Cleaning is a part of our everyday lives, and on the whole it’s pretty mundane stuff. But sometimes the world of film and TV takes cleaning and makes it funny, magical, or even scary. Here, we look at some of the timeless cleaning moments film and TV have given us.
Seinfeld creator and star of Curb Your Enthusiasm Larry David has a number of obsessions; one of them would appear to be getting things clean. An episode of Curb has Larry get fanatical about the idea that club soda and salt is perfect for getting rid of stubborn stains. This culminates in him cutting short a lovemaking session with his wife to show her his brilliant finding. Not a day goes by when Larry doesn’t think about the drycleaners, and he’s particularly concerned with the ‘law’ that says if you’re accidentally given an item of clothing that doesn’t belong to you, you’re allowed to keep it. He even takes up the issue with his senator. The drycleaners is also a fascination of Monica’s in Friends (on a visit, she refers to it as her ‘Disneyland’).
When you think about it, cleaning features prominently in Disney films. One of the most memorable Disney scenes ever is that of Mary Poppins helping the children tidying their toys away (which can apparently been done by snapping your fingers) while warbling ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’. The first ever Disney featurelength film has another memorable musical cleaning scene; Snow White singing ‘Whistle While You Work’ as she sweeps the house with the help of some hands-on animals (where are they when you need them?). More recently, the Pixar animation WALL·E opened with a long and touching scene of the eponymous hero cleaning up a deserted planet Earth (in fact the whole movie was about cleaning up our act on a global scale).
How exactly can cleaning be creepy? Well, take The Stepford Wives, for example. Pretty much everything in their lives is too sterilized. They even pretend to be washing machines as part of their daily aerobic routine. Believe it or not, red wine stains are not always the worst things you have to scrub out of the carpet; ‘The Wolf’ in Pulp Fiction (played impeccably by Harvey Keitel) is the kind of cleaner you’d hope you would never have to call out. It’s his job to clear up the mess of bumbling hit men (and believe us, it’s a mess). The 2007 movie Cleaner focuses on Tom Cutler (played by Samuel L. Jackson) as a man who owns a crime scene clean up company. He becomes unwittingly embroiled in a cover-up when he cleans up something he shouldn’t. That movie would have been more fun if it had Monica in the lead role.