photograph by nacrowe
ani have long felt that PAUL REUBENS has not gotten the due he deserves in popular culture. like many other kids (and adults) of the 1980s and 90s, i was obsessed with PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE and its ingeniously constructed alternative world filled with talking chairs, globes and floorboards and a childish nymph of an adult who went on wild adventures at home with a kaleidoscopic roster of guests of every seeming variety, human, bovine, animated, and the list goes on.
rewatching it as an adult years later it still baffles me how great that show was on a production level alone. as is common knowledge now, REUBENS' show helped initiate/enrich the careers of various notable collaborators including LAURENCE FISHBURNE, NICK PARK, MARK MOTHERSBAUGH, PHIL HARTMAN, ROB ZOMBIE and TIM BURTON among countless others. it really is quite amazing what an eye for talent he had at the time.
as an adult i also appreciate the show's look as it incorporated a postmodern aesthetic in keeping with his CHURCH OF THE SUBGENIUS leanings and MEMPHIS GROUP use of contrasting colors color palettes and designs. this became a look of the 80s, but in his vision it allowed for a view of the world devoid of barriers and biases, wether they be of the religious, class, geo-historical or issues surrounding identity (sexual orientation, gender, race) variety. in this world all were welcome.
for me PEE-WEE'S PLAYHOUSE is everything the 1980s wasnt politically. inclusive, artistic and valuing freedom. and by that i don't mean the personal freedom to discriminate or cast judgement on others (which seemingly in AMERICA is the only place where this passes as liberty), i mean the ability to live your authentic life free from discrimination and reprisal. in the 80s you had the AIDS epidemic and the failure of institutions like the REAGAN ADMINISTRATION and the CATHOLIC CHURCH to properly adress such, each using it as a hacksaw to parlay their own agendas revolving judgement and power. very JESUS-like indeed.
REUBENS gets a bad wrap because of his arrested at an adult theater, but really who cares. who did he hurt exactly? are we really that puritanical when it comes to sex (answer: yes). i think because of it his work promoting diversity and acceptance in youth culture gets criminally overlooked. not to mention all the great careers he helped initiate.
thats sad. because i defy you to watch any episode and not be heart-warmed by the inventive and invigorating nature of his classic saturday morning children's program. it still brings me joy over 30 years later.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
i remember back in the early 90s in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, probably around the time of early elementary school, repeatedly renting this FLIGHT OF THE NAVIGATOR (WALT DISNEY PICTURES, 1986) on VHS (showing my age here) and watching it nonstop.
its about a kid that while searching for his brother in the woods, returns home to find that it is 8 years later and he hasn't aged. while being put in a research lab for further testing by the government, he discovers a kinetic, telegraphic connection to a newly discovered, highly secret alien spaceship. being called towards it by a mysterious force he enters it and is told by the ship that he is its new captain.
as a kid, i believe this film hit home partly because of its subplot of parental abandonment and familial disconnect (any young child's worst fear) as well as its then-wildly intense special effects which no doubt are indebted to STAR WARS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND. as an adult i know that such plot devices are part of their formula (seriously, can you think of any disney animated film where the nuclear family is not dismantled?), but this film definitely holds up. there are some amazing performances by the likes of PAUL REUBENS and SARAH JESSICA PARKER (her first film).
i highly recommend this film despite the fact that the its wow-factor has diminished considerably. for me it takes me back to when i first experienced films and was caught up under their spell. must be the same for others because in recent years this film has been referenced by artists of my generation including CHILDISH GAMBINO.