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Q&A: Matt Key Reveals Pop Culture’s Deeper Secrets
Key QuestionKey Question

Q&A: Matt Key Reveals Pop Culture’s Deeper Secrets

Do you look for deeper meaning in even the most harmless entertainment? Have you put on the proverbial sunglasses and now can’t stop seeing hidden messages behind every comics panel, animation cel and frame of film? Then you’ll find much to tickle your brain in Key Questions, a new show on Alpha with co-hosts Matt Key and Marisha Ray. It reexamines superheroes, wizards, and all other sorts of geeky characters, leaning to accessibility as much as theory. Of course, as the show launches we’ve got our own set of questions about what to expect, and Mr. Key was eager to offer some deeply-pondered answers.

Just what kind of, ah… questions are going to be covered on Key Question?

Matt Key: The basic premise of the show is to sort of blast through the basics of various pop culture [franchises], so we can start digging into their hidden depths and see what we might learn from them. Like, the creators behind these characters and stories are trying to tell us something, but they also have their own biases and philosophies informing their creations. If we look deeper, we can maybe see that… coding, maybe? Like, “life coding.” [And we] learn to be better people.

Right? I don’t know… does that sound pretentious? I really don’t wanna be pretentious. Let me know if I’m being pretentious!

The show’s teaser promises a more scholarly angle on pop culture. What classes or non-fiction works first really opened your mind about there being more in entertainment to discuss than what’s obvious on surface level?

Key: When I was in seminary, one of my favorite classes was… “the Theology of Pop Culture.” The basic premise of that class was that God– specifically the Christian God– was attempting to communicate with their creation through every means necessary. I.E. pop culture. So, what was God trying to tell us through various television shows and movies and songs and books and fashion and art? That kind of stuff.

I’d now define myself more akin to a theist than a Christian, now, but the basic premise that some divine, loving force is trying to talk to us through our art is still in play in this show. At least, for me. I also have loved every mythology and writing class I’ve ever taken, and I would say the education I [got] in there also lent itself to this show.

But that’s just me–Marisha is absolutely the other half of this equation!

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The teaser has a little comedy to balance out the cerebralism, too. Where do you think the line lies between inspiring fans to rethink what they enjoy and killing their buzz, so to speak?

Key: Great question! I’m not sure that we want to kill anyone’s buzz. I’d say we’re not necessarily killing any buzz on these characters or stories… we’re enhancing them. We’re just sort of tilting the philosophical/hermeneutical lens a bit to see if we can find new value to these things we love.

That being said, our biggest challenge on this show is taking relatively touchy subjects like racism or religion–among others–and treating them with the respect they absolutely deserve, while still infusing some entertainment and humor into them. We never want to come off as not having respect for what we’re talking about, but we also still want to be as funny as we can be.

Some creators consciously infuse bigger ideas and deeper meanings into their comics, cartoons, sitcoms, etc. Others just kind of do what they do and leave it up to the audience to read into. Any titles from the former category whose complexity you’ve appreciated?

Key: A brief caveat before I answer. We only have six episodes in this first season, so we weren’t able to really dig into all of the titles I’m about to mention. Okay–we’re back! Caveat concluded!

I always love the complexity of anything Alan Moore or Grant Morrison. Those guys really make you think. Like, Morrison’s run on Batman really played with the nature of identity and how one’s identity can change over time. I.E. if Batman was campy in the 60s, a gritty loner in the 80s. and a somewhat fatherly team leader in our current day… is he still the same Batman?

Obviously, the answer to this is that multiple writers have written him in a variety of ways, bringing their own values and interpretations to the character, but Morrison saw that as an opportunity to create a sort of “Unified Field Theory of Batman” and combine every version of Batman into one. That’s amazing!

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Any titles from the other category? Ones you had fun reinterpreting, even if the creators clearly didn’t intend it to have that many layers?

Key:As for the flip side, I started off our first episode about Deadpool as not the biggest Deadpool fan. But by the end of the research, I really saw his value and really fell in love with him.

Also, I’m not sure that J.K. Rowling fully intended to do with Harry Potter what I see in him, but… well… we’ll get to that. I’m really nervous about that episode, but I’m also really excited.

I should also say that Marisha has some really cool theories that I’d never considered about The Good Place. And I hope we get to do a Season Two so we can really explore that because… wow! It’s really cool, very telling, and sort of a scary commentary on where we’re currently at as a society.

Key Question will be airing exclusively on Alpha starting March 6. Don’t have a subscription? You can get a free 30-day trial on projectalpha.com!

Image Credits: Geek & Sundry

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