Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Star Wars and the Henson Connection: A Brief Interlude.

It’s hard to tell how many can remember it.  It was a long time ago after all, and the contemporary memory isn’t what it used to be.  It wouldn’t be all that much of a surprise if most people don’t associate what is ostensibly a children’s show with “a galaxy far away” at all.  It still doesn’t change history, or the fact that at one time the worlds of George Lucas and Jim Henson collided during TV’s prime time hour way back in 1980.

On February 21 of that year, four months before the premiere of The Empire Strikes Back, Mark Hamill made an appearance on Henson’s Muppet Show, both as himself and the character of Luke Skywalker.  Joining Hamill for the episode were SW co-stars Anthony Daniels and Peter Mayhew. 

What’s interesting about this episode is the puzzle it presents to viewers and fans of the saga.  Where does it fit into the over-arching narrative that is the original trilogy?  Or does it is even belong there at all.  There are also a question of whether or not it tells us anything about the nature of the Lucas’s characters, especially when they are paired off against Henson’s madcap creations.  Last, yet not least, there is a stylistic element to the nature of how this episode is written that deserves a closer look.  This form of writing isn’t often seen nowadays, yet it used to be as legitimate as the Shakespearian stage.  In fact, this very element I wish to examine provides an intriguing connective thread between Henson and the Bard.  Follow along, if you want, and let’s see if there’s more to unpack in this brief half-hour variety episode than meets the eye.

The Basic Setup.

It all has to do with the simple What If scenario.  It’s the basic question that can sometimes launch an entire work of art off the ground.  In this case, however, all we’re dealing with is what if the characters of the Star Wars universe somehow crash-landed in the middle of an episode of the Muppet Show while looking for one of their comrades in arms?
The result is an interesting hybrid as Hamill’s character weaves in and out of frame, anchoring what would ordinarily be a disparate collection of sketches into something like an actual narrative with a beginning, middle, and resolution.

In terms of quality, there are at least two perspectives from which it has to be viewed: on Lucas’s terms, and those of Henson.  It helps to sort out both the director and Muppet creator as artists.  Lucas is a basic, straight-forward sort of storyteller.  Henson, on the other hand, always liked to experiment.  He counts as a storyteller in his own right.  What makes his work unique is just how far he was willing to push the artistic envelope.  Henson’s approach to storytelling often involves the use of surreal narratives, featuring an equally off the wall humor to match it.  This approach leads to perhaps his most utilized trope, the introduction of chaos into an ordered situation, and seeing how the characters cope with it.

This is the setup the SW cast find themselves in during the course of the episode.  Who else but Henson would think of having Chewbacca being held captive by, and I quote, “a bunch of weird turkeys”.  It calls to mind the image of livestock wearing Stormtrooper helmets.  From the vantage point of Henson’s approach, everything is firing on all cylinders, and the episode perhaps belongs somewhere in the Top 10 of the Muppet Show’s best entries.  From the standpoint of Lucas’s characters, things become more interesting.

Epic, Satire, and the Popular Dramatic Tradition.

What happens if you take a straightforward set of characters and set them down in a narrative environment that operates on a different narrative logic?  This is often a risk, as it doesn’t seem possible to generate an interesting story if the characters can’t be made to fit the actions assigned to them.  What makes the Muppet Show episode so fascinating is how it deftly manages to avoid this pitfall.

While we see the SW characters put through a series of ridiculous plot points, at no time do they seem out of character while it is happening.  Luke’s character is a perfect example of this.  The first thing to note is that the role is written and acted in the same straightforward manner as any of the original three films.  There’s very little trace of any kind of post-modern irony in the character as he was originally portrayed.  The interesting part is how the role is able to maintain that level of credibility in the midst of an ironic situation. 
The Muppet Show relied on a sense of irony and comic anarchy in order to achieve its effect.  Luke, in contrast, is a figure out of Epic, Romantic traditions.  What we are faced with then is neat blend and melding of epic and irony.  This is best on display in the way the character acts throughout the proceedings.  As one commentator describes it, "Luke is in full-on, action hero mode, kicking down doors, looking for Chewbacca (web)".  All of this is in keeping with how Skywalker was first written.  He even goes so far as to display a certain level of self-awareness.  He is always cognizant of his surroundings and of just how ridiculous it all is.  At one point even goes so far as to draw a line between who is in relation to the show as a whole:

Luke (to Kermit): Look pal, we're on a mission.  There's no way we're going to be involved in any third-rate variety show.

