Monday, May 25, 2009

The Case Against Mystery Science Theater 3000

As many of you know, I enjoy bad movies. Something about them just makes me smile. The goofier and more inept the better. It's the only reason I have a movie like "Bloodrayne" in my collection (and I got it real cheap from the used DVD rack). For me there is fun to be had watching and mocking movies that just don't quite meet thier goal. But there are those people who don't feel that way. In fact, I've run into some serious detractors of the art of mocking. This got me thinking. Is there a case against a show like Mystery Science Theater 3000? Is one of my favorite television series nothing more than a collection of haters mocking something they don't even have the guts to do themselves? I decided to play the devil's advocate.

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Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) is really nothing more than a group of mean spirited people mocking a weak opponent and beating up on it for the amusement of other cynical and bitter people. There is no true joy in this television series. The comedy is all based on making fun of others, something that the best comedians keep to a minimum. In some cases the targets of MST3K are foreign made films and the jokes are based on making fun of other cultures and people (especially guilty in the Japanese and Russian imports). Other times the movies are made in another era, one that had different values and stylistic concerns. These are shown as "not normal" or "ignorant and stupid" and there for worthy of mockery. On this basis alone, this series is actually pretty hateful.

But one of the most annoying things about the whole concept of the show is that they do not take into account the amount of sheer effort it takes to make a film. No matter what the intentions of the film maker (Coleman Francis obviously wanted to comment on the bay of pigs in "Red Zone Cuba" and Roger Corman was just trying to turn a profit in "Swamp Diamonds"), the fact that they attempted to create something lasting in a medium that requires large amounts of money, cooperation and luck and actually got it release is a huge achievement. Such achievements should be rewarded with some respect and yes some critical examination - but not outright abuse.

And who are these people who can sit back and question technique, acting, writing, music or any other part of a movie - when it is obvious that they lack the skills to do any of these themselves. Just look at their "host segments". What do you see in the way of technique, acting, writing or music? Would they be mocked on their own show? Sure they would. The few self deprecating comments they made to that point do not change the fact that they are no one to judge the achievements of others.

In the end, this series is made by cynics for cynics. Its humor is not anything more than what you'd find at a party with a few drunk friends. Humor should be entertaining and at its heart it should impart some kind of joy. With something as mean-spirited as this, there is no way the "humor" on display here can do anything other than create more cynical and frankly depressing feelings in a viewer. This is not entertainment. It's venom and it's poisonous.

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What do you think of the show? Do you think the opinion above is valid or is made by someone to takes movies a bit too seriously.

(My next post will take up the counter argument)

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