Call for Papers MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 AND THE CULTURE OF RIFFING
Call for Papers
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 AND THE CULTURE OF RIFFING
Southwest Popular / American Culture Association (SWPACA)
39th Annual Conference, February 7-10, 2018
Hyatt Regency Hotel & Conference Center
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Proposal submission deadline: October 22, 2017
Proposals for papers and panels are now being accepted for the 39th annual SWPACA conference. One of the nation’s largest interdisciplinary academic conferences, SWPACA offers nearly 70 subject areas, each typically featuring multiple panels. For a full list of subject areas, area descriptions, and Area Chairs, please visit http://southwestpca.org/conference/registration
The Area chair seeks papers/presentations on Mystery Science Theater and the culture of riffing and Mash-up. In the fall of 1988 on a small public access channel, KTMA, in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area of Minnesota, a bizarre show appeared. It featured two hand-made, robot-appearing puppets and a man watching a movie and making comments to the screen. Little did its creator, Joel Hodgson, know that he had created a worldwide popular culture phenomenon known as Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST). The show lasted 10 seasons and spawned a theatrical feature film.
Now riffing movies, television, cartoons, and the rise of the mash-up have become very popular modes of expression. In 2015, Mystery Science Theater 3000 was given new life due to the largest Kickstarter drive for a film related project. 2017 saw Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return as a hit series on Netflix.
- The use of “name” actors in the reboot like Felicia Day, Patton Oswalt, Jonah Ray
- Streaming services as a way to open up Mystery Science Theater and Rifftrax to newer audiences.
- The higher production values on the reboot. Does this hinder or help the show?
- The Live 2017 shows
- Audience Reception
- Does the higher production value hurt the feel of Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Return?
- Other kinds of riffing platforms such as Twitch (for videogames)
- How did riffing become such an integral part of our culture through MST3K?
- Pre-MST3K “riffing” like Mad Movies and the LA Connection.
- Zombies and riffing (a good topic in light of the popularity of zombie studies)
- iRiffs and the rise of personalized riffing by “amateurs”
- Other fan riffing groups and individuals like Master Pancake Theater, Incognito Cinema Warriors, Josh Way, Laughterpiece Theater, etc.
- Speaking of Animals
- Fractured Flickers
- Freaks and Geeks MST3K connection
- Fan Culture and MST: The Misties (who are they and why)?
- The original Sci Fi MST Game
- Gender roles, women and MST
- Frank Zappa and MST
- Superhero movies (why are they so ripe for riffing)
- Monty Python and MST
- Comics and MST3K
- Shakespeare and riffing
- The remix of the movie trailer
- The rise of “forgotten movies” that were used on MST
- The rise of B-movie popularity as a result of being on MST
- Christmas movies and MST
- The pre-MST comedy careers of the cast members
- The KTMA years compared to the Comedy Central Years compared to the Sci Fi Channel years compared to the Netflix version.
- Movies that deserve the MST treatment but never received it
- Mental Hygiene films and MST
- The legal battle between Best Brains and Mr. Sinus Theatre (the roots and causes of this)
- What were/are the cultural implications of the original invention exchanges in those early episodes of show?
- What are the differences in the styles of Mike Nelson and Joel Hodgson as hosts for the show?
- The theatrical feature film attempt, MST 3000 The Movie (trials and tribulations of getting director Jim Mallon’s big budget version of MST to the screen)
- Jim Mallon’s genius as producer/director/character
- Modern companies such as Laugh Tracks and MST’s influence on them
- The differences of Tom Servo and Crow (difference in style and tone)
- Actor Joe Don Baker and MST — a perfect marriage
- Spy movies and MST
- Monsters and MST
- Attempts at creating continuity within the “host segments” — what worked and what didn’t (the difference in continuity between Comedy Central episodes and Sc Fi channel shows)
- Cast characters (e.g., Mad Scientists, Evil Mothers, and weird aliens)
- The hardcore statistical analysis found on websites by dedicated fans (e.g., riffs per show and other weird statistical data — reasons for these weird statistical things)
- MST and the Web — how did the Internet help create such a rabid following?
- Popular music and MST
- Mary Jo Pehl, Bridgett Nelson, and the influence of women writers on MST
- MST fan culture and university culture
- TV’s Frank and MST and Frank Coniff’s role in America’s Funniest Home Videos
- A look at the influence of music on MST (one could hear a reference to an obscure British band like Hawkwind on the same show as one that might mention a household artist like Brittney Spears or Johnny Cash, for example)
- Bill Corbett as a playwright and performer
- MST and Tape Trading Culture (Keep circulating the tapes some of the MST episodes admonished the fans)
- Crow, Tom Servo and the bots in Popular Culture: Non-MST appearances (which continue to this day)
- MST and the First Amendment to the Constitution: Why did the show always thank the authors of the First Amendment? How did the show use it? Did it push boundaries constitutionally?
- KTMA and MST: Just how could a show like this get on cable access television in the first place? How did it become a movement? Were there glimpses of the greater things to come in those earlier episodes or not?
- Torgo and Ortega: Cult Figures and MST — why so popular with fans?
- The worse a movie is, the funnier and better an episode of MST: Why is that?
- Paul Chaplin, unsung writer on MST
- The MST writers were, and continue to be, masters of Popular Culture in all its forms (film, music, politics, etc.)
- Movie references and MST — cultural and historical implications
- MST terms and the vernacular (e.g., “Movie Sign”, “Poopie”, “Huzzah”) and their adaptation into everyday language)
- What was Josh Weinstein’s role in those early MST episodes and his post MST career as producer?
All proposals must be submitted through the conference’s database at http://conference.southwestpca.org/
For details on using the submission database and on the application process in general, please see the Proposal Submission FAQs and Tips page at
Individual proposals for 15-minute papers must include an abstract of approximately 200-500 words. Including a brief bio in the body of the proposal form is encouraged, but not required.
For information on how to submit a proposal for a roundtable or a multi-paper panel, please view the above FAQs and Tips page.
The deadline for submissions is October 22, 2017.
SWPACA offers monetary awards for the best graduate student papers in a variety of categories. Submissions of accepted, full papers are due December 1. For more information, visit http://southwestpca.org/conference/graduate-student-awards/
Registration and travel information for the conference is available at http://southwestpca.org/conference/registration/
In addition, please check out the organization’s peer-reviewed, scholarly journal, Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, at http://journaldialogue.org
If you have any questions about the MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 AND THE CULTURE OF RIFFING area, please contact its Area Chair, Robert G. Weiner, Texas Tech University Library, firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to receiving your submissions.