Super Mario Bros. Is A Surrealist Masterpiece

    March 19, 2012
    Zach Walton
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PBS has started a new YouTube channel called the Idea Channel. It’s described as “a PBS show that examines the connections between pop culture, technology and art.” This weeks topic: “Super Mario Brothers is the world’s greatest piece of surrealist art.”

It’s hard to think of Super Mario Bros. as being anything other than a video game, but this video make a few great points. Here’s the YouTube video description that lays out the initial argument:

We all know who the Mario Brothers are but have you ever stepped back and tried looking at those games from a fresh perspective? Like you’ve never seen or heard of them before? They’re bananas! There are armored turtles who stand on their hind legs and steal princesses! There are bullets with FACES! We make a case for Mario’s inclusion into a canon of art wider than “Video Game”: we think Mario is a piece of surrealist artwork.

For those who don’t know what surrealism is, it’s an art form that began in the 1920s. It prides itself on its use of non sequitur, a literary device that lacks any relation to the context that surrounds it. In the visual arts, surrealism is about altering your perceptions and shocking you with an out of context image.

Here’s a few examples from a master of the medium, Salvador Dali:

Super Mario Bros. Is A Surrealist Masterpiece

Super Mario Bros. Is A Surrealist Masterpiece

Now compare that to Super Mario Bros.:

Super Mario Bros. Is A Surrealist Masterpiece

Is Super Mario Bros. a work of surrealist art? If so, is it even the greatest work of surrealist art? Watch the video and decide for yourself. Arm yourself with knowledge when your conversation with friends inevitably devolves into discussions on whether or not Mario is a douchebag.

[h/t:Game Zone]
  • http://www,elvisinmybasement.com Marc

    If you ever designed an NES game you would realize that Mario is Cubism.

    • Daniel Golightly

      Ha. I hadn’t thought about that and you would be right to say that in its infancy through its teen years the franchise was far more cubism. However, I believe they have evolved into somewhat of a surrealist artistic point and I think that this article is spot on, as far as it being one of the greats of either.

  • Daniel Golightly

    In any case, the ideas are definitely surreal.

  • rflulling

    I think its definitely time for another Mario Bro. inspired movie. Perhaps a little less like the first one and more like the games, or even the cartoons.

    Funny thing is, that despite the game being surealistic, the concepts were not at all difficult to figure out and too no time to master the story. However, trying to make heads or tails of some of that artwork… I assume their creators were on a far bigger acid trip than the creators of Super Mario Bro.