A half a century ago, Davy, Micky, Peter and Michael blurred the lines between reality and fantasy as The Monkees. Not a big deal in today’s pop culture world, which makes the latest book about the real/not real band even more interesting. Viewed through a post-election 2016 lens, an analysis of the band and their movie Head mirrors much of what this country is currently experiencing: What is real and what is fake?
The author is clearly an academic - as a senior lecturer in media and popular culture, he definitely knows his sh*t. In particular, his breakdown of Head reminds me of my favorite college course: Film and Society. To be honest, I didn’t understand the movie until reading this exhaustive explanation of each scene. Like many a movie critic from the ‘60s, my assessment was hardly positive. But now that I understand it as it relates to the real vs. fake theme, it actually has many brilliant moments. As did the show. The Monkees wasn’t just a silly foray into the life of a manufactured band. It broke ground in a very 1960s fashion with the lack of an authority figure to guide the teens (yes they were supposed to be teens) through each episode. And the boys often broke the fourth wall and subtly – or not so subtly – addressed the real vs. fake band image. It seems the satire was largely lost on the target audience, which was quite young, and the debate over who really played the music raged on.
There was nothing fake about the Monkees: All four of them could and did play and sing. But because they were manufactured by the Hollywood machine, they initially put aside their own talents for success. At different times throughout their history, the members seem to have made peace with this and at other times, not so much.
With the release of a new album, Good Times!, there are new fans to be made. Fans who are well versed in reality vs. fantasy.