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/)
Here is a lovely little bit of dialog. “They want to put the blame on teenagers. Take the war, for example. Whose fault is it? Not ours. We’re not fighting. It must be those crazy kids. They’re the ones doing all the fighting.” I mean, this is not just vaudeville happening. This is serious political commentary in the course of a teenage comedy show. You didn’t get that on Full House when that was the big program in American television. Now, my favorite funny part is in the very last episode of the show, so they got away with a lot. It starred this alien plant. If you look at it a little more closely, it resembles a plant that one wasn’t supposed to know much about. In fact, only in certain state now are we supposed to know about it. This plant has come and its power is being taken over by a bad human who’s using it to rule the world. Right? I think that’s funny. In the midst of this particular episode, they even have this anti-war song that they chant during a montage in the show and if you just take a peek at that for a minute, it’s kind of beautiful. I particularly like the last line, “Two little kinds playing a game. They gave a war and nobody came, ” which is the — it starts with a game and no one shows up, so the 2 kings are all alone. So, here we have this marvelous anti-war song in the midst of this.
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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.