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/)
Ok, so what do I say about The Monkees and the Counter Culture? What did they bring to TV? — I love the little pyramid — their anti-ware themes appear in the show. Anti-authority, so those are tied together. Anti-materialism which is very much hippie. It’s about what you do not what own, what you have. Eastern philosophies. The fact that middle America in Kansa kids are going to learn about Buddha while watching this TV show. That’s an amazing concept and then, just in general, their androgynous, hippie clothing. The boys are wearing girls clothes. How is this possible? So all the stuff appears on this TV show. Peter Tork himself — and this is a picture of him at the Monterey Pop Festival with Janis Joplin in the background. They were friends. She was going to appear on the show in the third season. It never got a third season. Peter Tork is famous for saying that The Monkees “probably garnered a large audience for that point than the Beatles did” because of their weekly exposure on television. it was free entertainment for these kids. So they got he point across. One of his points was, these boys, these men from this period had gone through a time when Eisenhower was god. he saved us in World War II. The men in charge were always smart, but then the Vietnam War showed up and the men who used to be, who are now taking over, they didn’t know what was going on and that was a new thought for young Americans. I can’t trust my leaders. They don’t get it. They’re getting involved with something I don’t want to be part of. So that’s a huge new message to put out on television.
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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.