No, he’s not another one of my relatives, but rather the Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies and someone whose writings I’ve written about from time to time in the past. He tends to talk about topics such as fandom, blogs, participatory culture and things of that nature. In honor of a new book he has coming out soon, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, he’s decided to start up a blog called Confessions of an Aca/Fan: The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. Here’s a small sample from an entry where he talks about a show near and dear to my own heart, Robot Chicken:
The humor is sometimes sophomoric (in the best and worst senses of the word) – lots of jokes about masturbation, farting, vomiting, and random violence – an entire “nutcracker suite” sequence consists of nothing but various characters getting hit or kicked in the groin. Yet, at its best, it manages to force us to look at the familiar icons of popular culture from a fresh perspective: one of my favorite segments features a series of breakfast cereal icons (Tony the Tiger, Toucan Sam, Captain Crunch, The Trix Rabbit, and the Lucky Charms Leprechaun) as forming an international drug cartel smuggling “sugar” into the country. Many of the sketches depend on the juxtaposition of toys remembered fondly from childhood with adult realities (such as a segment which restages the violent murders of S7even within the Smurf kingdom): it has all of the transgressive appeal of cross-dressing a G.I. doll or staging a ritual hanging of Barney the Dinosaur, speaking to a generation which has only partially outgrown its childhood obsessions.
Yep, it’s stupid and moronic and I love it so.
Anyhow, Henry goes on to talk at length on how RC can trace its roots back to fan films by people like Evan Mather and how a lot of innovation in popular culture is the result of the mass media adopting the innovative creative output of obsessed fans:
When this approach is done well – and Robot Chicken really does this about as well as any show I’ve seen, the program enjoys enormous credibility within the fan community. For all of the crude comedy and broad parody, the show consistently respects the nuances and details of popular culture. As a parent, I would sometimes step on some artifact of my son’s action figure collection trying to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Extracting a sharp chard of molded plastic from my barefoot, I would grumble about “god damn Teela” only to be told by my still three-quarters asleep son, “No, Daddy, that’s from Evil-Lyn.” My son would respect a show like Robot Chicken because it would know the difference between Teela and Evil-Lyn, even as it breaks down the borders between different fictional universes and brings the characters screaming and kicking into the world of adult realities.
I can tell already that this blog will be a daily read for me. Go check it out.