Big Giant Swords

Michael Craughwell, or ‘Irish Mike’, is a well known welder in West Tisbury, Massachusetts who is frequently commissioned to construct fantasy weapons, specifically swords, on a giant scale. He is also the star of the television series “Big Giant Swords”, which was premiered on January 13, 2015 on the Discovery Channel. The series displays the giant sword maker Irish Mike and his associates as they create these fantasy and ridiculously huge blades, all of which Mike creates from scratch. The focus of the show is a bit melodramatic and it attempts to over dramatize the process in which Mike creates his swords and complete commissions for his customers. Big Giant Swords is television program that follows Irish Mike in his escapades surrounding the challenges of crafting insanely gigantic swords.

Michael always enjoyed welding and working with metals, shortly after he completed college he dedicated a large portion of his time to seriously practice welding. He set up an illegal workshop in the basement of a parking complex and bribed the security guards to look the other away. In that parking garage he honed his craft and acquired his unique skillset of giant sword making. As an 80s child, Michael says his young mind was altered by the fantasy films and fiction that came out during his childhood, which he attributes to his love for nerdy role-playing games. When the PlayStation 1 came out in 1995, Michael spent the majority of his time in his bedroom, conquering these RPGs he had come to love. Final Fantasy VII, one the most popular RPGs of all time, featured the main protagonist’s ‘Buster Sword’, which is about twice the size of a human body.

FF7 Buster Sword

Michael admits that this particular weapon had an impact on his sword making, as it is the most highly commissioned sword he makes and one of the swords that originally interested him in his profession.

The tv series Big Giant Swords is more or less a reaction from television networks to capture Michael’s unique skillset. Michael originally posted a video on youtube of himself wielding one of his custom made swords. This immediately went viral and caused his facebook and email  page to explode with requests from a multitude of people. Not long after the Discovery Channel decided to air an original television program, featuring the popular Michael and his ability to create such monstrous swords. This co opting of a popular phenomenon by a corporation is a prime example of John Storey’s neo-Gramscian hegemony theory. Storey argues in this theory that there is a political dimension to pop culture,

“…sees popular culture as a site of struggle between the ‘resistance’ of subordinate groups in society and the forces of ‘incorporation’ operating in the interests of dominant groups in society.”

This theory applies very well to Big Giant Swords, as Michael’s intention was to simply work with metal and create fantastical sword; he did not have the goal of making a reality show in mind while crafting a Buster Sword for a new customer.

However, obtaining a reality show based on his work, and simply because of his work, is great way for Michael to acquire more exposure and potentially increase his business. The Discovery channels decision to feature Michael in a television series does not have to bear a negative implication on the corporation, it reinforces the theory behind Storey’s thoughts; Something as popular as Michael’s giant swords would not be able to remain grass rooted forever.

Currently, Michael resides with his wife in West Tisbury, MA, still creating and crafting giant swords based on commissions. In his own words, Michael believes the basis of his success lies within the obscurity of his profession. “It was very hard in ireland to buy a sword, I’m lucky that way, that there was no amazon.com, I mean I came from a small town, so if i wanted a sword, the only way to get it was to make it” Michael goes on to sum up his success in a concise statement, “I’ve become the giant sword guy because you can’t get that them anywhere else.” Michael’s work is of high quality, craftsmanship wise, and utterly unique in form. This skillset he possesses has lead him to a profession which he loves, and landed him a television series based about his work. As he stated, there is only one big giant sword guy.

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Freakin’ Sweet

Family Guy is a critically acclaimed and popular animated television show created by Seth Macfarlane. The series centers around The Griffin family, which consists of parents Peter and Lois, and their children Meg, Chris, and Stewie, and the talking upright walking dog Brian. Each episode depicts the Griffin’s lives and antics, usually located in Quahog, a fictional Rhode Island city. The show features numerous characters and personalities that supplement the show’s cutaway gag humour, for which it is primarily known for, and the cultural commenting present in the writing.

Most of the show’s comedy derives from the often satirical mocking on American culture. Family Guy has achieved three Primetime and three Annie Emmy awards over its running (1998 – 2015) and has been acclaimed as one of the best, if not the best, animated television shows of all time.

