Television & New Media
URL with Digital Object Identifier
This article explores the political-economic “prehistory” of the “synthespian” by tracing the emergence of the rock and roll cartoon The Archies (1968—78) from the ashes of the live-action sitcom The Monkees (1966—68) through the career of music publisher and producer Don Kirshner. Drawing on original interviews with the producers of The Archies, it argues that early experiments in “fixing” variable entertainment capital through the organization of divisions of nonproprietary authorship contributed to the development of rights-free “virtual labor.” This analysis brings to light the logics and politics that are never far from “purely technical” advances in entertainment production. The trajectory of Don Kirshner brings into relief historical convergences of efficiencies and rationalizations in different but related fields that were fortuitous for entertainment capital in that they allowed the solution of labor problems—the “agency costs” posed by singing, dancing, instrument-playing, rights-bearing persons—with “virtual laborers,” the visible, audible, and agency-free avatars of hidden divisions of creative labor.