The (?)philosophy(?) of MST3K

So, as a person, who exists, being bombarded by pop culture/advertising can be inundating/overwhelming, and even sometimes misleading.

I’d like to think that one aspect of my personal philosophy that was obtained from consuming media that is centered around parody and satire is that “very few things are sacred enough that they can’t be made fun of”.

Do others agree that this is a founding principle of MST3K?

Not an attempt at starting a flame/blame/claim war, just an open ended bit of thought and putting the show we all know and love under the microscope.

Are there other useful tenets we’ve learned from the show and it’s kind?


I would agree that MST is about making fun of pretty much everything and that is OK.
I spend much of life doing the same (of course I’m sensible enough not to do it out loud often)
Another teaching point of MST would be to always do something constructive instead of being lazy and bored- see the invention exchanges and the fact Joel made friends to spend his time with.


I would say that MST3K is a comedy, and in comedy nothing is sacred, ergo, yes, in MST3K nothing is sacred since I laugh every time. And that is a flawed philosophical argument because I only study philosophy through comedy, not formally in college. (I am probably an existentialist and sophist. Probably. I really do not know what book to start with and still haven’t figured it out.)

When I think about comedy, I think nothing is sacred BUT any energy that you put out there will spark a reaction from the audience. You can make fun of anything you want, AND the answer to free speech is more speech that tells you who showed up for comedy.

The beauty of MST3K is that so many different age groups and demographics show up. Racially the crowd still skews white in a way I wish it didn’t, but I know a few black, Asian, and Latin X MSTies. There’s some diversity in faith practices (I have known Jewish MSTies, one Santerian MSTie in addition to Protestant and Catholic Christians). There are European MSTies and I even found video mentions in Russia and Japan.

And the other beautiful thing about MST3K is the cultural topic range. Anything in your life can be explored in films and commentary. As many lives as actors get to try on, plus an ongoing search for scientists and thinkers.

What I learn is usually something about entertainment industry culture. How shows get made. How different people with different brain chemistries work as a team. That monster suits are wardrobe poetry for social phobia.

Oh, and gender dynamics. I’m currently studying Phyllis Coates in the fanfic project’s movie. She’s Lois Lane on TV’s Adventures of Superman and just always a tough lady. But after giving her tough manly dialogue, she’s still expected to unravel after being given smelling salts in a diving bell. She is supposed to be a fragile and delicate flower in the 1950s. The purpose of comedy is to spark a dialogue about social issues and unite different class levels, which we do sort of have in America, just by achievement more than birth with allowance for the possibility of escaping a subpar starting position. It’s supposed to be illegal to stop you from trying, but who gave Paul in The Incredible Petrified World the authority to demote the lady reporter? Oh, it’s war of the roses in this movie and I’m ready to launch an all out attack on misogyny due to Mary Jo and Bridget’s great examples of taunting predators in MSTed movies over the years.

The show remains a thinker’s paradise.


I wrote a piece about how MST3K shaped my personal philosophy several years ago.


Thank you for the reminders about “the right ones will get it” and “you don’t have to accept the ending they’ve handed you.” What a delightful essay!


I think that a valuable lesson to be taken from the show is finding the good in all things. The premise of MST3K is that the host is being subjected to endless experiments meant to elicit a negative emotional response. Instead, Joel builds robot companions - and they join future hosts as well - and they develop a bond by turning the very instrument of their torture into something they can all enjoy together. With their fun-loving yet indomitable spirits, they manage to find joy in an otherwise hostile world, and I think we can all learn something from that.


I don’t think it’s philosophy as such, but I think the way that the humor in MST3K is always inherently meta (by nature of it being actual commentary on movies, even if it’s as silly as fart jokes) can be a gateway drug into the heavier lifting of critical media analysis. And when you think about it, mixed in with the fart jokes there’s plenty of jokes about the narrative or visual cues in the movies, like a character wandering down Certain Death Alley or whatever. And then, however many years later, you end up studying literature at university. (Or is that just me? maybe just me.)

To that extent, I never felt like “making fun” or mockery was 100% the motivation, though certainly some actors/directors/stories deserve straight up roasting. But when the movie in question is well-meaning or mostly harmless, the best humor in the show for me is more…self-aware? referential?..than just dunking on stuff.


This is similar to absurdist philosopher Albert Camus’ take on the myth of Sisyphus. Rather than seeing Sisyphus as tragic because he’s always pushing the boulder and never reaching the “goal”, one can instead imagine that Sisyphus can be happy as he is, finding enjoyment in the labor itself.


I agree. Camus’ take on Sisyphus reminds me of how it is shown in the video game Hades.

Good link between the two subjects.

@escapekey touches on this as well, the turning of (intended to be) torturous circumstances into something that can be enjoyed.


Precisely. Along those lines, it feels like the comedic philosophy of MST3K was briefly addressed in the KTMA theme song lyrics: “Joel says when you’ve got lemons, you make lemonade.”



Most definitely!

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“I’m weird, and that results in creativity.”

You can always reframe surprising people with uncommon ideas as R&D or comedy.


“I should really just relax.” I try not to let anything phase me, and when people at work ask me how I’m always smiling and happy I tell them “I’m pretending everything I see happening around me is something I’m watching on TV.”


Turning lemons into little fun fair treats with peppermint sticks…?


It’s fun to make jokes about bad movies.


Repeating to myself that it’s just a show doesn’t always work out. Like at my wedding.