The ’90s were a time for very genre-specific films that remain beloved to this day. But there are also films from that decade that went obscure at the time and have since gone on to become cult hits. Empire Records is one such movie, whose storyline could even be relevant today. However, the movie’s greatest accomplishment was spawning a popular social media trend of celebrating April 8 as Rex Manning Day, from the obscure film, as covered by The AV Club.
Empire Records was all about a group of record store employees trying to save their store from a corporate buyout. The story of the film featured a day in the life of its employees, who ranged from a variety of ’90s teenage tropes, by attempting various ways to raise the profile of their store or earn enough money to prevent its closing. The film’s story acts as a metaphor for its characters to learn the realities of life, growing up, and to dealing with moving on, under the setting of losing the record store.
The film saw very early performances by major stars today such as Liv Tyler (The Leftovers), Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones’ Diary), Ethan Embry (Grace And Frankie), Rory Cochrane (White Boy Rick), and many more.
The premise of the film may seem unrecognizable in 2019, given the natural lack of brick and mortar stores for media in general. However, the satirical mocking of one of the film’s characters continues on as the film’s legacy.
Rex Manning, played by Maxwell Caulfield, was an ’80s pop sensation who was set to appear at the store to sign autographs. The star was basically a has-been, so the employees mocked his previous status and sad life now, by proclaiming the day of his arrival at the store as “Rex Manning Day.” The spirit of that mockery lives on in social media, as many fans celebrate the fictitious day, with even Dictionary.com making jokes at the character’s expense.
Fans on social media choose to celebrate the day with a variety of fun antics, with varying degrees of extremity.
Empire Records becoming a hit later on in its release to home video may be oddly relevant today, given the total lack of physical stores in which to purchase media. While some retail outlets transitioned to selling pop culture paraphernalia, such as HMV, even that couldn’t stop their eventual fate, as reported by Forbes, similar to the threat in Empire Records. Most music is now streamed and even video is ordered from online retailers and delivered to homes.
These stark differences in the current landscape may date Empire Records, preventing it from ever being anything other than a ’90s film. However, Rex Manning Day will probably live on in social media infamy.