Filming the Jump: #2 Wayne’s World

I know it’s not normally seen like this, but as a 13-year-old in 1992, Wayne’s World felt like a moment of triumph – when the young, funny, irreverent and fun-loving took over the establishment of TV. Mike Myers’ Wayne was the monkey in charge of the banana factory. He was funny. He was rude. He listened to good music. And he was a thousand times funnier and more compelling than anything else on the corporate-driven TV networks.

Wayne’s triumph over the TV moguls was the real story of the movie. They tried to screw him, but he triumphed, by being funny, talented, and having an unbeatable group of friends. All culminating in a full rectal examination of the very creepy Rob Lowe…

Rob Lowe - post Brat Pack, pre rectal probe

Without taking the symbolism too far, it is interesting to look at the counterpoint between Mike Myers and Rob Lowe. Lowe was the poster child of the previous wave of youth empowerment…the Brat Pack. But Rob Low, and Molly Ringwald, and Emilio Esetevez had been part of an apparent wave of teen power that was in fact the old school movie system in new clothing. They were pretty to look at, and served up a convincing product of teen rebellion. But they were very much in front of, not behind the camera. Wayne’s World was about the kids (albeit, in Mike Myers case, a 29 year-old in a baseball cap) taking over the medium.

In a time when the big networks’ grip on broadcast was being broken by the proliferation of TV stations and the rise of cable and satellite technology, this seemed very plausible. Kids had gone wanting their MTV to wanting to run their own show. The kids were taking control of the airwaves, of the interaction, making it more real and direct, and they were bringing the audience with them.

Flip forward a couple of decades, and it is clear that this hasn’t happened.

It feels like there is less live music than pretty much ever before. MTV, the bedrock of teen culture for quite a while, is content to churn out reality TV and docu-soap that is more appealing to 20-somethings looking to vegetate with a hangover as it is to angry young kids.

money for nothing, and chicks for free

There are a couple of exceptions that prove the rule – Skins, for example, continues to fly the flag, particularly in the US where its launch has entranced teenagers and predictably outraged sponsors. South Park manages, just about, to sustain a balance of rage and gross out comedy. But overall, TV feels more and more like the playground of professional adults and corporate interests.

But this isn’t a rant about the sell out of TV to ‘the Man’…the point of course is that there is another show in town – the Internet. Why bother to try to seize control of the airwaves, and the means of cultural production, when all you need to create your own space and audience is upload to YouTube or set up your own online record label? When there is a media option that is so much more vital, immediate, interactive and sociable, why bother with TV?

The leadenness of TV is particularly clear when you see its attempts to feed from the internet. Behold the horror of Tosh.O.

The problem with all of this is that without the active participation of all the smart, funny kids in the world in the future of TV, we are missing out on a lot. We are missing our chance to create inspiring pop culture movements at one moment in time. We are under-selling the potential of the box in the corner, which can be interactive and vital, but is almost always generating passivity. And we are missing out on the sense of empowerment that each new generation gets from taking over control of the institutions of the previous generation.

And the fact remains that with production and distribution getting ever cheaper, media consumption fragmenting, the chance to make Wayne’s World come to life is greater than ever. It would be great to see someone do it – and as a 30-something marketing guy…to see it and feel like it WASN’T designed for me…

betty rubble has aged somewhat better than Madonna...

Instead, we have this. A Wayne’s World sketch on Saturday Night Live. 15 years after it ceased to be relevant. Actually it’s not unfunny. But it might be good to see something new…

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Filming the Jump: #2 Wayne’s World

  1. Has the TV-anarchy revolution been overshadowed by the democratisation by the social networks, blogs, YouTube, etc?

    • Yes. But to me, that’s a problem. There is still such a thing as the mainstream of broadcast media, and that thing is totally centred in the TV. If all the ‘dangerous’ stuff is on blogs and YouTube, then the TV loses a lot of its vitality, and kids lose a lot of their sense of connection. But it is also worth remembering that we are in an intermediate technological phase…and that we are in the process of working out how the TV plugs into the Internet in a way that makes sense to the user. That may well change the nature of TV significantly…

  2. Pingback: googledigook » Blog Archive » Mubarak overthrown by Twitter. NOT. The Wayne’s World revolution in Egypt.

  3. thanks googledigook. agreed. twitter is not bringing down the egyptian government – just creating a cosy international solidarity that it would be a nice thing if it fell. tv, on the other hand, might just do it.

    this reminds me of last year’s UK election, in which the TV leaders’ debates seemed to so clearly change the shape of the election and pre-destine our current awkward compromise of David Cameron leaning heavily on Nick Clegg to occupy the middle ground.

    the goundswell of ‘i agree with Nick’ certainly fed from twitter etc, but the citizens of the empowered internet seemed to be those who were most successfully misled by misplaced idealism (putting their own words into Clegg’s mouth), whereas those who took their lead from TV probably got a more accurate picture of what they were getting – fiscal brutality from a nice guy who can remember people’s names.

    for TV vs Twitter in the ‘fall’ of Mubarak, see http://www.googledigook.com

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