like that, The Golden Girls history was made.

10. IF SHE HADN'T BEEN AN ACTOR, SHE'D HAVE BEEN A ZOOKEEPER.

"Hands down," she confessed in a 2014 interview. This should come as little surprise to those aware of White's reputation as an avid animal lover and activist. Not only does she try to visit the local zoo of wherever she may travel, but also she's a supporter of the Farm Animal Reform Movement and Friends of Animals group, as well as a Los Angeles Zoo board member, who has donated "tens of thousands of dollars" over the past 40 years. In 2010, White founded a T-shirt line whose profits go to the Morris Animal Foundation.

11. SHE DIDN'T DO AS GOOD AS IT GETS BECAUSE OF AN ANIMAL CRUELTY SCENE.

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White was offered the part of Beverly Connelly, onscreen mother to Helen Hunt, in the Oscar-winning movie As Good as It Gets. But the devoted animal lover was horrified by the scene where Jack Nicholson's curmudgeonly anti-hero pitches a small dog down the trash chute of his apartment building. On The Joy Behar Show White explained, "All I could think of was all the people out there watching that movie … and if there's a dog in the building that's barking or they don't like—boom! They do it." She complained to director James L. Brooks in hopes of having the scene cut. Instead, he kept it and cast Shirley Knight in the role.

12. A FACEBOOK CAMPAIGN MADE WHITE THE OLDEST SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE HOST EVER.

In 2010, a Facebook group called Betty White To Host SNL … Please? gathered so many fans (nearly a million) and so much media attention that SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels was happy to make it happen. At 88 years old, White set a new record. Her episode, for which many of the show's female alums returned, also won rave reviews, and gave the show's highest ratings in 18 months. White won her fifth Emmy for this performance.

13. SHE IS THE OLDEST PERSON TO EARN AN EMMY NOMINATION.


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In 2014, White earned her 21st Emmy nod—and her third in a row for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program—for the senior citizen-centric prank show Betty White's Off Their Rockers. She was 92. She also holds the record for the longest span between Emmy nominations, between her first (1951) and last (so far).  

14. SHE LOVES JUNK FOOD.

The key to aging gracefully has nothing to do with health food as far as White is concerned. In 2011, her Hot in Cleveland co-star Jane Leeves dished on White's snacking habits, "She eats Red Vines, hot dogs, French fries, and Diet Coke. If that's key, maybe she's preserved because of all the preservatives." Fellow co-star Wendie Malick concurred, "She eats red licorice, like, ridiculously a lot. She seems to exist on hot dogs and French fries." 

15. SHE WANTS ROBERT REDFORD.

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White once gave this cheeky confession: “My answer to anything under the sun, like ‘What have you not done in the business that you’ve always wanted to do?’ is ‘Robert Redford.'” Though she has more than 110 film and television credits on her filmography, White has never worked with the Out of Africa star, who is 14 years her junior.

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