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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

PBS: "Super Mario Bros. Is The World's Greatest Piece Of Surrealist Art"

Posted by Earnest "Nex" Cavalli on Wed, Apr 4, 2012 at 9:59 AM

PBS has this new YouTube channel where it offers up short vignettes that posit a single concept that begs further contemplation by its viewers. The first episode (embedded above) presents the argument that Nintendo's Super Mario Bros. games are the greatest work of surrealist art in history.

You just scoffed, didn't you? Maybe popped a monocle? Yeah, that's how I felt too, until I watched the clip. I have to admit, the argument the host makes (especially the bit about the modern ubiquity of non-sequitir) is pretty compelling, and I can't exactly fault his claims that Mario's adventures are anything less than totally bizarre.

I think it does however, raise an interesting question about the nature of surrealist art and whether or not a piece's target audience can alter its overall "surreality." Salvador Dali's paintings, for instance, utterly baffle adults, whereas more whimsical children are able to take stick-legged elephants and melting clocks in stride.

Maybe Mario's surreality has become so popular (and, more to the point, commonly accepted as "reality") specifically because it was initially aimed at children. Those kids inevitably grew up, laid their own influence on pop culture, and now society as a whole is totally unfazed by the idea of a fat Italian plumber turning into a flying raccoon.


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