Kermit (turns to audience with wounded pride)...Second-rate variety show!

It's a moment worth noting because the character then takes it a step further.  When Fozzie recognizes him as Mark Hamill, it is not the actor, but the character who speaks up:

Fozzie: Hey, you...You're Mark Hamill!

Luke (gives a "Who, me?" gesture).

Fozzie: Yes!

Luke: Uh, no, no, no...He's my cousin.  That's it!  He's my cousin and he's right outside!

Fozzie (excited) Oh, well, go get him.  Hurry!  Hurry, I wanna see him. (turns to address audience) I'm a big fan of his.

It's at this point Luke the fictional character exist off-stage, and Hamill the real life actor enters seconds after.  This narrative strategy has two goals.  It helps differentiate the actor from the character he is most associated with.  At the same time, the story goes out of it's way to point out that it is all just make-believe.  This goal is driven home later on in the second half of the show.  As Noel Murray writes in his article for The Dissolve:

"The backstage shenanigans finally spill onto the main stage during the Pigs In Space sketch, which Luke and company hijack in their search for Chewie, leading to a format-breaking version of one of the show’s most popular recurring bits. Pigs In Space stretches across a commercial break, and trades its usual gag-a-second style for something halfway between an actual science-fiction adventure story and a Mad magazine Star Wars parody (web)".

There is one moment in particular that, I think, sums up the nature and purpose of the entire production.  It comes as a throwaway line between Luke another Muppet:

"Link: Now, you've got my jacket size.

"Luke: Mmm-hmm, forty-four, long; and you're head size...(turns toward audience) forty-two, thick".

This is nothing less than a character showing a full sense of self-awareness of his status as a work of fiction.  It deliberately draws attention to the artifice of the show.  We know Luke is either smart, or has enough potential in him to act intelligent.  It is another thing entirely for one of the most celebrated characters in the history of American cinema to not just point out his status as someone who doesn't exist, but also show an ironic sense of humor about it.  What is going on here?

Well, earlier, "in Shakespeare's career, there is the notorious example of of the Fool in King Lear.  When the others have taken shelter from the storm, at the end of Act III, scene ii, he turns to the audience before following them, and delivers a curious parting speech:                                             

"This is a brave night to cool a courtezan.                                                                                         
I'll speak a prophecy ere I go:
When priests are more in word than matter;
When brewers mar their malt with water;
When nobles are their tailors' tutors;
No heretics burned, but wenches' suitors;
When every case in law is right;
No squire in debt, nor no poor knight;
When slanders do not live in tongues;
Nor cutpurses come not to throngs;
When usurers tell their gold i' the field;
And bawds and whores do churches build;
Then shall the realm of Albion
Come to great confusion:
Then comes the time, who lives to see't,That going shall be used with feet.
This prophecy Merlin shall make; for I live before his time (85)".

"If the passage be genuine, it is interesting to find Shakespeare employing direct address at the height of his powers.  The convention can be acceptable only to an audience conscious simultaneously of play-world and real world.  The Fool is recognized as stepping out of the story for a moment: he addresses the audience in character as the Fool, but not in any direct reference to the story.  This half-and-half adjustment is rendered possible by the fact that the audience recognize him (a) as actor belonging to their own (real) world, and (b) as character, belonging to the play-world...The Fool's prophecy concerned matters common to the Lear story and contemporary life, occupying a no-man's land between the play-world and the real world...Such a ladder across from play-world to real world can be explained only as an example of dual consciousness (86-87)".

None of this is off my own bat, by the way.  It's from the pen of a critic known as Samuel Leslie     Bethell.  It comes from a book that probably best explains what is going on with Lucas's characters in Henson's TV show, and Bethell gives the best explanation of the principles behind the MS show narrative:

"In my book Shakespeare and the Popular Dramatic Tradition I tried to show that the plays of Shakespeare are compounded in varying proportions of the elements of conventionalism and naturalism and that Elizabethan audiences must have reacted to them in a much more complex way than is required of the audience at a modern 'serious' play written on the principles of photographic realism.  The popular audience in a contemporary cinema or music-hall, unconcerned with theories of a dramatic art, finds no difficulty in accepting the most 'impossible' conventions: unseen orchestras strike up and characters break suddenly into song; pure farce may mingle with domestic tragedy; a stage show occurring in a film may develop into  performance that no real theatre could possibly contain.  If this is true of the popular audience after a century in which the tendency to naturalism or realism has been persistent, in philosophy, in painting, in the novel and in the drama itself (for the reactions of impressionism, expressionism and so forth have been limited to 'highbrow' circles), we may well expect that in Elizabethan times the ready acceptance of conventions and the complexity of response which that acceptance entails would be natural to all who attended the theatre.  Even apart from the drama, the Elizabethans seem to have enjoyed the exercise of keeping diverse aspects of a situation in mind at the same time; hence their love of the 'conceit', in which heterogeneous objects are brought into an intellectual union, and of allegory, in which and outer and an inner meaning must be simultaneously perceived (The Winter's Tale, A Study, 9)".

