Faking the Funky (February 12, 2009)
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
[ X ]
Origins of this content
This 2009 blog post marks my interest in the connections between the forms and practices of indie cinema and those of YouTube. Like me, many professors, scholars, and activists have moved in and out of indie cinema (to academia, YouTube, community media). I have been the producer of two independent feature narrative films (The Owls Cheryl Dunye, 2010) and The Watermelon Woman (Cheryl Dunye, 1996), as well as the director of several feature length documentariesSCALE, Video Remains, Dear Gabe, Women of Vision—work that might not traditionally be included as examples of indie cinema, which most generically refers to a narrative feature films that are not backed by a studio.
Michel Gondry "has scripted inspiring imagery in the form of commercials, music videos, shorts, feature films, and other media. He is partially credited with reviving the music-video format in the 1990's." [cit]

"If there are three things that Kevin Smith's movies have in common it's this: plots that relate to each other, crass dialogue and recurring characters Jay and Silent Bob. Revered as one of the kings of independent film of the '90s, Smith was born the son of a postal clerk in Red Bank, N.J."[cit]

Karl Marx believes that "human beings should not pursue one occupation for their whole life, they should be able to 'do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner.'"[cit]
I've wanted to write on the film Be Kind Rewind for a while (its retro-futurist dreamings of a soft-and-sweet handmade user-generated media revolution), and I do discuss it a little bit in the talk I'm completing on fake documentaries on YouTube, but merely as an aside. But then I happened to watch Zack and Miri Make a Porno, which inspired me to pen a few remarks on my fascination and revulsion for this developing trend in recent Hollywood/"indie" fare: fakes of YouTube video in the name of a sacharine, corporate media-sponsored celebration of DIY video.

Both films condescendingly imagine people-made video using an asinine language of over-the-top bad video form (hyperbolically corny costumes, insanely clunky sets, bumpy frames, goofy gaffes) referring, I suppose, to a "YouTube aesthetic" that actually looks nothing like this, given that YouTubers do their best to make things look like corporate media. Then, they both get narrative mileage from a similarly shmaltzy vision of regular people liberated from their work-a-day realities through the communal labor of making video, or rather bad camcorder versions of already bad movies (let's put on a show!).

Hollywood's version of a revolutionary vision—raise sheep in the morning, make video in the afternoon—sticks a bit in the craw, given that it's nostalgically expressed within films that otherwise look like and actually are made within corporate media. What we get is an industry repeat (albeit from two of the industry's artsier voices) of YouTube's very corporate vision of "democratic" media: one that softly sings of a flattened playing field that relies on what real people do and like and yet merely reifies the differences between good and bad, The Real and The Fake (movie.)