SPOTLIGHT | PAUL REUBENS
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.
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