Bethell's concept for how a Renaissance audience enjoyed their stories revolves around what he terms a "theory of multi-consciousness".  He explains it in more detail in his book on The Popular Dramatic Tradition.

"To sum up, I believe I am justified in asserting that there is a popular dramatic tradition, and that its  dominant characteristic is the audience's ability to respond spontaneously and unconsciously on more than one plane of attention at the same time.  I shall call this the principle of multi-consciousness.  Already, with the aid of some recent critics, we have discovered traces of the operation of this principle in the plays of Shakespeare, and we have found the same principle to hold of the popular theatre and cinema of today (30)".

Bethell's "multi-consciousness" depends on the history of two intertwined modes of writing, both of which are still in use today.

"From time to time and from place to place the drama varies its position on a scale between the two    extremes of absolute conventionalism and absolute naturalism.  At either extreme it would cease to be properly dramatic.  Absolute conventionalism would work in symbols bearing no necessary relation to the things symbolized, and absolute naturalism would reproduce a 'slice of life' with more than photograph fidelity.  The former would be devoid of emotive power, like the symbols in algebra, whilst the latter would lack both intellectual and emotional organization.  Actually the drama is never completely arbitrary in symbolism or completely and unselectively representational, although the difference, for example, between Everyman and A Doll's House, is sufficient for the terms 'conventional' and 'naturalistic' to be applied to them respectively.  Everyman represents allegorically the soul's conflict in its journey through life, and most of its characters personify abstract human qualities: Good Deeds, Knowledge, Strength, Discretion; but in A Doll's House everyday people are presented in everyday surroundings, the dialogue is conventional, and the action such as might take place in a contemporary household.

"The position of Shakespeare is somewhere between these two practical extremes.  His characters are not merely personified abstractions, but, on the other hand, they are not precisely real people: for instance, they usually speak in verse.  Conventionalism of this kind is so obvious, however, that nineteenth century critics seem not to have reflected upon it implications (13)".

This ever shifting emphasis of narrative technique is illuminating in how it frees both the author and audience to a wider understanding of their creative and receptive potential.  If art is a collaborative effort between artist and spectator, then perhaps its an imperative that each recognize that their perceptive horizons are not so limited as we have currently come to believe.  Instead, there is the possibility for a refreshing creative expansion.  

This is the world Lucas's characters find themselves in, and it has to be some kind of testament to the durability of his characters that they successfully manage to survive contact with this alternate style of storytelling.  It also helps Henson and Lucas seem to be on a similar creative wavelength, and so both artists work well together in collaboration.

These are the implications Bethell is able to raise during the course of his study of the Popular Tradition.  In particular, he is very good at showing how the Tradition of Multi-Consciousness is capable of bending the narrative arc of stories without damaging and enhancing the entertainment experience.   This is especially true when Bethell is unpacking the creative technique of a group of artists who went on to become one of Jim Henson's very own sources of inspiration as an entertainer.

"Deliberate emphasis upon the unreality of the play-world is uncommon nowadays.  It is still, however, an habitual device of the Marx brothers, those excellent Hollywood comedians, who combine the wildest nonsense with a delicate satirical probing of the defective values in our modern civilization.  Their methods are purely conventional, and they require above everything an alert audience, ready to grasp at every word and each significant gesture.  It would be fatal for their purpose, if the audience were to become emotionally involved in the thin line of romantic story which holds their performance together.  In their best film, Animal Crackers, which appeared some years ago, there are two direct reminders of the film as film.  Groucho forgets the name of the character he represents, and turning to the audience, demands a programme: this is complicated by the reference back from film to 'legitimate' stage, since programmes are not provided in the cinema.  At another point in the film, he reminds us after a feeble pun, that 'You can't expect all the jokes to be good'.  I do not know whether the Marx brothers are consciously aware, any more than Shakespeare is likely to have been, that this type of joke has an important effect upon the relationship of actors and audience.  They have continued to employ it in more recent films with remarkable consistency, and this indicates at least a strong instinctive sense of its usefulness.  In The Marx Brothers Go West we were told as (I think) the engine-driver was being gagged: 'This is the best gag in the picture,' and in The Big Store, when the villain is finally unmasked, Groucho exclaims, echoing the average comment from the stalls: 'I could have told you in the first reel he was a crook.'  The effect is the same as in Shakespeare: it reinforces the double consciousness of play-world and real world and at the same time it distances the play as play, and produces intimacy with the audience for the actor as actor rather than as character (38)".

