William Shatner’s Interpretation of Rocket Man

Lisa Yaszek forwarded a link to the SFRA list of William Shatner’s performance of “Rocket Man” at the 1978 Science Fiction Film Awards.  His act is introduced by Bernie Taupin, the song’s writer and longtime collaborator with Elton John.  You have to watch the video to fully appreciate Shatner’s contribution to avant-garde performance.

In response to Lisa’s link, Mack Hassler said:

Lisa’s post is such a great illustration of how art and technology protect us and fix us in time.  Reality moves on.  Look at what Shatner is airing now.  In the signature to this posting, I still list myself as deeply implicated in Extrapolation; when you receive the current issue in a few weeks I shall be “gone.”  Time and reality move on for us all just as it does for Bill Shatner.

Shatner’s video definitely places him at a particular temporal interstice of culture and history.  Also, Mack’s point that we should consider what Shatner is doing now points to the actor’s work in the here-and-now relies on an exaggeration or pastiche of his past works.  Now, he is a pastiche of himself in many respects.

However, consider our longing of nostalgia for art such as this. Our desire for nostalgia is manifests strongly in works such as Fox’s Family Guy animated sitcom.  Many of the jokes are obscure and rely on a culturally aware audience.  Taking the Shatner example above, Family Guy reinterprets Shatner’s interpretation by having Stewie assume the role of smoking singer. This new version of Shatner’s performance drags the past into the present moment thereby creating the joke, which implicates not only Shatner located in a stylized past, but also ourselves as witnesses and accomplices.  Have another laugh thanks to postmodern nostalgia on YouTube here.

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