Peter Griffin is Family Guy’s primary main character and arguably most well known of all the other characters, apart from his maniacal infant son Stewie. His voice, which is performed by Seth Macfarlane like many of the show’s voices, is readily recognizable with a heavy accent that parodies the typical Boston accent.

However, at the 2014 New York comic con Robert Franzese, who is now hailed as the ‘Real Life Peter Griffin’ appeared doned in the classic white button shirt, green pants, and circular round glasses that are synonymous with Family Guy’s leading character. Franzese’s face, physical appearance, attire, and uncanny ability to recreate Peter Griffin’s voice has led his videos to blow up and go viral. He began impressioning the animated character about two years ago when he went to an ATM and yelled “Oh my god I won!” in Peter Griffin’s signature voice.

In itself Family Guy is a very successful and popular show among the United States viewers; nearly any person you approached on the street will have at least heard of the series. Peter Griffin, in particular, is a character that is equally as recognizable. Over the course of the show certain phrases and behaviors have become associated with Peter Griffin, such as his favorability towards “Surfin Bird” by the Trashmen, which he sings word for word. If one were to type surfin bird in the search engine Google, the first most searched result that would appear is “Surfin Bird Family Guy”. If anything, Family Guy is an enormous entity in modern popular culture.

The video of Robert Franzese performing as the Real Life Peter Griffin gained popularity extremely quickly and became viral within a couple of days. Franzese has grown very popular in a short amount of time and now sports a facebook and twitter page dedicated to his mimicking of Peter Griffin. His popularity is based on his ability to impersonate a fictional character that another individual created. However, that character being Peter Griffin, one of the most discernable animated characters of all time, Franzese’s recreation is easily recognizable due to the massive audience that Family Guy has acquired. Most first time onlookers or viewers of the video share a common sense of awe as they witness a widely known animated character come to life before them. Franzese’s humour is quite funny, his mirroring of Peter Griffin’s antics are spot on, and because of that he has become quite a popular phenomenon. However, aside from utilizing his ability to simply regurgitating happenings on the tv show, the fact that he can transform from a normal person to largely known entity is also responsible for his explosion in popularity. As stated by Franzese,

“I’m like a nobody. I have a nobody job, making nobody pay, but then I go to New York comic con and people are pulling out phones like I’m freaking Brad Pitt.”

The act of of transforming from a ‘nobody’ to the ever popular Peter Griffin is not only inspirational to Franzese himself, but also his audience, whether they are aware of it or not. In general, people admire comedic skill and awe, which Franzese displays both of during his time as Peter Griffin. If it were not for his audience reacting in such a way, whipping out their phones and filming Franzese, he would not have become nearly as popular nor virally successful as he would be just simply cosplaying Peter Griffin. Linda Holmes, an expert on pop culture, stated in her article:

It’s good to know and think about what people ought to watch and read and listen to, ideally; all that is good stuff, and worth talking about, and worth arguing about. But it doesn’t change the fact that there’s a whole other universe of things that people care about and watch and like or get angry about, and whether they ought to or not, the fact that they do — and they way they do — tells you something about them.

As is true about most pop culture, the reactions to certain phenomenon are just as important, if not more so, as the subject matter itself. In this case, it is the fact that Franzese is able to create a suspension of disbelief effect with his acting. Peter Griffin is an animated character who is entirely fake and fictional. However, fans of the show, like myself, feel as though they are able to personally talk and interact with Peter Griffin via Franzese. There’s nothing more charming than being able to meet one of your favorite characters.

Franzese’s transformation is a simple one; he whips out a pair of round glasses from his front pocket, slips them on, and begins saying one of the many Peter Griffin catchphrases. His ability to manipulate his voice is truly adept and proves to be an almost more accurate depiction of the character than Macfarlane’s original voice. Peter Griffin’s classic “nehehehe” laugh is recreated by Franzese nearly perfectly as well as other of the show’s famous quotes, such as his rendition of Surfin Bird.  According to Franzese, “It’s the reactions I get out of what I do, that gives me the joy of what I do.” He feels like a ‘million bucks’ as does his audience when he puts on the round pair of glasses and skillfully embodies the fictional character. Franzese is largely a popular success as the Real Life Peter Griffin and even caught the attention of Family Guy creator, Seth Macfarlane, and that’s freakin` sweet.