October 22, 2013 § 3 Comments
I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love television (and films viewed on television, which also includes computers because it’s 2013 and what do those distinctions even mean anymore), particularly awesomely bad/weird/creepy television. Shows that make you go WAT, if you will. Television is, hands down, my absolute favorite expressive medium; if someone were ever to write an epic poem about my life and legacy, the opening line would most likely read “All she ever wanted to do/was watch television.” At least, it had better.
So when I say that I have a new favorite show (category: lost classic, subcategory: spoof), you know it’s serious. And with that I give you Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, one of the strangest and best television programs I’ve ever encountered. The premise of the show, which premiered on Britain’s Chanel 4 in 2004, is as follows: Set in the 80s, Darkplace –the eponymous hospital in which the action unfolds– was written, directed and presumably edited by horror writer Garth Marenghi, who opens each episode with a snippet of his own purple prose. (From Episode 5: “Nina’s eyes popped out of what was left of her back. Why oh why had she opened that tomb? The sand turned red. This was because she was bleeding on it. Blood. Ruby red blood. Her blood. Blood. And piss and shit. This was the worst day of her life”; from Episode 6: “He whisked off her shoes and panties in one movement. Wild like an enraged shark, his bulky totem beating a seductive riddle. Mary’s body felt like it was burning, even though the room was properly air conditioned. They tried all the positions: on top, doggie, and normal. Exhausted, they collapsed onto the recently-extended sofabed. Then, a hellbeast ate them.”)
CUE INTRO (starts at 2:14):
According to Marenghi (who is a fictional character, although not according to the title credits), the show was ahead of its time; so much so that Chanel 4 locked away the first season, never to be seen — until now, establishing a fantastically improbable show-within-a-show frame in which Marenghi and his publisher Dean Learner provide present-day commentary on their roles as Dr. Rick Dagless (Marenghi; played by the real life Matthew Holness) and Thornton Reed (Learner; played by the real life Richard Ayoade). The entire series is, in a word, bonkers, and relies on horrendous writing, acting, and production values, including an absolutely pitch-perfect score (complete with Davis Lynchian atmospheric pads) to capture the melodramatic excesses of shitty early-mid 80s and very early 90s television. It is perfect, and has my highest possible recommendation.
Of course, the show isn’t for everyone — and not just because it’s weird as hell. It’s also a winking (if somewhat antagonistic) love letter to a very particular style of television at a particular moment in history. Nearly all the jokes hinge, or at least gesture towards, television done badly. Without understanding –or more importantly, having an opinion about– the components of “good” television (characterized by a specific, historically contingent understanding of what constitutes good writing and acting, proper lighting and sound engineering, and general production values), a person would be unlikely to derive much amusement from the constant, deliberate, and actually quite masterful failures of Darkplace (this show was clearly made by people who know their craft). Rather, they’d likely just see a poorly-made tv show, which in itself isn’t funny. The only people who have any reason to find these sorts of failures funny are the people who know and care about the rules of television so much that their subversion takes on the mantle of joke. I wrote about this phenomenon in my kuso article, and will be revisiting the issue in the below panel proposal for this year’s International Communication Association (ICA) meeting (the conference where I presented this talk in 2012):
This talk will examine ambiguous fan engagement with media content that is, as the saying goes, “so bad it’s good.” Although these behaviors may appear to subvert the hegemonic meaning of a particular text by imposing some new or wholly unintended meaning (Hall 1973), they ultimately adhere to larger and more pervasive cultural conventions, putting a conservative spin on an ostensibly subversive cultural practice. The talk will focus specifically on enthusiastic online engagement with broken memes (that is, variations of a popular meme that get all the details laughably wrong) and the online obsession with failure generally, which worships at the altar of ineptitude and technological incompetence. It will conclude by arguing that appreciation for and engagement with “bad” content is predicated on a high degree of cultural literacy, which itself can only be accomplished via educational and technological access. Put simply, ambiguous engagement with content that is “so bad it’s good” is actually, and ultimately, an expression of privilege.
I’m not sure how or if I’ll be addressing Darkplace in my talk — but will definitely be revisiting the subject in the months to come, as I thrash around to find my next big research project. In conclusion, son of a bitch (I tried cueing it up but YouTube is being annoying; see 3:01):
July 5, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Easily the best local news graphic ever Photoshopped.
Via Dlisted like 800 days ago but whatever, gold is golden any time of the year
February 10, 2013 § 2 Comments
I was traveling this past week and ended up stranded in Orange County for an extra day due to SNOWPOCALYPSE. I finally made it home last night, and this morning woke up to this masterpiece — my hero Courtney Stodden is at it again, this time with a glamorous music video. A glamorous music video for the AGES.
April 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Just stay behind the line,
in the time
I hope it’s not asking too much.
February 27, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I do a bit of side-bloggin at Modern Primate, and last night decided to summarize the major nominated films based solely on what I saw during the Oscars. I also created the above masterpiece! Verily I am a man of many talents.
February 22, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Behold, a portrait of Rick Santorum comprised exclusively of gay porn.
January 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Chris and I have been watching evening TV together, like our forefathers before us. Minus the part about how we split our computer screens with Skype videos and whatever thing we happen to be watching, on opposite sides of the country. This evening we watched the miracle that is The Boy Who Loved Trolls, quite possibly the most drug-addled rainbow-crusted wayback clusterfuck I have ever had the profound honor of stuffing into my eyeholes. It really is something to behold, like Courtney Stodden went back in time, conceived and delivered herself in the backseat of a totaled Toyota Datsun, ran her afterbirth through a screenprinter, became a magician, placed a HELP WANTED: MAKING ART FILM ad in the local paper and paid a couple of hard-up young actors –a fresh-faced Sam Waterston and William H Macy– to eat several handfuls of acid, for 6 sticks of gum and a nylon mermaid costume.
And you’ll learn lessons! Chris now knows to ALWAYS follow the strange man under any bridge he points you towards, and to stay in his underwater castle as you’re not too old to “believe” in his “magic!”
I urge everyone to watch this film IMMEDIATELY.
January 10, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This art film must become a part of my life.