In the Peanut Gallery with “Mystery Science Theater 3000”: Essays on Film, Fandom, Technology and the Culture of Riffing. Robert G.Weiner and Shelley E. Barba, Editors. Jefferson: McFarland, 2011.
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culture. According to Braddock, it is obvious AlainLocke and art collector Albert Barnes both insistedon the interrelationship of modernism and black cul-ture (6). Curator Alfred Barr or art lovers like Dun-can Phillips and Gertrude Stein were influential as wellin their own way, considering the selected works theyimported from France, from Henri Matisse to the mostprovocative Cubist paintings, to be exhibited in galler-ies and museums in the US (81). Collecting as Modern-ist Practice not only explains how art is consumed, butit also analyzes how art circulates, not freely, butaccording to choices made by people who enjoy eitherpower, influence, or fortune. The author not only tellshow things happened, but he also links decisions withconsequences, in a process coined enlightened patron-age (84). Historians of ideas, sociologists of art andculture, and advanced students in cultural studies willsurely benefit from this elegant, well-written book.-Yves LabergeUniversite LavalQuebec City, CanadaIn the Peanut Gallerywith MysteryScience Theater 3000: Essays on Film,Fandom, Technology and the Culture ofRiffingRobert G. Weiner and Shelley E. Barba, Editors. Jefferson:McFarland, 2011.In the Peanut Gallery is the first scholarly bookthat has been written about the Emmy-nominated andPeabody Award-winning cult television series MysteryScience Theater 3000 (MST3K). The only other bookon the subject is The Mystery Science Theater 3000Amazing Colossal Episode Guide (1996), a companionthat was treated more like a comedic extension of theseries. In the Peanut Gallery with Mystery ScienceTheater 3000 focuses on multiple areas of Americanculture studies, including fandom, the culture of riff-ing, satire and gender, technology, and history and willserve as a plumb line for any and all future scholarlywork onMST3K.The book is divided into eight parts that are writtenby a myriad of credible experts: librarians, researchers,professors, critics, PhD candidates, and pop culture afi-cionados affiliated with a variety of institutions, includ-ing New York University, Harvard University, MIT,and the Smithsonian. The book receives its distinctionby including contributions from MST3K foundingmember Kevin Murphy andMST3Kwriter/actor MaryJo Pehl. The most interesting article is Matthew H.Herschs The Semiotics of Spaceflight on the Satelliteof Love. His essay looks at the space race as a techno-logical military monstrosity from which the world maynever recover and shows how this vision is mirrored byMST3K, a show in which a lone man is imprisoned on amilitary-grade satellite and forced to endure experi-ments by his overseers/rulers. Other highlights includeCynthia J. Millers essay on the ten films of Roger Cor-man dissected by Mystery Science Theater, Kris M.Markman and John Overholts fascinating look at howfans work at Becoming The Right People, and edi-tor Robert G. Weiners examination of MST3K direc-tor Jim Mallons cheesy 1987 slasher film Blood Hook.The book succeeds in providing unique insight intoAmerican culture at various times: when the films wereoriginally made, when the film was riffed on MysteryScience Theater, and when the book was released.Aside from the blatant spelling and grammaticalerrors strewn throughout (the most obvious being twopicture captions: one in which Blood Hook is referredto as Blook Hook and another in which director RickSloane loses the e in his name, then regains it), theonly real criticism for the book is the first essay,Theres Been an Accident at the Studio: How WeMade Hobgoblins! by director Rick Sloane. Havingthe firsthand knowledge of a director can greatlyimprove the credibility of any text on Americancinema; however, in this case, it does not. Although therationale for including an article written by a directorof a film riffed by MST3K is understood, this article iscontradictory and inconsistent throughout, much likeSloanes Hobgoblins. Scholars should read this chapterwith the understanding that it was written with thepoint of view one would expect from a director whosefilm was selected for riffing byMystery Science Theater3000. Having this chapter first could potentially harmthe book, but most scholars will venture further tolocate subjects relating to their specific interests.The reviewer highly recommends this work for anyacademic collection of popular culture. Scholarsshould start with Millers essay, the second article, andthen return to the Sloane essay for an understanding ofwhat it is like to create a cheesy movie and then see ithumiliated byMST3K.-Rodney DonahueTexas Tech UniversityBook reviews 143
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