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Reading Mystery Science Theater 3000

Critical Approaches

Edited by Shelley S. Rees

First broadcast in the not too distant past on a television station in Minnesota, Mystery Science Theater 3000 soon grew out of its humble beginnings and found a new home on cable television. This simple show about a man and two robots forced to watch bad movies became a cult classic, and episodes of the series continue to be packaged in DVD collections to this day. Before its final run, the show received Emmy nominations and a Peabody award for Television excellence, and in 2007, Time magazine declared MST3K one of “The 100 Best Shows of All-Time.”

Reading Mystery Science Theater 3000: Critical Approaches, Shelley S. Rees presents a collection of essays that examines the complex relationship between narrative and audience constructed by this baffling but beloved television show. Invoking literary theory, cultural criticism, pedagogy, feminist criticism, humor theory, rhetorical analysis, and film and media studies, these essays affirm the show’s narrative and rhetorical intricacy. The first section, “Rhetoric and the Empowered Audience,” addresses MST3K’s function as an exercise in rhetorical resistance. Part Two, “Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Genre,” analyzes MST3K through distinct generic traditions, including humor studies, traditional science fiction tropes, and the B-movie. Finally, the third section addresses postmodern and intertextual readings of the show.

By providing an academic treatment of an iconic television phenomenon, these essays argue that
Mystery Science Theater 3000 is worthy of serious scholarly attention. Though aimed at a discerning readership of academics, this collection will also appeal to the intellectual nature of the show’s well-educated audience.
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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 176Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/2
978-0-8108-9140-1 • Hardback • May 2013 • $55.00 • (£37.95)
978-0-8108-9141-8 • eBook • May 2013 • $52.00 • (£34.95)
Shelley S. Rees is an associate professor of English at The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. She received her Ph.D. in English from University of North Texas, specializing in 19th-century British literature, with further research interests in popular culture and speculative fiction.
Shelley S. Rees
Part I: Rhetoric and the Empowered Audience of
Mystery Science Theater
Chapter 1 The Audio-Visual Palimpsest: Rhetoric, Poetics, and Heteroglossia in
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Ben Wetherbee
Chapter 2
Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the Restricted Universe of Popular Culture Production
Jef Burnham and Joshua Paul Ewalt
Chapter 3 Down in Front!: Interpretation, Performance, “Shadowramma” and the Hermeneutics of
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Neal Stidham
Chapter 4 “My Life is a Hollow Lie”: Riffing the Sexism of the Past in
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Sean Kennedy

Part II:
Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Genre
Chapter 5 “Do You Even Live Here?”: Regionalism, Humor and Tradition in
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Claire Schmidt and Laurel Schmidt
Chapter 6 How to Make Robot Friends: Mocking Technophobia and Technophilia in
Mystery Science Theater 3000
Kevin Donnelly
Chapter 7 Your Experiment this Week: The Attack of
Mystery Science Theater and Moral Imagination (in Color)
John Venecek

Part III: Intertextuality and Postmodernism in
Mystery Science Theater
Chapter 8 “This isn’t Yorick, It’s George Goebel”:
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Does Hamlet
Walter C. Metz
Chapter 9
Mystery Science Theater 3000 as Metafilm: Postmodern Narrative Readings
Nathan Shank

About the Contributors
About the Editor