Movie of the Day – Shut Up, Little Man!
March 26, 2012 2 Comments
I like to think of myself as a lot of things, mainly a purveyor of all things internet related from memes to viral material that seems to permeate our pop culture infused lives. It is just my nature to consume useless amounts of trivia, which also makes me a valuable member to any trivia team. But I will admit, I knew nothing about the underground viral phenomenon known as Shut Up Little Man. I mean, who else really has heard of it? Don’t be one of those douches that chimes and be like I listened to it before it was cool and shit cause you are full of shit. In all honesty, the audio verite spread through the underground scene by the exchange of cassette tapes and eventually making it’s way to the airwaves through radio. Who would have ever thought that listening to an odd couple roommate situation would have yielded some interesting, cultural talking points.
Eddie Guerriero and Mitch Deprey were a pair of bohemian punk rock fans who moved from the Midwest to San Francisco in 1987, renting a decaying apartment in the lower Haight. Eddie and Mitch soon became fascinated with their neighbors, two elderly men who were also sharing an apartment and whose drunken, foul-mouthed tirades went on day and night. While they rarely met them face to face, Eddie and Mitch got to know snippy Peter and growling Raymond very well as their verbal battles bled through the walls. In time, Eddie and Mitch began recording Peter and Raymond’s rants and passed cassettes of edited highlights to their friends. The hilarious and harrowing recordings developed a cult following among collectors of off-the-wall humor, and with the rise of the Internet, the recordings began circulating around the world, far beyond Eddie and Mitch’s ability to control their path. When the tapes became the inspiration for comic books, short films, and theater pieces, Eddie and Mitch found themselves at odds over how to capitalize on the viral phenomenon, while Peter and Raymond were largely oblivious to their strange notoriety. (source)
Shut Up, Little Man! blurs this line between being an exploitative recording and an art piece in showcasing the difference people have while still managing to get along in the end. Sure, the abusive drunken ramblings of two neighbors, one a homophobic male and the other a homosexual male might have an air of danger when the arguments that take place seem to get to the cusp of fighting, but it never seems to get to that point. Two men take it upon themselves to record these ramblings because of the amusing nature, but it comes into question about what they are really doing and what the true intentions are.
The documentary does a wonderful job at framing the whole recording fame that the tapes produced, but also opens up a dialogue about unwanted fame and privacy issues once the tapes became distributed. The tapes are widely circulated and can even be found on Amazon.com to purchase. So it begs the questions, who profits off of this? Eddie and Mitch own the masters, but it was the quarrels of Peter and Raymond that are the source of art for the tapes. The documentary chronicles the early rise of the tapes from the inception, the collecting and eventual releasing of the tapes through the underground network. Peter and Raymond are completely oblivious to whole fame they are receiving, never once capitalizing on it as they just don’t know.
It is an interesting documentary of the exploitative nature of art and the proliferation of unwanted fame. The two arguing leads remained unknown and unaware of the fame they were getting, yet the tapes spawned zines, comic, stage plays and audio collections. The documentary also makes the tapes and recording have more meaning to the culture rather than here today, gone tomorrow nature of our viral intake. To see something as common as an argument seem to have more impact on people as a source of inspiration is rather intriguing. I mean the whole spawned stage plays and comics. What other viral thing can say they achieved that. But at the heart is a question about the blurring of the line between exploitative privacy and art. I don’t think there will be a consensus on the subject matter, but the tapes and recordings are something to treasure.
*images via RottentTomatoes