Garden of Your Mind (2012 Meme) review…


Garden of Your Mind (2012 Meme) review after the break…

Garden of Your Mind (2012 Meme) review…

I’m beginning to think that the very existence of memes is all the evidence one needs in order to be convinced that the Internet is still “not there” – That it is still not a part of the mainstream and that it still has a somewhat different audience then those people who are actually productive with their lives outside of the little electronic box that they stare at all day long. For all we know, the Internet may never be fully integrated into society and that it will always be socially acceptable to “brush off” the Internet as something less-then-serious.

Case in point: Garden of your mind.

For people under the age of 20 and/or too lazy to use a search engine, “Mister Rogers” (sometimes “Mr. Rogers”) was an American television personality named Fred Rogers who starred in a children’s program called “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Mister Rogers is warmly remembered by millions of Americans and is best known by being soft-spoken, wearing sweaters, having low-tech production values and low-key slow songs that were sung with minimal accompaniment. Forcing a modern-day child to watch a Mr. Rogers episode would be akin to murder as the likely outcome would be that their heads would explode upon the realization that there were no rapid-delivery puns, loud music, bright colors, CGI animation or product tie-ins. That’s not a bad thing.

“Garden of Your Mind” is a spliced-up version of Mister Rogers that is auto-tuned to give the impression that he is singing a song when he originally wasn’t. Auto-tune, for those not in the know, is a software manipulation of one’s voice to give the impression of singing when they aren’t or improve their singing when they are. Ever since auto-tune has been known and available to the general public, people have used it to give the impression of all sorts of public officials and other people who would never belt out a tune to belt out a tune, often to humorous effect.

Having watched the video a few times, my only response is that it is a serviceable effort at autotuning but I’m not quite certain as to why it has reached meme (or, more cringe-worthy, “viral”) status. There are a few likely candidates for reasons, maybe even acting in concert, as to why it has “gone viral”:

  • A beloved figure who would never normally perform this way: In America, Mister Rogers could do no wrong. If any other person acted like Mister Rogers, you would be suspicious that the individual was a pedophile or just plain creepy but Mister Rogers was the glaring exception to that rule (also see: Henson, Jim or Disney, Walt). So I suspect some of the meme-worthiness is from the fact that the video suggests that Mister Rogers is contemporarily expressing himself more then he ever normally would.
  • Resurrection of popular dead personality: Fred Rogers has since passed away, making any unseen material an increasingly valuable commodity. Knowing that new authentic material is not common, creative forces has used existing footage to provide a new entertainment option and the popularity signals that there is still significant demand for the original form of entertainment.

As attention spans shrank and business forces saw the massive marketing potential in children’s entertainment, Mister Rogers became a dinosaur (albeit immensely respected and deservedly so) of the industry. He never altered his core programming style to fit the changing ways children used media and this gave his program an air of authenticity that older generations respected because their experiences with the program was easily compatible with younger generations (as opposed to Sesame Street which has seen significant alterations to the program, much to the chagrin of earlier generations, see: Elmo).

In conclusion, the meme is cute but it doesn’t really offer anything extraordinary: It’s not a “lost segment” of Mister Rogers Neighborhood or even an authentic blooper reel where Mister Rogers says something inappropriate or even says something that would contemporarily be considered inappropriate. I’m once again befuddled why these videos attract the attention that they receive and merely reinforces my own convictions that the Internet is still an end user of media and not a creator of it: It still needs to take from other media (television, movies, radio, print) to create media with cross-over and mainstream appeal.

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