The Twisted Beauty of Mind My Gap

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The Devil had it all thought out, condensed it into big black clouds. A huff, and a puff, and his belly came through...Oops! There's the Devil, now he's looking for you!

                        These words echo throughout Mind My Gap, one of the great epics of the internet. The brainchild of a mysterious, looming figure known only by the mononym Rosto, it started in the days of ye olde internet, way back in 1998, and concluded last year. In that time, it has gathered a huge cult following, spawning tons of fan art, cosplays, websites dedicated to analyzing its bizarre narrative, and—oh wait. It hasn't. In fact, its entire fanbase is probably just a few thousand people. In internet terms, that's the four weird guys over in the corner of the party, and the party is the size of Kansas. My friends, this simply will not do. I propose that we right this wrong. Perhaps in the previous decade of cat videos and Justin Bieber, Mind My Gap could never have become a phenomena. But this is a new internet age. This is the age of Welcome To Night Vale and Homestuck, the age of Adventure Time and Breaking Bad, the age of Neutral Milk Hotel headlining at Coachella and Death Grips being a thing. My friends, the world is finally ready for Mind My Gap.

So, what's Mind My Gap? The shortest answer is this: Good question. The second-shortest answer is that it's a multimedia project largely consisting of flash videos portraying a series of still images, with audio consisting of the character's voices, sound effects, and music. Basically, it's somewhere between a graphic novel and a TV show. Later on, it incorporates different styles of animation, music videos, interactive elements, and various other modes of storytelling. Beneath the space where the episodes/issues are watched on, lies two rows of red X’s, staggered into a zig-zag. These are the episodes, with each row centering on a different part of the story: the top row starting at “The Present”, the bottom row starting in “The Past”. Rosto alternated between the rows as he released the episodes, and they can be watched the same way, or you can take one row and then the other. I suggest the former course of action, but I'm getting ahead of myself. I still haven't even told you what the darn thing is about yet, have I? That's another good question, but I'll attempt to answer it, with as few spoilers as possible.

We are introduced to Diddybob, an unshaven man with a crew cut, the voice of a beat poet, and no memory of how he ended up on the desolate highway where we find him. And thus begins the account of Diddybob's travels, as we follow him through a nightmarish series of landscapes and crossroads, from the highway, to the wetlands, to the mountains, and so on. Meanwhile, we are given the story of how and why Diddybob left his former life, a life he spent as the co-host of a television show, along with is dearest friend, Buddybob.

The 'bobs had a Truman Show-esque existence together hosting a TV show called “Living Interior,” which consisted of the two hosts presenting their beautifully furnished home to a theoretical audience they knew nothing about, because they never left the studio. The windows were made of paper, the only door was ominously marked “No Exit”, and the two heterosexual life-partners were never visited by anyone from the mysterious outside. “Living Interior is brought to you by The Open Horizon Networks,” proclaims the scratchy-voiced announcer, who also serves as our narrator. “Because it's all about the inside.”

These two intertwining plotlines eventually build up into a psychedelic, sprawling mythology similar to Tolkien in its complexity. As we slowly zoom out from our two protagonists, we see that they are only pawns in some larger, nearly unfathomable scheme thought out by our villain, the diabolical Virgil S. Horn. What starts as a parody of reality television crossed with a strange road movie develops into a chapter in a much longer history of classic good vs. evil, with several original twists put on that familiar concept. A suspenseful, thrilling story emerges from the ether, compelling us to keep watching even as everything gets harder and harder to understand, what with the rules of this universe being so unknown to us.

The world of Mind My Gap is as surreal as it is unsettling. We are brought to a colony of wetlands-dwellers, whose species is undetermined and whose females transform into their own children on their wedding day. We learn of the wretched fate of the Ugliest Man In The World, whose timeline has been looped for eternity as punishment for what crime we cannot guess. We meet the fair race of the Langemanne, the tree-people who wait for a sacred child who will save their fallen civilization. We try to understand the roles of such strange elements as a Dammed Mirror Of Perspective, a fountain that is a portal between worlds, and an Evil, Wicked Whale. And we watch the horrifying yet inevitable fate of both Diddybob and Buddybob, who foolishly, humanly, spiral towards their doom.

This is all a bit hard to follow, which is exacerbated by the fact that the whole project plays fast and loose with time a lot, though it is eventually revealed that it has a valid justification for doing so. In fact, in order to fully understand everything, it's almost necessary to watch a few other projects, as Rosto has confined himself to the Mind My Gap universe in almost all his other work. There is the trilogy of short film spin-offs: Beheaded, The Rise and Fall of the Legendary Anglobilly Feverson, and Jona/Tomberry. These films, especially the last one, explain some of the events of the series, as well as further complicating them. And then there's The Monster Of Nix, a half-hour children's film featuring some of the same characters, although it's hard to say if it's a sequel, prequel, spin-off, or re-imagining. But it has Tom Waits, The Residents, and Terry Gilliam in it, so, whatever. But the work can still be enjoyed on its own, without these other materials to supplement it.

Even aside from the brilliantly convoluted storyline, the whole enterprise is remarkably well-made. The artwork is an ever-shifting impressionistic mish mash (In a good way), the music is a kickass rock n' roll suite from Rosto's band (Thee One, Thee Only) Thee Wreckers, the voice acting is alternately delightful and heartbreaking, the dialog is funny, creepy, and occasionally very deep, and when the later episodes roll around, Rosto reveals himself as a visionary filmmaker, creating slices of atmospheric, deranged animation, which have the energy of a freight train and the eye of an artist.

In the end, Mind My Gap is an engrossing, thoroughly fascinating story; part Kerouac, part Borges, part Harlan Ellison, part Nick Cave, and still about as original as anything made this century. It walks the fine line between accessibly quirky, and hauntingly dark. It is, quite simply, a masterpiece, and it deserves a legion of fans only its own medium, the internet, can give it. Go. Click that link I subtly slipped into a sentence in the second paragraph. Tell your friends about it. Tell your neighbors about it. Write to your congressman about it. Talk to your doctor about it. Put up flyers. Spray graffiti tags. Start themed restaurants. Whatever it is you internet people do that makes things get so staggeringly popular, work that magic on Mind My Gap. It's about time.

Though we are in an internet age when things that are odd and unique can thrive and be celebrated, we also live in an age of hyperbole; consequently, certain phrases have lost much of their meaning. But because Mind My Gap is one of the great triumphs of the internet, I feel I must adopt the vernacular of the internet. So, in closing, using this expression as sincerely and as close to its original definition as I can, my final and highest recommendation is this: It will blow your mind.

Actually, “It will melt your face” might be more appropriate, seeing how that actually happens in the series, but oh well. Here's that link again:

Tim Foley's picture

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