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What comics, movies, and TV can teach us about how to Birthday well

Popular culture is here to teach you the important tips to survive Popverse's birthday week

Superman is Shook
Image credit: DC

It’s Popverse’s first birthday! We’ve reached that all-important, yet difficult age where we’ve started taking our first steps and moving around the room by ourselves, pointing at objects we want to get attention, and openly wondering about response times from publicists who promised they’d have a statement by the end of the day; we’ve all been there. And yet… how does a relatively new website negotiate a birthday for the first time?

Thankfully, pop culture is ready with all manner of lessons on just how to handle this kind of thing, as it is for nearly every major life event. If you, too, are looking for guidance as to how to negotiate the birthday as a concept: enjoy this all-important guide on How To Birthday, According To Popular Culture.

How to respond to people wishing you a happy birthday

I get it; it can be difficult to deal with people wishing you a happy birthday. (Personally, I default into saying, “Happy birthday to you, too!” back; it just seems polite, if confusing.) The wrong way to react would be completely denying that it’s your birthday, as Clark Kent does in this panel from 1976’s World’s Finest #235:

World's Finest #235
Image credit: DC

A potentially better response comes from Wally West, in 1987’s The Flash #1:

The Flash #1
Image credit: DC

Politely playing along, while being clearly disinterested in proceedings? Okay, maybe that’s not the best attitude. But it’s still better than silent, abject horror, as displayed by Danny Rand (Iron Fist) in 2008’s The Immortal Iron Fist #16:

The Invincible Iron Fist #16
Image credit: Marvel Entertainment

(Our birthday present for Hawkeye fans: that is, indeed, an early work by the Matt Fraction and David Aja team, right there; Ed Brubaker is present, as well, as co-writer.)

Really, though, the best response comes from 1983’s X-Men Special Edition #1, as Kitty Pryde once again demonstrates how it should be done:

X-Men Special Edition #1
Image credit: Marvel Entertainment

See? Joy. That’s all that’s really required. Thanks, Kitty (and Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, who were responsible for the story.)

What is appropriate for a good birthday party?

Okay, so we now know that it’s important to share our joy at being surprised by a birthday party. But… how, exactly, are we supposed to hold a birthday party? What goes into planning a birthday party?

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That clears everything up, I think you’d agree. (I could pretend that this is documentary footage of Popverse EiC Chris Arrant and I collaborating on a birthday party, but the sad truth is, neither of us have the hairline to pull it off — although Chris has John Krasinski qualities in other ways, I’m happy to report; it is, of course, from the 2009 episode of The Office called “Lecture Circuit.”)

What is appropriate birthday food?

Okay, so we’re really getting somewhere now: we know how to act in birthday situations. We know how to get birthday parties handled. Before we settle in for our own birthday nap, it’s fair to wonder… what kind of birthday food are we going to eat when we wake up?

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Look, dietary expectations were clearly very different in 1989, when Uncle Buck was made. Thankfully, everyone knows that the perfect birthday meal is the one that the person celebrating the birthday really wants to eat, no matter how strange that meal may be… or, for that matter, the truths revealed by that meal, as evidenced in 1979’s The Jerk:

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Oh, and birthday cake is a must, right…?

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I could try to explain the circumstances of this 1993 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but… it wouldn’t really help that much, to be fair. (It’s “Phantasms,” from season 7, if you want to see for yourself.) Of course, no matter what you’re eating, birthday meals can sometimes get awkward, as we all know and 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show makes worryingly clear.

Why are some people scared of growing older, anyway?

Look, let’s just cut to the meat of the whole thing, shall we? Birthdays are something that produce a lot of anxiety in people. Yes, they’re sources of camaraderie and sheer, unfettered joy at belonging to a family — blood-related or chosen, whichever’s your pleasure — but they can also be stressful things that people do not enjoy at all. Is it just the fear of getting older, and therefore closer to the cold embrace of death? Or is there some other, secret, reason for people to be afraid of birthdays?

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Okay, fine. Well played, 1963’s The Birds. But it’s not as if people are, like, hunting you down on your birthday to kill you or someth —

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— I take it back. I’m ready to accompany Michael York on Logan’s Run (1976) after seeing that. Carousel is a lie!

Who’s the Birthday MVP that we should model ourselves after?

The only possible answer to this, despite his earlier showing when evil hypnotist Sagittarius showed up at his workplace, DC’s Man of Steel himself. Why? Because whether it’s 1958’s Action Comics #241 or 1985’s Superman Annual #11, he’s shown himself to be an absolute dream when it comes to receiving unwanted gifts…

Action Comics #241
Image credit: DC
Superman Annual #11
Image credit: DC

Clark, your parents taught you well. Happy Birthday, Popverse.