Archive - Aug 2011

August 30th

It's Time To Fight The Fights

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Memo to Matt Zoller-Seitz: DON'T MAKE ME USE THE H-WORD.

I don't like the word "hipster". I try not to use it. Partly because I think it's not very well defined. Oh, there are series of stereotypical jokes that give you the general shape of it, but it's just a label for a vague series of semi-connected behaviors, only some of which are actually questionable. I mean, I was enjoying irony long before it was cool

The point is, I prefer to judge each behavior on its individual merits. If I watch you carefully balance your fedora at the precisely defined rakish 27-degree angle for the entirety of a bus trip to the near-suburbs, I don't need to drop the H-bomb to laugh at you. In the grand scheme of affectations, your mustache may be intentionally funny, or it may be unintentionally funny. It's all in how you carry it off.

And I can dismantle Matt Zoller-Seitz's latest bit of whining wankery for Salon without calling it hipster fucking bullshit, even though there's a better than 95% probability, based on both my limited understanding of the term as a middle-aged nerd, and scoiety's fuzzy definition over all, that it is clearly some hipster fucking bullshit.

Here's the deal. A few weeks ago, OK Go and The Muppets collaborated on a video, a cover of the Muppet Show theme song. The Muppets have an album out, a movie on the way, and a successful series of Internet videos. OK Go have all kinds of albums out, plus their own successful series of Internet videos. In other words, the idea of combining the two was not, as it turns out, the work of some twisted, Tesla-esque genius toiling away in the basement lab, but was instead fairly obvious to anyone with half a clue. That is part of MZ-S*'s problem.

"But really, now: If you put this "Muppet Show" theme clip up against any OK Go video, or almost any Muppet musical number, past or present, it would wilt in the face of all that creativity and charm."

Really? Now? Would it, MZ-S? What was the Muppets' first viral hit? The one that blew the doors off and spread through the Internet like wildfire? Bohemian Rhapsody. It was The Muppets, singing someone else's song - a song that already had been well-mined for pop-cultural parody, from Wayne's World on down - only with Muppety catchphrases in place of some of the lyrics.

Was it great? Yes. Was it some kind of creative, charming masterpiece that dwarfed a video where OK Go and The Muppets sing a song full of Muppety bits with a video full of OK Goey bits? No, it wasn't. Really. Now.

Here's the money shot, though. The paragraph that proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that MZ-S has been in some kind of delusional fugue state for nearly two years. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"For one thing, it's too blatantly an ad for OK Go and the Muppets as brands, rather than a self-contained work that has a life apart from its P.R. function. It's celebrating the band and the Muppets as properties, not as performers."

I say delusional, because "stupid" would mean he's somehow unaware that The Muppets are, and always have been, brands and properties. "Delusional" means he knows it, but refuses to believe it. And in fact, earlier in the same article, he states outright that "the Muppets' recent reinvention for YouTube was one of the most delightful brand reboots in memory."

Brand. Reboot. A two-year campaign to make The Muppets culturally relevant again, so that they can sell us albums and a movie. That's what brand reboots are. A P.R. function. An ad. For a property, even if that property is also a performer.

And on the OK Go side of the equation, I have one simple question for MZ-S: what the fuck do treadmills, Rube Goldberg machines, and dogs have to do with any of those songs? NOTHING. Yes, they're cool videos. But they're not about the songs, they're about the image of the band. They're about putting that image out there so that you see the cool video, know who the band is, and maybe buy their albums so that they can eat. This is not a bad thing, at least to me. It's just suddenly a bad thing to Matt, because for some reason, him not liking this new video much has ripped away the veil between art and commerce. But he's the one that put that veil up, not the Muppets, and not OK Go.

The video itself? It's fun. It drags in the middle, because the Muppet Show theme song has to be stretched out to nearly four minutes, but a solid quarter of that is a post-song epilogue with some perfectly acceptable gags woven through it. It's fine. Nothing to complain about. It didn't give me a nerd boner or anything, but I'm jaded and old.

But MZ-S was disappointed. It left a sour aftertaste in his mouth. And since he didn't like it, he had only one recourse as an Internet douchebag. Passive-aggressively snipe at people that did!

"And why does almost everyone seem to be giving it a pass? My gripes are inconsequential, of course, because the clip -- which was made in support of "The Green Album," a collection of Muppet music covers by various hip bands, including OK Go -- is already a huge success. It has drawn nearly 3 million views since it went up this week, and the media response has been overwhelmingly positive."

Oh, shut the fuck up. If you do in fact strive to be the lone voice of reason and sanity crying out against a world that celebrates the insipid and mediocre, the proper tone isn't "poor little me in the minority" whining, it's OUTRIGHT, NON-STOP BELLIGERENCE. Trust me on this one.

It's got "the whiff of student film-making about it", and then is "too slick". It does things other music videos do! It uses digital compositing! And a bunch of other minor, whiny-ass complaints, which he caps with the most ridiculous line of the entire piece:

"All of which would be fine if the video had a good idea at its core."

All those flaws he meticulously listed would be ignored. The blatant commercialism, the editing, the brief glimpse of the Swedish Chef's penis**, all would be forgiven if "The Muppets And OK GO Sing The Muppet Show Song While Parodying OK Go Videos" were nearly as good an idea as "Muppets Sing Queen", "Muppets Sing The Guess Who", "Muppets Sing A Christmas Song", or "Dogs Do Flips".

Sorry, Matt. Sorry this video shattered your inexplicable vision of Muppets Studios and OK Go as visionary, art-for-art's-sake auteurs. But more importantly, I'm sorry that you, a professional, paid television critic for a major Internet company, couldn't find a better way to express that shattering than a pile of steaming hipster bullshit.

*You should try typing that name out a few times just to see how fucking annoying a combination of finger-reaches it is.

**OK, there's actually no DORK DORK DORK in the video, but I am definitely going to ruin the day of several hundred perverts when this ends up in Google.