The other day, prolific interactive fiction critic “Peter Pears” posted an excessively complimentary review of my IF “cover” of They Might Be Giants’s “The Statue Got Me High”. [Update, September 2014: that review is not there anymore] In the review he called out an aspect of the game that not everybody notices, namely that I stole the plot of the game from the finale of Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
The rock song and the Don Juan myth both deal with statues, fire, and cosmic justice, but the similarities apparently are coincidental. A fan must have pointed them out to John Linnell after the song was released, leading him to introduce the song at a show in 1994 saying: “This song is based on the life of Don Giovanni, which I didn’t know when I wrote the song.” Yes: The game is a ripoff of two different artists’ work, and even drawing a connection between the works wasn’t my own idea.
I cannot communicate how satisfying it is for me to see my game received so favorably by TMBG fans as well as by people who have no context for the interpretive aspect, and then for yet another audience to pick up on the other “secret” inspiration for the game. That’s all the angles! The only thing left that could connect the remaining dots in the intertextual constellation would be to compile a list of all the TMBG songs referenced in the game.
And, since this list does not seem to be forthcoming, I have decided to compile it myself:
Chucky the chef comes to us via “Cyclops Rock” (Mink Car, 2001)—”I won’t die, like Chucky won’t die.” The proximity to the line “I’m sick, like Nixon was sick” is probably the reason Chucky is a former White House chef. My Chucky has a glass eye, like the guy in the song.
The sun streaming in the dining room window artlessly predicts the conflagration to come; the fact that it is “only a middle-sized star” quotes “Why Does The Sun Shine?” (Singer & Zaret, 1959, covered by TMBG since 1993).
The portrait in the dining room is meant to depict the “real” Don Juan, but his piercing stare comes from “No Answer” (Dial-A-Song, 2001): “In the moat of the castle was where the Duke of Something’s wife drowned / and the eyes in her portrait seemed to follow him around.”
The victim of the portrait’s gaze, Garry Horrible, is of course “Mister Horrible” of “Someone Keeps Moving My Chair” (Flood, 1990). His sin will be revealed as chair theft, and indeed chairs are a weird recurring theme throughout the game. I intend to return to this theme when I eventually adapt “Someone Keeps Moving My Chair” to IF.
The clock in the foyer is stuck at 1:56, that is to say, “Four of Two” (No!, 2002).
Dr. Ivan Worm is “Doctor Worm” (Severe Tire Damage, 1997), although he is “a real worm” and “an actual worm” only figuratively.
Hope Idie is “Withered Hope” (The Else, 2007). She has very little in common with the character in the song, but I at least tried to make her come across as “withered”. [ADDENDUM: Somebody other than me pointed out that she’s obviously also a reference to “Hope That I Get Old Before I Die” (They Might Be Giants, 1986) and I honestly have no idea whether that was intentional. Furthermore, she clearly recalls “Your Racist Friend” (Flood), but similarly I can’t remember whether I had that song in mind at all when I was writing the game. Whoops!]
Captain Miles, and this is probably the biggest stretch, is “The Cap’m” (The Else again). He is engaged to Hope because they are the only two characters from the same album.
The pool table has repeatedly been ruined by a Judy, as in “Judy Is Your Viet Nam” (Join Us, 2011).
Miss O is “Ondine” (Back to Skull, 1994) and for once she is basically the person I imagine from the song.
John could be any of the many Johns in TMBG’s oeuvre—John Linnell, or John Flansburgh; the 1993 album John Henry; the “John, I’ve been bad” from Flood‘s “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love” (which Garry quotes in the game!); the irredeemable Johnny of “Can’t Keep Johnny Down” (Join Us)—there’s a John in “Hell Hotel” (1984 Demo Tape) whose story is similar to our John’s. But of course, John is John first and foremost because he is Don Giovanni.
Obviously the statue is from “The Statue Got Me High”, but we find out at some point that it’s a statue of Peter Ng. The girl whose father Don Giovanni murdered was Dona Anna, which means the daughter whom John romanced must be “Ana Ng” (Lincoln, 1988).
The planetary symbols on the cellar door are a nod to the very loose “space” theme of the Apollo 18 album. The music video for “The Statue Got Me High” features John, John, and some astronauts singing and playing instruments on top of platforms labeled with images of the planets.
“Prévenge” is not a real kind of wine, but “Prevenge” is a real song on The Spine (2004).
“Thunderbird” is a real kind of wine, but it is also a song on The Spine.
I think that’s everything.