Feb 17, 2017

Saturday Morning with Joel and the Bots

During the 1990s, when I was living in West Hollywood, we watched a show called Mystery Science Theater 3000 every Saturday morning, before gong off to buy groceries or go to the gym or do whatever errands needed doing.

I remember a thousand Saturday mornings, eternal, brightly-colored, golden like Lewis Carroll's "golden afternoons," except in my memory  it wasn't summertime.  It was always those magical few weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

MST3K was about a grown-up kid lost far from home: the smiling, laconic Joel (Joel Hodgson) has been zapped into space, onto the phallic-looking "Satellite of Love,"  where two mad scientists torture him by forcing him to watch horribly inept "cheesy movies."
After five seasons (1989-1994), Joel escaped to Earth, and the mad scientists abducted the hunkier Mike  (Mike Nelson above), who stayed on for ten seasons, until the series ended in 2004.

Joel, Mike and the "bots" (their robot chums, Tom Servo and Crow) stayed sane through the worst of bad-movie torture by making fun of the artifice and ineptness -- jokes, pop culture references, and sarcastic comments came fast and furious.  There were also interstitial sketches and comedy bits, often with guest stars from the movies being riffed.

The riffs and interstitials often made homoerotic subtexts visible, and many of the movies featured extensive beefcake, but that's not enough to make my memory of the basic-cable farce "golden."

Maybe MST3K was a metaphor.  Most gay people are trapped far from home.  The overlords are constantly torturing them with heterosexist statements and scenes, proclaiming over and over again that no gay people exist, hoping that eventually their minds will fail and they will cease to exist.  The only way to stay sane is to laugh, to riff on the ineptness and artifice of the heterosexist myth.

It is no wonder that the slow, ponderous final theme, played over the ending credits, always filled me with a profound sadness.

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