From anger and contempt to ridicule – TIME’s decision to overlook WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange and recognise Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg as the 2010 ‘Person of the Year’ continues to reign the media. After a large portion of the international media criticized the magazine’s move, Saturday Night Live (SNL) was the latest to join the bandwagon with a little comic touch.
The late-night television sketch comedy ridiculed the TIME’s decision leading to several media outlets interpreting the piece as and yet again reiterating that despite the final decision Assange has emerged the hero.
”SNL’ pits Assange against Zuckerberg’: read a headline on CNET. Mashable wrote: ”SNL’ Skewers Zuckerberg: Is WikiLeaks’ Assange the Hero?’.
Bill Hader plays Julian Assange in the SNL scene, in which the founder of the whistle blower site is depicted as congratulating Time magazine on its selection of Mark Zuckerberg as ‘Person of the Year’.
“Tonight I want to congratulate Time magazine on the excellent selection of Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year. Time magazine – always on the cutting edge; discovering Facebook only weeks after your grandmother.”
Among the many observations Hader (Assange) makes, one notable remark is: “What are the differences between Mark Zuckerberg and me? Let’s take a look. I give you private information about corporations for free. And I’m a villain. Mark Zuckerberg gives your private information to corporations for money and he’s Man of the Year.”
The popular live variety show, known for parodying American culture and politics, mainly chose to draw contrasts between the two men.
Zukerburg and Assange are, in fact, very different from each other.
Take for instance, Zuckerburg’s disappointing, if not completely empty, statement on WikiLeaks, released with Time’s press release:
“I mean the wikileaks story is fascinating, but I also just don’t think we’re anywhere near the end of it. And I personally feel like, from the coverage that I’ve read, that I don’t understand enough to fully comment on it, so I won’t.
But I do think it’s a fascinating kind of turn of events, and watching how the different institutions react to it is also fascinating….We definitely don’t wake up in the morning and think about toppling institutions.
But one of the things that I think happens from people being able to share their opinions with their friends or more broadly. You know I really do think there is this concept where the best stuff spreads.”
With this, Zuckerberg seemed to have intended to tell Facebook users that the social networking site is not very different from Wikileaks, while it also tried to appease those against the whistle-blower site by saying that Facebook does not “think about toppling institutions.”
By snubbing Assange, TIME seems to have contributed positively to the 39-year-old Australian’s image and rather negatively to Zuckerburg’s. SNL’s little piece has asserted that yet again.
As the year winds out, the world is looking forward to the promises of tomorrow. Well, rather interestingly the future holds great nostalgia for Facebook users as the legendary British comedy troupe Monty Python is working alongside game developers Zattikka to take its surreal humour and psychedelic art into the realm of social gaming.
The Ministry of Silly Games, which will include eight free games, is slated to be released on the social networking site in 2011.
Based on some of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin’s most popular skits, the games are set to “bring Monty Python characters and scenes to life like never before”, Gamespy reported, quoting Terry Jones, the ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’ star.
While the Pythonesque virtual world is set to provide the Facebook users with farcical diversions with Monty Python’s surreal brand of humor, an exciting aspect of the games for observers of art would be that the sketches and imagery from the films and show will be incorporated into the games.
The TV series Monty Python’s Flying Circus that ran from 1969 to 1974 had animations between sketches and the opening credits. Original Python and film director Terry Gilliam was the man behind these pieces.
Anarchy was embodied by twist of famous works of art such as Botticelli’s ‘Venus’, which was animated to senseless dancing for comic effect. At the same time, Gilliam, whose film directing credits also include Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, worked on a surreal level of art.
The giant foot descending from the sky to squash the figures below, bulbous comic-book like characters, a man’s teeth turning into piano keys, the old woman walking a pram with a granny-gobbling monster, human figures or body parts grafted onto the bodies of animals, a couch potato with his eyes sucked out by the TV are some of the popular and memorable examples.
While promoting the The Ministry of Silly Games, both Gilliam and Python Terry Jones are quoted in several media reports as explaining that art not only influenced the animations but also the content of many of their acts.
“Both of us are huge Bruegel and Bosch fans. (It’s a) kind of a medievalist view of the world which seems to me to be a lot more alive and interesting than most of the iconography of our modern world,” Gilliam is quoted as saying.
Pieter Bruegel the Elder (c.1525 -1569), sometimes referred to as Peasant Bruegel, was a Flemish Renaissance artist known for his landscapes and peasant scenes. He is known to have created some of the early images of acute social protest in art history such as The Fight Between Carnival and Lent, which some believe is a satire of the conflicts of the Reformation. (See: Bruegel Gallery)
Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450 -1516) was an early Netherlandish painter, known for his use of fantastic imagery to illustrate moral and religious concepts and narratives, such as Garden of Earthly Delights (Ecclesia’s paradise), The Last Judgement, and The Temptation of St Anthony. His far-fetched depictions even earned him the reputation of being heretical. (See: Bosch gallery)
So, now we know that the comic yet didactic style of Monty Python art was derived from Bruegel, while Bosch provided the inspiration for fantastical or surreal imagery.
Even though Bruegel and Bosch were very early painters, surreal art comes from a comparatively recent movement in 1920s. Surreal art can best be seen as distortion of the world as we know it or see it. The works hold an element of surprise with absurdity and juxtapositions. Surreal or Psychedelic art has been one of the most intriguing, meaning-ladden genres of art, and is capable of rendering multiple and varying interpretations.
However, Gilliam does not seem to be too happy with the way violence takes over aesthetic in video games made these days.
“I mean, we created interesting worlds full of odd, bizarre, surprising elements and I think that’s what gamers seem to want.”
“I don’t know, most games I look at it seem to be incredibly violent. Our violence was much funnier — bloodier — but funnier,” he opined.
Speaking specifically on the upcoming Facebook games, he said, “I guess my visuals have always been a bit videogamey. So it’s brilliant seeing them actually in games at last. The Ministry of Silly Games looks like what was inside my head when I was creating all that iconic imagery.”
The games, which are slated to be unveiled in first quarter of 2011, will include:
– King Arthur’s Knight Fight: A slice-’em-up games, featuring the Black Knight, The Killer Rabbit, Tim the Enchanter, the Holy Hand Grenade and God.
– Monty Python’s Scratch ‘N Sniff: Observation game with Zattikka’s original Flash Scratchcard mechanic.
– Camelot Smashalot: The goals of this game would be to catapult livestock, Holy Hand Grenades and Trojan rabbits at the fiendish French fortresses.
– Twit Russian Roulette: The player has to keep an upper-class twit alive for as long as possible in this wacky game of Russian Roulette.
– Mr. Creosote: In this one-button reaction game, the player has to feed Mr Creosote his favorite nosh but avoid the wafer thin mints.
– Gumby Flower Arranging: The player has to help the Gumby match three flowers of the same kind. The consequence otherwise would be he will hit himself with bricks.
– Gillaxian: This arcade-style shooter is also a tribute to a great game by Namco and a great artist.
– Aerial Antics: This is a puzzler in which the player has to balance the TV aerial on household objects to tune in.
Beta sign-ups are open.
The triple delight of gaming, art and comedy prompted us to sit up and take notice. We have already registered to participate in the Monty Python closed beta. As soon as we have something to share on the outcome of this interesting development, we’ll be back to blog. However, be warned that our love for psychedelia is probably going to affect our views.
What we would also love to see is a game based on Gilliam’s other masterpiece – The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.