Dr. Rosanne Welch presents Why Monkees Matter: How The Writing Staff of The Monkees Brought the 1960s Counter Culture to Mainstream Pre-Teen Viewers at the 2014 Cal Poly Pomona Provost’s Symposium on Faculty Scholarship (http://www.cpp.edu/~research/)
This is a particularly fun quote. Timothy Leary has a long quote I won’t read you about all the things — the silly nonsense going on — and at the very end an actor like Micky Dolenz would look right at the screen — right — so we’re doing this metatextual — I’m “fourth-walling” you — “that’s pretty good talking for a long-haired weirdo, huh, Mr and Mrs. America?” So he was right there telling them we’re laying something out here, but you don’t even notice. Shh. Don’t watch. And so I think that’s really interesting. Also, what’s interesting is look at Mr. Dolenz’ hair. It’s all afro. This was a huge new thing to show on television. First of all, long hair, but this is ethnic hair. This doesn’t belong on TV so, in fact, on the first season they had him iron his hair. They would not allow this vaguely white, although he’s actually Italian and Native American — no. no and afro? No, no, no, that;s not allowed on television. Not until the second season, when they get a little more power that they start looking like they do in normal life.
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Based on a chapter in my upcoming book The Metatextual Menagerie that was The Monkees, which includes a series of interviews conducted with surviving writers and performers of the 1960s television program, The Monkees I will discuss how the writers and actors used the show as a platform for their own emerging counter culture/anti-war messages.
Worth studying for its craft and place in television history (the show won an Emmy as Best Comedy Of 1967) the program’s true importance may come from its impact on the politics and culture of the era. Considered innocuous by the network, thepress and the parents of the era, the storylines and jokes created by the writers and the actor’s ad-libs brought the emerging counter-culture to the attention of young teens whose parents might not have appreciated the message. Cultural icons such as Timothy Leary recognized the subversive nature of the program, seen through the writing and in choices made about costuming, hair length, musical guests (Frank Zappa, Tim Buckley, Charlie Smalls) and songs performed by the band brought issues of Vietnam, voting and civil rights to the ‘young generation’ for whom the show clearly had ‘somethin’to say.
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About the Symposium:
The 2014 Provost’s Symposium is a forum to learn about each other’s scholarly work, make new friends, renew old acquaintances, and enhance our appreciation of the rich and diverse array of professional endeavors pursued by the faculty at Cal Poly Pomona.