Letters to the Editor: Is MST3K Cynical? Am I Cynical?


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I don't get emails regarding Kill the Snark that often, but when I do (when someone does stumble across this corner of the blog-iverse, and wants to say something about it), they're usually pretty interesting. Here are two emails about snarkiness and cynicism--one thoughtful and complimentary, the other not-so-complimentary and from a filmmaker whose work I reviewed in probably the most mean-spirited piece I've ever written.

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Hello Jeff,

I was directed to your recent piece on Mystery Science Theater 3000 by MST3KINFO.com. I really liked the article, to the point of taking notes on it as I made my way through, preparing myself for a good, thoughtful comment on your blog. Then, to my surprise, there was no comments section to be found. (A blogger who doesn't crave praise and attention? What?) So, still wanting to get these thoughts off of my chest, I'm writing you this email instead.

I really liked the article. I often find that people look at me funny when I insist to them that MST3K warrants this amount of thought. But what's really funny was how absolutely opposite my views of the show were from yours. I had actually held the show up as my shining example of how great UNcynical and UNironic humor can be. My views on humor seem very much in line with yours- I find that most people use humor in a negative way, for reasons I don't even care to get into. But I had always seen Mystery Science Theater as the antithesis of this. Just look at the sketches. Have you ever seen a group of guys (Midwestern to the core) more genuine and unassuming in your life? I love how unapologetically goofy they are. They're happy and love life. And, unlike most people, aren't afraid to show it.

BUT- There was always that nagging feeling in my the back of my mind... Isn't what these guys are doing, making fun of other people's art, kind of mean, cruel and... ironic by it's very nature? I came closest to actually realizing this concept when I read about how Joe Don Baker said he would punch the cast if he ever saw them, after hearing what they said about him during their episode featuring the film "Mitchell". (Why does it always seem to be the case that MST3K's most deplorable moments are also their funniest?)

Now that your article has clearly laid this out for me (Thank you so much), I find myself trying to reconcile this idea in my head. And I think I've come up with something fairly significant, or worth exploring anyway. MST3K should have also assaulted good movies. They should have given the same treatment to work they actually enjoyed. You can't tell me that you wouldn't sit through the entire three hours of Joel and the 'bots ripping through Seven Samurai. (Ignore the fact that they could never have gotten the rights to do this- we're waxing philosophically here.) I don't think it would be any more difficult for them to write, and I think the results could be just as funny. This type of indiscriminate assault on their part would have eliminated the "mean" aspect of that they were doing. It would have changed where they were coming from completely. In fact, just thinking about how well it would have worked almost makes me feel better about the reality of what they did.

That's what I have to say about your lovely article. You can take it as praise, or let me know what you think.

Thanks again.
Colin
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I stumbled upon your old take on my Q&A at Ebert's '06 festival, and my film "Duane Hopwood" and was struck by how... cynical it was. And how dismissive, of the film, the performances, and me. I'm also an actor and I'm used to criticism, but I wonder, just what your qualifications are to arrive at these conclusions. Are you a professional critic? Are you a a trained writer? A published writer? A professional in the arts? If you'd been at the Q&A with Ebert the day before, you'd have heard him call Schwimmer's performance "Academy Award caliber." He also went on to list the film as one of the "best of 2005." This from the most influential and (arguably) most respected film critic in the world, as opposed to...you.

Happy Holidays
Matt Mulhern


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Thoughts of your own - on cynicism, cynical criticism, or my own measly, unqualified ideas? (Hey, I've got a Masters in Writing - does that make my opinion worth more or less, and if so, by how much, percentage-wise?) Write me here, and I may post them in a future Letters to the Editor column.



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