Historical Satire

“I’m calling Victorian Cut-out Theatre ‘Historical Satire’. That is a genre that we may have invented.”

The above statement was made over the phone to me by Stephanie Yuhas as she was in full producer mode. She is a delight when she is in this state and if you ever get the chance to talk to her while she’s excited, I highly suggest you do so. You will leave the conversation with a renewed lust for life and will do any thing she asks if it means being a part of a project. Regardless, this is really cool and as a category for Victorian Cut-out Theatre, I’ll take it. It’s much better than my title of “Crudely Animated Victorian Sketch Comedy”. “Historical Satire” has a ring that puts the show along side Kate Beaton’s work which makes feel very happy and also unworthy. Like I’m smart enough to hang out with historical cartoon maven, Kate Beaton. As cool as the genre title is however, I don’t think we invented it. I think Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court may have beat us to the punch. This isn’t surprising since Twain is the father of modern American satire. We even have an award named after him which we give to very smart and very funny people at an awards show that is important but no one watches. It airs on PBS, if that gives you any idea.

There’s a great criticism of American humor, and by association Mark Twain, by Mathew Arnold. Which kind of reads like the 1800s version of The Notorious B.I.G. calling out Tupac. In any event, it is one of the funniest and most beautiful things I have ever read.

”The Quinionian humor of Mr. Mark Twain, so attractive to the Philistine of the more gay and light type both here and in America, [a] French critic fixes upon as literature exactly expressing a people of this type, and of no higher. 'In spite of all its primary education,' he says, 'America is still, from the intellectual point of view, a very rude and primitive soil, only to be cultivated by violent methods. These childish and half-savage minds are not moved except by very elementary narratives composed without art, in which burlesque and melodrama, vulgarity and eccentricity, are combined in strong doses.’”

I can’t tell you all how patriotic this statement makes me. Many of my countrymen become physically thrilled by guns, eagles, and apple pie. For my part, I am happy to be considered a “half savage” when it comes to words, character, and narratives. Hilarious and narrow though it may be, this criticism isn’t without its truth even today. Lowest common denominator entertainment is alive and well here in the United States, as it it has always been. We have shows whose sole efforts are to make people feel good. Places like CBS and USA trade in easily digestible procedurals and comedies. But we also have the self important dramas on places like HBO, Showtime, and FX. What Mr. Arnold misunderstood is that there is room for all under the umbrella of entertainment and I’m not certain any one piece of media is any more “correct” than any other. And anyway, the Brits are the ones responsible for polluting television with reality TV, so I guess…whatever.

I would never consider myself a satirist, although VCoT may be the closest I’ve come to the format. I have used it to make statements about things that suit material set in and around the 1800s. It is perhaps ironic and more than a little sad that some of these things are still relevant.

In any event, episode 2 is complete. I learned even more workarounds and tricks on this one and hopefully episode 3 will fly by without any incident. The longest part so far has been gathering and painting assets, that and the writing of course. Anyway, I’m going to see if we can put together a preview while fans of the show wait, I’ll talk to Matt and Stephanie and see what they think.

On a final, completely unrelated topic, monster cereals are out now! This means that Halloween is right around the corner and since we just got a deal on cable I will be able to watch the horror lineup on Turner Classic Movies and whatever AMC decides to air (not Monsterfest, sadly). Expect October’s blogs to reflect the forthcoming holiday. I’m so completely excited! I am also a dork.

Stay gold,

-Rob