I don’t know if kids still watch old Looney Tunes cartoons today. They were already decades old when I watched ‘em in the ‘80s, so I have no idea why they would somehow stop being popular or relevant in the decades since, but stuff like that happens, I guess. If kids do still watch Looney Tunes today, then that’s probably the main (and only) reason they know who people like the Marx Brothers, Jack Benny and Bing Crosby are. Those old cartoons used to have Bugs and Daffy and whoever else whip out impressions of all the old comedians and Hollywood stars, and that no doubt slayed by grandparents on date night. I hope I don’t sound glib or condescending about those cartoons—I’m a staunch believer that public schools should have a mandatory pop culture curriculum that includes the Marx Brothers, Looney Tunes, and other pivotal figures or works in film, TV and music.
Okay, so this is a roundabout way to get to where I’m headed, but stick with me. Here’s a clip from this week’s episode of Robot Chicken. It’s episode 1010, the finale of the first half of season 10, and it airs on Adult Swim on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 12:15 a.m. ET/PT. In the truest Robot Chicken tradition, this clip uses toys from a massively popular sci-fi/fantasy franchise (The Matrix) in order to lightly mock a very specific fandom that has an outsized presence on the internet. I won’t spoil the specific beats, but I will say that the clip’s name, “Bitcoin Matrix,” gives a pretty clear indication where this is headed.
But so, my main point that I was rambling on about in that first paragraph above: The Matrix is 20 years old. The sequels are 16 years old. An entire generation of teenagers exist today who weren’t alive when those movies came out. How long before we reach the point where the main reason kids know about The Matrix is because shows like Robot Chicken make fun of it? Will it take 40 or 50 years, the age those Looney Tunes cartoons were when I first saw them, or has the accelerated speed of our always connected today reduced the window for pop cultural relevancy so much that even The Matrix, the hippest movie of just 20 years ago, is now hopelessly archaic and old-fashioned for today’s youths? The best-selling book about movies right now apparently argues that no movie made before 1980 is worth watching (except for, like, Jaws and Star Wars, of course); that argument is just immediately, absolutely absurd, but it’d be foolish to think that kind of anti-past sentiment isn’t common, and growing more common as technology worms its way even deeper into our lives.
Anyway: I believe in a future where we can enjoy technology and parodies of The Matrix, and also still get a solid Bette Davis or Humphrey Bogart reference.
Check out that clip below, and if you’re the kind of person to care about this, remember that the full episode airs on Adult Swim at 12:15 a.m. this Sunday.