Technological Change and MST3K

A hundred years ago, the car was a novelty.  Maybe you’d see one at an exhibition…the thought of a car being similar to seeing a new gadget at a conference kinda makes you wonder what bizarre contraption will be as transformative culturally and socially as the car.  It was mocked (like Virtual Boy…and the iPad…and a half dozen other new inventions), the common question: why would you want that, when you have a perfectly good horse?!?

Forty years later…teenagers were defined by their car…and transistor radio defined them with music (hell, when the first cars were made musical recordings had to be loud and recorded live…there was no tape, and Les Paul wasn’t around to be clever and discover multitracking!), and television was replacing radio…dudes…COMMERCIALS on TV were only ten years old!

Fast-Forward…damn, even THAT term is outdated…to me, here, 2010, done school and applying for internships and watching TV (oooh, colour, flat screen, take THAT 1950s!), but more importantly, MST3K.

…for the uninitiated…MST3K stands for ‘Mystery Science Theatre 3000,’ and if you don’t wanna click the Wiki-link here’s a quick description: guys make fun of bad movies. For the bizarre entire truth, click the link, but you know all you need to for the purposes of this blog.

I’m watching an episode and am oddly taken by the super-time-travelliness of it all.  I mean, the movie itself was made in 1983, and the episode of MST3K was broadcast ten years later in 1993…and it is now SEVENTEEN years since that broadcast.  So…I’m already in the headspace: technological change!

Hold up…I have another tangent to go on…

I was first introduced to MST3K through my friend’s brother back in the early to mid nineties.  How, you might ask?  I want you to think STRONGLY about how you get your media now.  Thinking?  Good…here goes…

My friend’s brother had a friend who had a friend in the states who would tape the shows and then make several copies of those tapes and send them around, one of the people on the end of the distribution of that first round was my friend’s brother’s friend who would THEN make copies and give them to my friend’s brother, who would bring them home…and then I would go to my friend’s place…and we’d watch them.

I still have some of the original tapes in my house.  I stole them.

Now, with that in mind, I want you to know that the episodes although dated mockeries of dated movies are STILL hilarious…I believe it still holds a record for most laughs a minute because they sometimes toss out dozens of jokes in 60 seconds.  Think about your standard sitcom…where a minute or two can go by without a single good joke.  The references they make – who people look like, what they sound like, the music…THE MUSIC!

And that’s where it hit me.  At the start of the episode I was watching they made reference to an obscure synth band from the 80s, Synergy, who I knew through my boyfriend who listens to them ’cause he’s into New Age music…don’t ask…and as I laughed both in shock at the reference and at the timing of the joke they made another reference…to a show the main actor had been in before this, called The Paper Chase.

After two or more references I went to Wiki the show.  And then…it hit me.

…where the HELL did these guys get their information?  There was no wiki, no internet, hell no CELL PHONES of worth back in 1993 when they broadcast the episode.  Each show is a pile of obscure references, and all of them HAD to be in the heads of the writing staff at the time of watching and coming up with jokes and gags.

Today…we can do a google search and find something out.  Back then…SOMEONE had to know it…and then they had to tell you.  Just like with those tapes…someone had to know it…and record it…and copy it…and distribute it…otherwise a kid in rural Ontario may never have had a chance to see it.

I kinda wanted to end on that note, but another thought came to mind…some things DID get to my small town, even though we didn’t have Much Music or cable TV.  We knew what popular songs were on the radio, and what popular movies were coming out on VHS.  Before the internet…you were given a meagre selection and you chose what you liked.  An indie musician in Erin would probably play a show or two in Guelph…but that was the extent of their reach.

In other words…the technological change has made things a LOT easier for everyone…but that also means everyone has a chance to toss the word out and fill the space.  I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing…

…I must say…discovering tapes of an obscure American TV show was pretty exhilerating.  I’m not sure what has replaced it for 2010.



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