A lot of what I do as a parent is explaining old stuff to my kids; why I had to play music on vinyl records, tapes or CDs  instead of asking a smart speaker to stream it, or how Herb and Clara Peller went from fast food commercial characters to cultural icons of a kind. 

The one thing I haven’t been able to explain to them from my era is Max Headroom. 


“What did he do?” they’ll ask me, and I don’t really know, even though I lived through the whole Max Headroom thing. “He was on commercials,” I’ll say. “He was like a digital robot guy who told you to buy soda, but… ironically?” I could – no, should – stop there, but of course I blurt out “and there was a whole show called Max Headroom, though it wasn’t really about him.” And then they want to know why there was a Max Headroom show that was about humans when it could be about… whatever Max Headroom was. Or is. I don’t know. 

I don’t think I’ve mentioned to them about the infamous TV hijacking incident in Chicago, where a guy in Max Headroom mask took over the PBS station long enough to moon everybody. But I’m fragile and could slip at any moment.

But maybe I’ve overthought this for too long. Maybe next time Max Headroom comes up, I should just show them this performance, in which the favorite deliberately smarmy av-av-av-avatar of the 80s belts out his holiday tune for MTV. Then I can just say, “He was a computerized guy who sang Christmas songs.” 

Of course, then I’ll probably say “and Selena Gomez dressed up as him in a video,” and then I’ll be right back where I started.