Let’s say you and the brood have gathered together for family movie night. Little Billy and Suzy want to watch High School Musical for the zakrillionth time. You would prefer to soak in Manos: The Hands of Fate, Cave Dwellers, Pod People or any of your favorite episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000. How will you escape this impasse? Should you lure your children into the van under the pretext of a trip to the ice cream parlor, drive out to the middle of nowhere and drop them off by the side of the freeway to fend for themselves in the wild? Or should you download an MP3 of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett riffing High School Musical into bite-sized, goofy bits?
We suggest you take the second option. It’s legal, and a lot more fun than trying to explain yourself to the authorities.
MST3K retains a giddy cult following 14 years after going off the air, but not just because YouTube picked up where VHS tape trading left off. Mike Nelson and Joel Hodgson both kept busy mocking movies with new projects in the aftermath of their mythic cult favorite. Hodgson christened the Cinematic Titanic live show in 2007, and in 2006, Nelson’s RiffTrax embraced the digital age and took the MST3K formula in bold new directions.
With RiffTrax, Nelson and cohorts record an MP3 of themselves riffing on a particular flick. For a few bucks, you can download the MP3 and play it over a DVD of your chosen film. Wisecracking over B-movies with dirt-cheap licensing rights was well and good. But with RiffTrax, the voices behind Tom Servo and Crow make classics like Casablanca, recent blockbusters like The Dark Knight and the Twilight saga, and dozens of other “legit” movies funny.
Furthermore, while it’s not one of the most talked-up aspects of RiffTrax or MST3K, the gang from the Satellite of Love generally keep their humor family-friendly, even when a decade-and-a-half of watching terrible movies must make the temptation to curse like they’re suffering from the extra-depraved version of Tourette Syndrome absolutely staggering. Not that there’s anything wrong with jokes about blood and tits and balls, but the wholesome(ish)ness of MST3K helped make it one of the most inclusive and accessible cult shows of all time. Young’uns can laugh at the goofy, slap-sticky gags. Adults can laugh at pop culture references kids won’t understand at all. And everybody’s happy!
So if you’re hoping your offspring will begin to appreciate classic sci-fi/fantasy, you might have better luck getting them interested in MST3K and RiffTrax than, let’s say, Battlestar Galactica. Introducing your kids to RiffTrax and MST3K could also instill a healthy sense of irreverence in their impressionably young minds. This will cause you all kinds of problems when their new-found cynicism prompts them to rebel against you, but if they get a head start on questioning authority, they’ll only grow up to be smarter adults.