My double conference weekend had ups & downs. The Futures of Entertainment 2 conference was great, leading to an excellent connection with Jesse Alexander and the oddity of Tim Kring commenting on my blog! FoE2 gave me hope for future intersections with media creators that could be mutually rewarding, not just me leeching info for my own research. But alas Unboxing TV was not to be. After spending much of Saturday connecting with old & new friends among my television studies colleagues, I received word from my wife early Sunday morning that the stomach flu that had earlier struck our two youngest kids had hit her overnight. Parental duties trumped conferencing, so I drove back to Vermont and missed the event – I’ll have to catch up via bloggers’ recaps, such as Louisa’s, Derek’s, and hopefully more to follow.
But one moment in FoE2 has created a bit of a ripple effect that I wanted to explore (at length) here. Henry Jenkins, in his opening comments with Joshua Green, ran through a litany of examples of participatory media, but gave the most airtime to screen a fan video called “Vogue (Bite Me, Frank Miller)” by a vidder known as Luminosity. On the one hand, it was a typical remix video by combining footage from 300 with Madonna’s “Vogue,” playing up the images of masculinity in mocking homoerotic tones. While the content didn’t particularly resonate with me, as I haven’t seen the film & it’s not my favorite Madonna song, the formal sophistication and technique of the vid was impressive, showing tremendous creativity within the formal parameters of the remix.
I’ve generally had a hard time fully understanding the vidding subculture, which I’d like to do more as I teach fan creativity across my courses – the male-dominated remix parody videos that proliferate on YouTube make sense, as the humor is typically obvious and seeks to impress people broadly. But vidding, a female-dominated mode of fan creativity that dates back decades to conventions & VHS dubbing, is much more insular in its appeals and address. Most vids I’ve watched leave me unmoved, as I find that even if I know the source program (like Battlestar vids), the actual vids don’t add much to my appreciation of the show or the creative exploration of the music video form. Kristina offered a list of recommended vids to explore, but aside from the meta-fandom vid “Us,” which I really enjoy, most of these links left me underwhelmed.
Both Henry and Kristina Busse recently highlighted Luminosity on their blogs, as the artist got a nice write-up in New York Magazine as part of their feature on online video. So inspired by the “Vogue” screening, the New York article, and fanvid week at In Media Res, I figured I’d explore Luminosity’s work a bit. And I finally found the vid that communicated the genre’s emotional sense: Scooby Road, Luminosity’s 2005 concept album remixing Abbey Road with the full series run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Much of why this vid works so well for me, besides it just being a spectacularly impressive work of editing, is that I come to it with strong emotional connections to both works – I’ve been a lifelong Beatles fan, and Buffy stands as one of the great works of television art. Vidding demands context, both within the community of fans who consume it, and to communicate outside that fandom to draw links between the songs, the shows, and the viewer’s experiences.
Luminosity writes the following about the epic Side 2 portion of Scooby Road:
This is the music of much of my life. I have personal connections to all of it, and I’ve been moved by it since I was a kid. I know this album better than any other, and the challenge was to convey the depth of my feelings about the music through the video. And, considering that BTVS and the Jossverse are my best beloveds, it was a challenge to use the music to show how I felt about the show. And if I was really lucky, they’d combine into something entirely new. I knew that if I played my cards right, I could tell a relentless emotional narrative using Side Two– which is my way of saying that I’ll never hear Abbey Road again without thinking of Buffy, and most of all, I wanted *that* to happen to the viewers of Scooby Road.
She certainly accomplished these goals – the entire vid offers emotional resonances both within moment-to-moment stories she spins, and more so in connection to what a viewer brings to Scooby Road via their own media experiences and memories. I haven’t watched Buffy in years, so much of my experience was embracing the flood of memories that the album offered. And I know Abbey Road so well, that the comfort of recontextualizing the music with another beloved text led to personal resonances and moments of anticipation.
I also found that the concept album format particularly powerful in conveying the
aesthetics of vidding. When I watch a single song vid, I often feel that it works to just recapture favorite moments for a show rather than communicate something new or distinctive. But the multiple songs and final medley of Scooby Road highlights how each song offers a narrow slice of the show’s scope, focusing on single episodes, characters, relationships, or themes. Rather than just a celebration of the show (although it is that), each song offers a particular interpretation and perspective on Buffy. When assembled into the album, the contrasts and juxtapositions make the creativity involved in vidding more explicit and engaging for this newcomer.
My personal favorite tracks: “Something,” which makes me appreciate Druscilla more than I ever have; “Oh Darlin’,” the perfect take on Spike/Buffy with an impeccable conclusion; “I Want You,” which explores the sexualized violent connection between vampire and slayer. And then all of Side 2, which is just spectacular.
In an email exchange with Luminosity, she expressed joy with my reaction: “I can’t even articulate the thrill I feel when someone tells me that he saw one of my vids, and he got it. I want to be the vidder who reaches past the contextual fan to the outsider.” If you’re a fellow outsider looking to understand the culture of vidding (or just a Buffy or Beatles fan), definitely check out Scooby Road. I’ll be showing a song in class next week (probably “I Want You”), and hopefully some of my students will have similar appreciation for this talented artist.
Filed under: Academia, Fandom, Television | 11 Comments
Tags: beatles, buffy, MIT, vidding