30 March 2011

robot marx, introduction

ROBOT MARX will be a six part re-presention of a research project that I had the pleasure of working on last year. As I discussed last week, I desperately need to focus on my Spring 2011 college course work. So, as a blogging stopgap, I'll be sharing a "remastered" entry from the ROBOT MARX project on Wednesdays and Sundays throughout April. I've also solicited some peer (fan) reviews with plans to run those during the month's final week.

In its original form, the project was my semester-long Spring 2010 course work for WOM 203: "Women in Popular Culture." Harry Potter scholar and UW-Colleges' Women's Studies chair, Dr. Holly Hassel's class approached the subject from a Conflict Theory-Marxist perspective; topics included patriarchy, media gender construction and representation, and kids' and girls' culture. The project was a fun way for me and my classmates to master the class's learning objectives while refining our critical reading and thinking ability. From the syllabus:

[O]ur semester project will involve applying your understanding of each essay/article [read for class] to a ... pop [kids' and/or girls'] culture artifact of your choice. As we begin to develop our analysis skills, each of you will develop an ongoing semester text ... that you will write over the course of the semester. The final product will be submitted as a polished document ... and will [also] include a self-assessment and peer assessment submitted separately.

Superhero Wonder Woman, tattoo artist Kat Von D, and soap opera The Young & the Restless were among the 30-some artifacts/relics analyzed by my classmates. I chose ROBOTECH...

I discovered ROBOTECH's colorful universe in the mid '80s via its "Saturday morning" NBC repackaging; it was love at first sight (Episode 4: "The Long Wait"). For those that don't know, ROBOTECH follows three generations of characters from 1999-2044 as they're shaped by the events of three interconnected wars. Its cartoon premiered in 1985, standing out from its contemporaries -- unlike iconically similar G.I. Joe and Transformers, ROBOTECH's characters lived and died, met and fell in love, and expressed real emotions and evolved as individuals.

The 85 episodes of this "sci-fi soap opera" spawned toys, comix, role-playing games, novels, and other pop-cultural relics. From the Conflict-Marxist assumption that America is a patriarchal society, ROBOTECH is a fascinating case study: it featured women heroes in leadership positions, a cross-dressing male hero, and an essentially anti-war message, among other subversive elements. Perfect for the project. Thus was born ROBOT MARX. ("Robot Marks," get it?)

I hope you enjoy reading this academic expression of my fandom as much as I enjoyed writing it.