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How Mystery Science Theater 3000 May Have Started the Creator Economy
It’s about more than just content…
It’s about more than just content…
In 1988, when Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) first premiered on a small cable channel in Minneapolis, there was no Web 2.0 or maker culture. Local cable was the closest you could get to your own distribution channel.
I remember seeing the first episode of MST3K and being completely blown away. It was a series that took my love of comedy and science fiction and fused them together into something that was funny and subversive and also just plain awesome.
Joel Hodgson created MST3K with the idea of having a group of people watch bad movies and riff on them with an attitude. It was a show that was unlike anything else at the time… basically the creation of a new show by transforming something old through commentary… they were content creators.
Recently, as I watched the premiere of MST3K’s 13th season on their on distribution channel, called The Gizmoplex, I realized this show represents the spirit of the creator economy: creativity as remix, self-deprecating humor, and a focus on community.
This is a show that’s always been about creating something new and finding new ways to make people laugh.
Creativity as Remix
Creativity is an important part of the creator economy. It’s not just about making stuff, but about taking old stuff and giving it a new twist. What MST3K does is remix the content. They take the ideas and characters and the general concept of the original movie and they give it a twist that makes it new again. They turn it into something funny and unique.
The creators of MST3K create little new content. Sure, there is the mediocre narrative of a human and 3 robots trapped by two mad scientists, forced to watch awful movies. The actual content is the running commentary on the old movies (making them new again). The MST3K commentary is not a stand-alone product. It’s part of the experience of watching the movie.
You can watch the movie without the commentary, but it wouldn’t be the same movie.
If you want to be successful as a creator, think about how you are remixing old content… whether it is your own or someone else's.
Most successful creators don’t take themselves seriously. Content online is not always perfect… that’s not really the goal of creating online. The creators of MST3K are a great example of this. They don’t take themselves too seriously. They make jokes at their own expense.
Earlier this year, it took the creators 20 minutes to get the soft premiere up, but the producers took it in stride, providing us with some funny jokes along the way. No one at MST3K hesitates to make fun of themselves.
The creators know the show is cheesy and campy, but they embrace it.
Being successful in the creator economy means not taking yourself too seriously. If you make mistakes, go with the flow.
Focus on Community
Why can creators get away with imperfect, sometimes unprofessional, content? Because the creator economy is about creating community with useful or entertaining content, not about the quality itself. Sure, MST3K is a great show, but they are more focused on making people laugh through their own creations than coming up with something absolutely perfect.
This is why MST3K is so successful. It’s not about the creator, it’s about the people who love the content. They don’t have to be perfect… it’s all about the experience.
The creator economy isn’t about competing or going viral; it’s about creating a community around an idea, practice, or information. Focus on that.
If you look at the creator economy as a network of people who create and distribute content, then you can see why MST3K has been so successful but has trouble getting support from major networks.
The community of fans is the reason MST3K is still around… even after being canceled by Netflix (and at least two other networks). We will put down our own money to see where this content goes.
That is the creator economy.
For the last 34 years, MST3k has bounced from network to network, from Comedy Central to Netflix.
Now it seems they’ve found a home in the creator economy with The Gizmoplex. I hope to see more entertainment content distributed this way.
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