This is most obvious when you take in not just Hamill's performance, but the creative way he is allowed to differentiate himself from his most famous performance.  By making the creative decision to draw a clear line between the real life actor, the fictional character of Luke Skywalker is allowed to stand out all the more as an objective creative fact.  This allows Hamill to establish an intimate rapport with his audience, while at the same time the viewer is encouraged to actually think about the nature of Skywalker as a character in his own right.  It is when the viewer decides to focus attention on the character that the most interesting themes of the episode come in to play.

In many ways, the character of Skywalker serves as the main vehicle for a running commentary on the whole proceedings.  He is shown to be clearly aware that he's in absurd situation, yet he never allows it to compromise who he is.  At no point does he ever truly step away from the Epic-Romantic mode that defines him.  Instead, he participates in the action by holding it all at an ironic distance, and making the appropriate remarks as his situation dictates.  Sometimes when the situation becomes too over the top, he simply shatters the whole fourth wall by just giving it all a silent dismissal and then just walking off-stage.  This is best shown during the final curtain call when both Hamill and Luke appear on screen side by side.  The actor is a cut-up and a card, while the character is more old-school deferential and composed.  It isn't until the actor asks the character a question he's been bugged with all night, "Who's you're tailor, I love that outfit", that Luke makes his final exist, not even waiting for the credits to roll.

This creative decision results in a situation where two opposing modes of storytelling are held in a strange, yet easy coexistence.  Henson's style can trace part of its roots to the satirical flourishes of Mad Magazine; a periodical whose method  for approaching any subject under the sun is to go for the jugular with the goal of holding it up as ridiculous, with the overall goal of making the reader realize that a lot of modern foibles and beliefs are, in fact, way beneath us as species in general.

This same style is on display during every episode of Henson's show.  However, the character of Luke is allowed to do something interesting.  He participates in the same brand of ironic humor, yet he manages to never really become the target at of it.  In contrast, he always finds a way to stand outside of it.  This has the interesting effect of allowing him to participate in the joke without ever being the real target of it.  This has the result of leaving what passes for his personality intact.  At no point does it ever seem that Luke is acting in any way out of character.  In some ways, he shares a couple of similarities with Mark Twain's Huck Finn.  Both characters find themselves having to negotiate a series of absurd situations without becoming a victim in the process.  It is precisely because they are able to survive these brushes with an ironic, satirical absurdism that marks them out as, for lack of a better word, heroes.  Luke and Huck find ways of dealing with absurdity without ultimately letting it define who they are.  Instead, they remain essentially as straightforward Romantic figures.    

Conclusion: A Work of Popular Canon?

There still remains one element that hasn't been turned yet, and that's the most vexing part.  How do you look at this single episode of a family TV show in relation to the Star Wars canon?  

For the longest time I was prepared to say it had no real place anywhere.  The best I was prepared to say was that, at the very least, all got was a nice walk-on act, where the characters were treated with respect, and provided a few moments of entertainment, and that was more or less all there was to it.  I was even willing to dismiss an old piece of Lucas-era lore which lists the name of a planet taken from Henson's drawing board as being a part of the Far Away galaxy.

What changed my mind on this matter is to realize what happens when you add in Bethell's ideas about the Popular Dramatic Tradition into the mix.  As far as I can see, it all hedges on whether you can see this concept as a legitimate tool for both criticism and the arts.  There is a wider scope that has to be taken into consideration.  Right now, however, it's enough to examine its useful in relation to the single episode of a TV series.  

What happens when we grant the Popular Dramatic Tradition an amount of legitimacy, and use as a lens to judge the canonicity of Henson using Lucas's characters for the purpose of entertainment.  Is it valid, or not?  The closest I can come to an answer is that Popular Dramatic lens grants at least a possibility of some kind of canonical status.  

