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:
Now compare that to Super Mario Bros.:
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.