Christmas and Easter nihilists

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L.I. Underhill is a media critic and historian specializing in pop culture, with a focus on science fiction (especially Star Trek) and video games. Their projects include a critical history of Star Trek told through the narrative of a war in time, a “heretical” history of The Legend of Zelda series and a literary postmodern reading of Jim Davis' Garfield.


  1. The Flan in the High Castle
    June 16, 2016 @ 2:40 pm

    I’d heard the Super Mario Bros 3 theory, of course, but it had never even occurred to me that it could be extrapolated to encompass the entire series, even though Bowser’s participation implies this. The idea neatly explains the power dynamics of Peach’s repeated kidnapping and rescue too. Very interesting. Does any other work of serial fiction operate this way?

    I was about to ask how the 3D games could also be theatrical performances, but then I remembered the Lakitu who films Mario’s adventures in Super Mario 64 – evidently the troupe got a TV deal.


    • Froborr
      June 16, 2016 @ 6:34 pm

      In particular it illuminates the existence of Paper Mario–kamishibai was a form of Japanese traveling theater that was very commonplace and popular in the first half of the twentieth century, involving a series of static images painted on a scroll and displayed in sequence by the kamishibaiya, who would recite the story at the same time. It was popular enough that when television was introduced to Japan, it was initially called electric kamishibai!

      So the idea of a traveling drama troupe having an alternate form in which their stories are told through papercraft makes a LOT of sense.


      • Chris Bradshaw
        June 16, 2016 @ 11:16 pm

        Electric Kamishibai is a wonderful name for a band.

        Also… I clicked to reply and it set me up as “Jacob” revealing to me his e-mail address.


    • Daibhid C
      June 18, 2016 @ 1:28 pm

      “Does any other work of serial fiction operate this way?”

      Perhaps not the “reiterated storyline because it’s a different production of the same show” aspect, but classic Looney Tunes has a similar “the characters are actors” vibe. Bugs Bunny shows up in the time of the Vikings or Ancient Rome or a medieval castle, and Elmer Fudd or Yosemite Sam are there to play their established antagonist roles. Daffy Duck takes on various heroic guises from Robin Hood to Duck Dodgers, with Porky always playing his sidekick. (Particularly notable is “The Scarlet Pumpernickel”, which has a framing story of Daffy actually pitching the cartoon to Warner Bros.)

      The Muppets might also count to an extent, although many of their works have been shows about making a show, which is a different dynamic.


  2. Daru
    June 21, 2016 @ 7:02 am

    “It is not, I think, a great stretch to interpret video games as a modern form of ritualized shamanic practice.”

    Absolutely, though being less of a computer gamer I really get that as my early forays into Roleplay Gaming led I think to me developing my interests in spiritual exploration also.


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