“Be excellent to each other”: the tao of Bill & Ted explained

Hollywood's most zen dudes can teach us all a thing or two

In partnership with Warner Bros.

Think the Bill & Ted movies are dumb escapism for the slacker generation? Yeah, they pretty much are. But they are also full of a naive code for living that we could all benefit from – something we’re here calling the ‘Tao of Bill & Ted’. If you want to get hip to their philosophy before you see their latest adventure Bill & Ted Face The Music in the cinema, here are the central principles.

Excellence and heinousness are equal and opposite

Excellence and heinousness are the two extremes of human experience for Bill & Ted. Largely, most things will be excellent. Inevitably, some things will be heinous – but you can’t let them get in your way.

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When to use it: Whenever you might be tempted to downplay a situation by describing it as ‘good’ or ‘ok’ or ‘a bit shit’.

“Be excellent to each other”

As the overarching doctrine of Bill & Ted’s philosophy, Bill & Ted’s catchphrase is the central pillar of a fragile future peace – which is why the rulers of the future must work to help the hapless duo fulfil their destiny of getting Wyld Stallyns’ music out into the world. And really, you can’t argue with the sentiment, can you? Preston and Logan for the 2024 presidential ticket?

When to use it: Whenever and wherever you like, as much as possible. Why not try it the next time a fight breaks out outside your local ‘Spoons at last orders?

“The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing”

No, that’s not their original creation – ancient Greek philosopher Socrates said it. But upon reading the quote, inscribed on a stone tablet, Ted exclaims, “That’s us, dude!”. Socrates bonds with Bill and Ted in the duo’s time-hopping debut outing, in which they must assemble a rogue’s gallery of real-life historical figures to help them ace their make-it-or-flunk-out high school history presentation – even if they insist on pronouncing his name “so-crates”.

When to use it: Apply in lieu of solving any difficult mathematical problem.

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69 is the only figure of numerological import

It’s the number that’s always at the forefront of a Bill & Ted acolyte’s mind, for some reason.

When to use it: Whenever you’re asked the question: ‘What number am I thinking of right now?’

Surplus modifiers are not-not-not-uncool

Bill and Ted aren’t the sharpest tools, but their mastery of the double-negative speaks to a cognitive idiosyncrasy, rather than insufficiency. In practice, when Bill describes their trip to Hell in Bogus Journey as “non-non-non-non-heinous”, it means it was heinous, which is quite what you’d expect from a visit to hell. Check TripAdvisor first next time.

When to use it: When traditional syntax just doesn’t express how excellent or heinous something is.

Honour thy stepmother

Across the three movies, the character Missy has been many things to Bill and Ted: lusted-after high school senior, Ted’s stepmom, Bill’s stepmom and now, in Face The Music, Ted’s little brother’s new wife. In spite of the tangled web, Bill and Ted welcome her back to the family with kind words and a performance of their new song, which includes theremin and throat singing.

When to use it: Apply the philosophy whenever a parent’s new partner is eliciting difficult-to-process feelings in you.

“All we are is dust on the wind”

Not the lyrics of Bill and Ted’s band Wyld Stallyns, but those of hair metal band Kansas, borrowed by Bill and Ted in attempt to converse on a level with philosophical superstar Socrates.

When to use it: When remembering that while time may be elastic, we each have our expiry date. Death – and his “cute butt” – will come for us all.

Album covers will lie to you

A lesson learned in Bogus Journey, when Bill and Ted discover that Satan’s manor is nothing like it is in the eyes of Iron Maiden.

When to use it: While gazing at heavy metal depictions of hell, the Grim Reaper, the Devil et al and thinking they look kind of cool. They’re actually heinous.

“The best time to be is now”

This one is slightly harder to get on board with while enduring the manure-slicked Slip ‘N’ Slide that is the year of our lords 2020, but this is Bill’s summary having skipped around through history in their time-travelling phone box. The basis of many ancient philosophies and self-help regimes essentially boils down to an acceptance of the ‘nowness’ of all things, so they really stumbled on something here.

When to use it: When contemplating the transience of life.

God gave rock ‘n’ roll to you

The unifying power of rock ‘n’ roll – expressed here in the Kiss song that served as the theme for Bogus Journey, is a central belief in the three movies, even if they might better deliver their message via the medium of trap right now.

When to use it: Whenever you’re lacking in strength. As the spoken word bit in the Kiss song goes: “I know life sometimes can get tough!/And I know life sometimes can be a drag!/But people, we have been given a gift/We have been given a road/And that road’s name is… Rock and Roll!

Party on!

Bill & Ted Face the Music is in cinemas now.  Find cinema tickets here. ©ORION RELEASING LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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