The reason is that it does in fact help grant a certain level of coherence to what would otherwise remain a chaotic picture with little rhyme or reason.  It has to be remembered that Bethell's thesis hinges on an element of the creation and reception of the arts that has been overlooked since perhaps the advent of the Industrial Age.  The Popular Dramatic Tradition is claimed as a forgotten element of the imagination that used to be a sort of common coin.  If this thesis is true, then it amounts to a context of perception that would allow an interesting level of creativity in terms of how characters and situations are created by an artist, and how they are perceived and received by any possible audience.  If both participants are willing to use the Popular Tradition as an underlying context, then it is possible to treat Henson's episode as being canonical based on it's producing at least one single creative contribution to the Star Wars universe.

It helps us to gain an understanding of the characters, and their nature as works of fiction, based on the self-aware aesthetics at play in the writing of the episode.  On a surface level, nothing major happens as long as we take a one-dimensional view of the proceedings.  The SW characters show up with for no reason in the middle of the Muppet Show and that's about it.  If we are willing to validate and look through the lens of the Popular Dramatic level, we discover a significant number of depths to the writing.

For one thing the audience is forced to pay attention to Lucas's characters as actual works of art on a self-aware level.  This seems to be where the validity of the whole Tradition lies.  It establishes a form of artistic creation and critical reception where the participants must always be aware of the work of art as fiction, while simultaneously being invested in the story without being bothered about questions of disbelief.  Rather than treating the shattering of the suspension of disbelief as a vice, this Tradition treats the constant awareness of the artifice of all fiction as a virtue.  It allows the audience to think about what they either enjoy or dislike while they are being entertained by the very subject of their contemplation.  This allows for a kind of mental multi-tasking where it is possible to consider the nature of the creative choices that went into this or that narrative situation, or story point in a way that will enhance, or at the very least explain the reader's experience.  In other words, it allows everyone to be a critic on a more informed and somewhat emotional-aesthetic level.

In the case of the Muppet Show episode, the critical use of the Tradition allows us a better understand the nature of the characters we've known since our first viewing of the original trilogy by helping us gain a better understanding of what kind of artistic creations they are, and why that contributes to our imaginative enjoyment of them.

The best example of this is the figure of Luke.  As state before, the episode presents him as a Romantic figure in a struggle with a situation that acts a challenge to his identity as a hero.  It is the purpose of a work of satire to skewer it's subjects for either a moral end, a humorous one, or a combination of the two.  It is the nature of irony to pour scorn on any given subject.  This makes the character of Luke stand-out all the more due to the way he handles his situation.

It would have been easy for Luke to wind up as just another target of the show's ironic narrative         

approach.  There are a number of ways in which the main character of the OT could have been rendered as ludicrous and therefore not a subject worth taking all that seriously.  This is why Luke's arc in the episode is so interesting.  Instead of becoming a target of satire, Luke seems to deftly usurp the entire narrative in which the humor is supposed to operate.  This is seen most clearly during the
show's entire second half, where he hi-jacks a spaceship used as part of the show.  Instead of being revealed as a prop that can't even get off the ground (thus leaving the character with egg all over his face) it instead turns out to be a legitimate Sci-Fi transport that Luke is able to use for the legitimate dramatic purposes going to the rescue.

It's true the character still has to navigate through the absurdity of the show and its characters.  Even here, though, Luke shows a surprising level of sophistication by utilizing the inherent humor of this setup, and turning it to his advantage.  Note, for instance, the exchange with Link as an example of Luke being self-aware enough as a character to use the humor to gain a laugh that is not at his expense.  This is also seen near the end by the simple introduction of Chewbacca, the very person Luke is their to rescue, and who remains to true to  the straight-forward, dramatic dictates of his nature by leaping in to help out once he is brought on stage.

What has happened is that Henson and Lucas have applied Shakespeare's and Bethell's Dramatic Tradition to the Star Wars universe and it's characters.  The result is that the basic nature of Lucas's characters are able to capture their imaginations in such a way as to take control of the narrative without eliminating Henson's ironic humor, while also remaining true to Lucas's outline for them as Romantic figures.  To paraphrase a line from Mark Hamill: "Boy!  Isn't that Bard of Avon terrific?"  At the very least he's left behind a method of writing that others were able to put to good use.

There's still one problem left to deal with.  A moment ago the question was raised about the episode's status as Canon in relation to Lucas's secondary world.  The best I answer seems to be that it counts as a form of Meta-Canon.  In coining this term I'm standing the episode alongside others like it.  There have been other cases where it's perfectly normal for characters from famous works  of fiction to show u pout of the blue in either TV show or special.  It seems this format is the closest analogue to the Popular Tradition we have.  Even though some things have changed since the era of the Globe Theater, a lot of the familiar tropes that define the Tradition (self-aware characters, direct address, playing with the nature of storytelling) are just as much in evidence as they are in Henson's production.

