I’m feeling conflicted. A lot of this concerns tonight’s screening, but I have some thoughts that I don’t think will fit into my response, so I’m going to spit them out now.
I left our screening tonight thinking about the vids we watched, and I couldn’t help feeling a bit alienated, or implicated, or something. I’m not quite sure what it is. I want to try to understand why I felt like this. I think Francesca Coppa’s public-speech demeanor is not particularly warm and inviting, but this certainly wasn’t intentional on her part (in fact, it might have been more the poor quality of the video). Also, I’m sure my feelings had something to do with the fact that I am not really familiar with ANY of the texts we watched vids for, which made it really difficult to pick up on their arguments unless they were very blatant (as with the Firefly vid…I don’t think you can be much more direct than “Fuck you, Joss, you racist asshole.”) I felt like an outsider, which is very unusual for me when it comes to pop culture…I have a very fond, loving relationship with a very wide spectrum of pop culture and rarely dig into subcultures as deeply as this, so that I am made to feel ignorant or uninformed.
On the subject of that “fond, loving relationship” thing, a major point now occurs to me. Of the fannish-relationship-encouraging things that I feel “fannishly” (ugh) about (Lost, Lord of the Rings, Wilco, Arrested Development…I’d say these are the key ones), I would say that I have none of the conflicted feelings about them that these vidders seem to have with their texts of choice. I especially feel that Wilco has, and Lost had, a huge amount of respect for their fans…maybe this is just good business, but I’m really inclined to think it’s more. I was a diehard defender of almost every risky decision Cuse and Lindelof made over the course of Lost, and had a huge amount of faith in them, even when people I know started to complain about the show’s direction (which is to say, from about the third friggin episode through the end of the series). I love to poke fun at the goofier aspects of the Lord of the Rings movies as I watch them (and some friend’s I’ve watched with are really bothered by this…they can’t reconcile my joshing with my immense love for those movies), but I have never felt in any way “wronged” by the ideologies of any of these things I named, not in the way these vidders seem to have been. Maybe it’s because I’m a heterosexual male, and thus am almost never made to feel ignored or oppressed. Maybe it’s because I’ve never had a remix-type project of mine attempt to be quashed by the legal arms of these entities. But don’t think I’m a stranger to the world of fan participation — in 7th grade, I spent a serious chunk of type using the Age of Empires II in-game map builder to create an incredibly detailed “Helm’s Deep” scenario. (Seriously.) I just have never had any reason to feel anything but thankful towards the people who make culture that I love.
I suppose the conflicted fan relationship of the vidders is much more interesting to study than my boring old affection for the texts I’m a fan of, but I just can’t quite relate to it. So I think I’ve talked my way in circles around my point…maybe it can be encapsulated in my immediate reaction to the video set to “Us”: I asked why the footage had to be so obscured by the pencil effect — I wanted it to be easier to tell what these clips were from! Now I understand that this is a representation of the way fandom can seem obscured to “outsiders” (I’m wondering whether I’m one of these or not?!?!), but doesn’t this also mean this obscurity is a choice made by these fans to keep their intentions hidden — to make sure they continue to be misunderstood?? I think that must be part of it — because there’s a small joy in feeling part of something that the general public can’t understand. But why do these fans have to feel so wronged by producers, and so misunderstood by society? I understand and yet I don’t. I think I sense a paradox here…