Reply All: #16 Why Is Mason Reese Crying?
March 19, 2015 9:58 AM - Subscribe

For Jonathan Goldstein, YouTube offers endless nostalgia, but he always finds himself returning to the same subject - a precocious child actor from the early 70's named Mason Reese. And then a few months ago, new clips of Reese began popping up on YouTube. What's more, they appeared to be uploaded by Reese himself. Jonathan sets out to discover why - and why now, after 40 years.
posted by radioamy (14 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not sure how I feel about this episode. It was certainly interesting but didn't feel like a Reply All episode. I'm all for experimenting with new formulas but this might not be the best direction...what do y'all think?

I was personally disappointed that there was a guest host because I had been missing PJ & Alex. I really like their dynamic and was excited that they were both back in the office, then bummed because we only heard them for a short snippet.

Since the theme of the show is "weird shit on the internet" I wasn't sure how this fit seemed more about "Mason Reese" than "Mason Reese's YouTube." Also I didn't feel that the answer to "why did Mason Reese upload his videos to YouTube?" was very satisfying...although that's not necessarily the fault of the show. How did y'all feel about it?
posted by radioamy at 10:22 AM on March 19, 2015

I agree that this didn't feel like a regular Reply All episode. To me it felt more like a segment on This American Life. I think that was due to subject matter (not really internet/tech related) but also the tone of the piece.

It was well made and interesting, but ... maybe just not quite the right fit?
posted by bjrn at 12:45 PM on March 19, 2015

It had an internet hook, and harkened back to the Jennicam espisode (#5) - here's a thing you know about from the internet, here's the story behind it - but at the same time it felt more "Jonathan Goldstein scratches an itch" instead of "you know that thing online? Let me tell you about it" that has a broader appeal.

That being said, I did like the episode, but I like Jonathan Goldstein pieces regardless of broadcast source.
posted by jazon at 1:14 PM on March 19, 2015

I liked the episode personally. It was a vacation/paternity week off for the hosts, but felt like an interesting internet story to tell, much like their others. When they reveal who uploaded the new videos I was TOTALLY on board with hearing more and I was hooked for the second half of the program.

I like that there was closure to the Cats in the Cradle Michael Douglas show story. That sounds like such an odd moment on TV that I was dying to know more (I haven't looked for the video and probably won't, it sounds pretty upsetting), so I'm glad we got backstory on it.

I like stories on the radio or blogs when people go track down whoever was behind a "meme of the moment" type thing. I love that an old wacky RV salesman with goofy videos on YouTube became the subject of a documentary, and this very much felt like that kind of thing. I need to go look up photos of this guy as a kid because I probably saw commercials with him when I was very young, but his voice in the clips on the show didn't seem to jog my memory.
posted by mathowie at 3:21 PM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I wasn't going to go watch the video of Mason having a meltdown but well Twitter happened and I came across Reply All's digg article. It's *weird* how quickly Mason goes from spunky to inconsolable. It must have been horrifyingly uncomfortable to watch that live.

I can see how people thought he might be a little person pretending to be a little kid. He has a strangely adult-looking face and there is something a bit unnerving about him.
posted by radioamy at 9:12 PM on March 19, 2015

I re-listened to this episode and liked it more on the second run. I also never liked Cat's in the Cradle as a kid (though I never broke down on national TV over it), and I found it odd Jonathan and his producer didn't see how a kid might be affected by it as it's aimed at adults.

The thing about the song is that it's more of a cautionary tale for people starting their lives, not a song for those who have completed it. The song really went sour for me when I was in Junior High and was starting to realize being an adult didn't mean being grown up, and that many adults really didn't know what they were doing. I can see how precocious Mason really understood that, and layer in the subtext of the song that showed the "dad" said one thing but did another. If all these adults were lying to Mason - for whatever reason - the song really encapsulated that.

"I'm not going to play that song you don't like" ... Plays song anyway...
posted by jazon at 6:47 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

You know now that I think about it I actually find Cats in the Cradle a bit upsetting myself. It's so sad! I was a really sensitive kid and certain songs would upset me (who the hell thought Go Tell Aunt Rhody was a good kids song?). I can see the combination of the upsetting lyrics, the adults lying to him, and the goddamn stress of being so famous causing the poor kid to break down.
posted by radioamy at 7:43 AM on March 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I loved this, and thought it was a good fit with the RA oeuvre/wheelhouse/vibe - it seems like such a specifically internet story, with that particular nostalgia of having your childhood memories a YouTube binge away and all the attendant weirdness.

On Cat's in the Cradle - it's also a story in a song, and a sad story, the kind that's cliched and obvious to adults but new and poignant to kids. Stories are intensely powerful at that age.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 1:45 PM on March 20, 2015

I've generally not had a good time with Jonathan Goldstein stories on TAL (and especially on Wiretap which I bounced off instantly) but I mostly loved this one. Especially that bit about how a bookshelf shows who you want to be seen as, but your Youtube history shows what you really are.

What I didn't like was Jonathan's persistence in trying to tie the "Cat's in the Cradle" thing to Reese's family dynamic. I think "Cat's in the Cradle" is just a really sad song, and even if it doesn't mesh with your personal experience it still captures something about aging / adulthood / regret in general.

I have a pretty strong memory of breaking down crying in first grade because the teacher played "Wind Beneath my Wings" for whatever reason. Kids get sad at the darnedest things.
posted by tjgrathwell at 6:16 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, "Cat's in the Cradle" is the #1 Song Men Will Cry At and--having never before heard of Mason Reese or any of the events mentioned in the episode--as soon as the narration namechecked Harry Chapin, my internal monologue was OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT ABORT ABORT I'M ON A PUBLIC STREET AND THIS IS GETTING REAL before the song was even mentioned.
posted by psoas at 4:07 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

What I didn't like was Jonathan's persistence in trying to tie the "Cat's in the Cradle" thing to Reese's family dynamic.

posted by radioamy at 4:14 PM on March 23, 2015

I strongly disliked the host's voice quality. Something about it really irritated me because of how it tied into the particular story he was telling. It's hard to pin down, but the confluence of his voice and the story he was telling with it absolutely did not work for me.
posted by PussKillian at 11:28 AM on March 26, 2015

I went back and watched a bunch of Mason's ads. I feel like I get Jonathan's fascination - that's definitely the kind of odd that burns into your brain.
posted by Gin and Broadband at 3:38 PM on March 26, 2015

I was incredibly not into how Johnathan Goldstein was trying to turn the interview into an impromptu therapy session for poor Mason Reese. He was a kid, kids have weird emotional reactions to things sometimes and you don't have to pin down some Freudian explanation for it. Plus I'd probably cry too if the artist straight-up lied to me like that. Other than that, it was a good episode, though the "mystery" of where these new videos were coming from wasn't much of a mystery "I looked and oh, it was Mason himself doing it." Mason seems surprisingly stable for someone whose star hit it's zenith in childhood.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:39 AM on July 26, 2018

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