While I don't think it's possible to say that every instance of this variety series trope counts, I think the way the Star Wars figures are dealt with by Henson remains true to not just the main character, but also the type of story that would normally be told about him.  It is qualifications like this, where an unrelated showcase format can help excavate a further look into the nature of a fictional character, as well as going so far to let the fictional personality take over the narrative, that help solidify such entries as works of Meta, or, if you prefer, Commentary Canon.  

In many ways, the 1980, Fourth Season Star Wars episode of The Muppet Show remains a memorable outing for the all the hidden levels of sophistication contained in it.  It is a chance for fans of Lucas and Henson to see their favorite characters interact and react off one another together.

At the same time, it is an interesting study of cooperating contrasts.  Henson is able to use the satirical humor that made him famous, while Lucas's character get the creative opportunity to hi-jack that very same style and use it for their own purposes.  The result is an entertaining compound in which the Epic and Ironic modes of storytelling come together to create a hybrid style with one foot in each camp.  Beyond this, it;s just plain fun, and it's something fans of both Muppets and the Far, Far Away should discover for themselves.


  1. (1) "the contemporary memory isn’t what it used to be" -- I'm lucky if I can remember a word of what I read/see/hear, at this point. I should get more sleep!

    (2) I've been a Muppet fan literally my entire life. It's always been a fairly casual fandom, though; there are a lot of episodes I've never seen, and unfortunately, the Mark Hamill one is among them. One of these days, though, I'm going to track it all down and watch my way through the entirety of the Muppet filmography. I can practically smell it in the air, just waiting for the right time to fall through a cloud right onto my head. Although a rainbow is a better comparison than rain itself. Obviously!

    (3) "What happens if you take a straightforward set of characters and set them down in a narrative environment that operates on a different narrative logic?" -- A fascinating question. There are so many variables potentially at play that I'm guessing no one answer can possibly cover every eventuality. My snap judgment is that with some things, it couldn't work at all. You'd never want to do a "Saving Private Ryan" episode of "The Muppet Show," I'd imagine. Or hey, maybe I shouldn't rule it all the way out.

    (4) "It's at this point Luke the fictional character exist off-stage, and Hamill the real life actor enters seconds after." -- This sounds incredibly weird and wonderful. Which is an apt description of "The Muppet Show," so that tracks.

    (5) The notion of acknowledging the unreality of the play-world is interesting. It wouldn't have occurred to me to think of how certain Shakespearean characters kind of wink at the audience in a manner not unlike the way, say, Waldorf and Statler do. But by golly, there really is a connection there, isn't there?

    You can still find the device in modern time once in a while. That's likely some of the appeal of Deadpool as a character. And while it might seem like a thing that will destroy an audience's relationship with a story, I think audiences have been proving for hundreds (if not thousands) of years that that isn't necessarily the case.

    (6) "The best I answer seems to be that it counts as a form of Meta-Canon." -- Hmm! Very interesting ideas here. What other sorts of things would count for you as part of the SW meta-canon?

    And here's a question: does Yoda's existence cause "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" to enter into the Muppet canon?

    1. (2) It's worth catching up with, definitely.

      (3) I know why you wouldn't want to do that with "Saving Private Ryan", or something of that nature. Sad to say, it didn't one brief thing on comedy central. It was part some show, I forget it's name, though I know it wasn't "South Park". I'm even more ashamed that I can still recall this clip after all these years: "Saving Ryan's..." you can fill in the rest.

      And it just now occurs to me that the "Simpsons" took a brief shot at it.

      (5) That moment when you realize you can never make in Hollywood because you can't come up with a suitable "Deadpool" style response.

      (6) I can think of at least three other good examples of Meta-Canon (assuming "Deadpool" fits this description as well). The first is an old, limited run comic that went for a brief stint from 1961-63. It was created by Mort Walker and Jerry Dumas, and was called "Sam's Strip".

      In essence, it was one long, meta-fictional examination of the comic arts as it then existed. This meant a constant stream of walk-on bits and cameos from pretty much all the most famous characters from comic strips at that time, including Crazy Cat and the more obscure Yellow Kid.

      The entire strip has been collected in a book titled "Sam's Strip Lives". It's from the same company that's putting out the Collected "Peanuts".

      The other two I would have to be Neil Gaiman's "Sandman", and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" graphic novels.

      A link for Sam's Strip can be found here, by the way: