“Us” - a multivid by Lim

Curator's Note

/we’re living in a den of thieves Lim’s vid thematizes and illustrates how media fans engage with texts—not only the intense love fans feel for the shows and characters, but also how fans appropriate images, characters, narratives, and make them their own. The heavy manipulation of the images, often into near unrecognizability, mirrors the way fans make media their own, into something more appealing to “us.” The sheer wealth of sources and the iconic moments resonate with the way fans watch their shows, the way we rewind and analyze and hone in on a particular detail or moment. /rummaging for answers in the pages “Us” invites us to watch it fannishly: both the editing and the external footage nod towards fannish engagement, ranging from superimposed images of fannish books to the fast-cut sequence of shows connected via popular fannish actors (alluding to fannish propensity for crossovers and following favorite actors to new shows). The vid encompasses a spectrum of fannish shows starting with Star Trek, often focusing on the male characters, but ends with V for Vendetta and a scene of unmasking, leaving us with the iconic image of a girl—us? The overwhelming sense of collective and shared creativity and power (and even potential subversion) in the imagery of the avalanche is both metaphor for fandom as a whole but also the individual fan’s affective relation to fandom. /the tourists come and stare at us The vid aggressively asserts not just an independent space that fandom provides but also questions outsiders’ interest—the tourists staring explicitly include academics. In a way then to analyze a vid like “Us” undermines its very argument. Not only is it redundant since the vid intellectually and affectively offers an intense vision of media fans without need for explication, but it also moves the viewer from “us” to “they.” The question the vid poses for acafans might just be whether we indeed can be fully immersed and analyze that immersion at the same time.

Comments

Jonathan Gray's picture

this vid also proves

this vid also proves definitely for me why copyright “violation” can be good for business, as it totally made my household one of Regina Spektor fans, and Amazon is reaping the rewards

Kristina Busse's picture

For a while there, we joked

For a while there, we joked about Lim as being Spektor’s secret PR person, because her very first vid was also to a Spektor song (this vid, however, definitely isn’t an introductory vid, deeply embedded as it is in not only a particular shipper subsection of a particular fandom but because it actually is a comment/response/supplement to a particular story!).

But yes, Amazon reaped from me as well after Lim expanded my musical repertoire (in fact, I’m pretty sure all the CDs I’ve bought in the past couple of years were artists/songs I encountered through vids…)

I think a lot of ambivalence

I think a lot of ambivalence swirls around this vid. It’s undeniably stunning, aesthetically and technically. For that reason, it has received a fair amount of mainstream attention. However, I have doubts about how accessible it is, thematically, to these uninitiates (even to ME, as a non-boyslasher) — your analysis suggests one explanation for that. You lead me to speculate that the opacity of the visuals literalizes the insider statement the vid makes about fan cultures. I’ve always assumed, I guess mistakenly at least on a factual level, that the final image is lim herself!

Kristina Busse's picture

Cyborganize, yes, I think

Cyborganize, yes, I think you’re right that the vid foregrounds insiderness, especially in the way it not only requires a breadth of references but also a certain depth (after all, even having seen many of the shows it took me a while to recognize which Pro, B7, XF, DW shot this was). But I think you’re right that this is part of the argument—it is about a particular culture (and boyslash at that) but it is also about the way it ultimately doesn’t matter oi you recognize every particular scene, because we change it anyways.

In other words, the same way, I think a fan fiction fan has an easier time often reading in another fandom than a fan of the show has reading the same fic (because I’d argue,the circulating tropes are more important than the canon references, the fantext intertextuality more important than the source text intertextuality) , so Lim’s vid celebrates our appropriation and manipulation above and beyond the source texts—into near unrecognizability.

So, in the end, I’d argue that it is accessible for media fans even if it isn’t their particular shows that get referenced, because it’s the process rather than the content that drives the vid.

Jacqueline Kjono's picture

What strikes me about this

What strikes me about this vid is how iconic a lot of the imagery is. Many of the clips she has chosen are considered “over vidded” clips. They show up in a lot of vids because they express very clearly the way fans see the relationships between those characters. The one that jumps out at me the most is the clip of Spike and Angel holding hands.

The way she shifts them with effects and makes it harder for even the initiated fans to recognize them. Making us work to recognize something so familiar makes those clips new again.

Kristina Busse's picture

Jackie, yes, and the cool

Jackie, yes, and the cool thing is that this is exactly what we do in fan discourses, right? We filter hours of TV shows into moments that we cherish, take out and behold again and again. I mean, they’re cliched and overvidded for a reason. Using these clips, then, references the fan community, i.e. “Us,” as much if not more so than the texts themselves. The vid effects indeed distance us from the texts but, at the same time, that very distance also foregrounds the way fans add onto the source text: we select certain scenes as important to our reading and dismiss others; we alter and shape these images; we make these characters and places our own. And as much as “Us” celebrates all these many series we love; ultimately it celebrates our interventions more.

Cyborganize, I've talked

Cyborganize, I’ve talked about this vid a lot and shown it to non-fans on a couple of occasions — and it seems to offer quite a multiplicity of pleasures, from the recognition of favoured shows to the comment on ‘monumentality’ to the critical commentary on the scholar’s position that Kristina draws out here.

I do like boyslash and know a fair number of the shows here, but when I first saw this vid I hardly recognized anything. It was through the shots of books first, and “rummaging for answers in the pages,” that I got sucked in — thinking that this is what we do both as fans and as scholars, finding ways to live through words and images. And the layered shots of LOTR/X-Men/Star Trek. Then I went to the question of the ‘tourists’ and the set of questions about ethics and the difference between answers remade from texts and answers lifted from gawked-at people (the ones who “take photographs of fun” etc).

But my favorite reading now takes off from the V for Vendetta shots (and from an extratextual connection to the comic along the lines of the links Lim makes between different sources) and the pirate images, and is a meta celebration of fans’ and vidders’ pirate acts themselves, creating a media (under)commons.

I agree that it isn’t a supremely accessible vid. But there are so many entry points, so many possible narratives, I think it has the potential to work in a lot of contexts. I’ll be interested to see how it goes over at DIY!

Kristina Busse's picture

Alexis, that's it, I think:

Alexis, that’s it, I think: the vid is as layered as fandom itself, where lots of people with vastly different backgrounds and needs and interests can come and bring to/take away vastly different things.

One of the things that strikes me is that I’ve had quite a few vidders argue that it’s not an accessible vid because of its depth and density and a few fans be very unhappy about it’s all-encompassing claim of “Us” when they felt left out….and yet the vast feedback on and offline from all different types of fans (many not into vids per se) that Lim has received might really support your reading (and your personal narrative of different personal and intellectual and fannish entry points).

Oh, absolutely! I'd never

Oh, absolutely! I’d never heard of Regina Spektor pre-‘Us’ video but now the whole household are Spektor-fans.

Yes! I discovered the Dandy

Yes! I discovered the Dandy Warhols through Shalott’s ‘Bohemian’ vid! Tip of the iceberg…

I echo Kristina's thoughts

I echo Kristina’s thoughts totally. This is a very interesting thread. When I first saw this video, I was confused but drawn in, and it haunted me for days. I can re-watch this one endlessly. I also felt what somebody above expressed, a bit ‘left out’, a bit on the margins of a Big Name Fan circus — but after more viewings and thinkings about it, I stopped feeling left out because (and I agree with KB here — amazingly! *g*) it’s about process not content.

What I find especially intriguing about the process is the way that media products (and the vid is about media-based fandoms, not about book-based fandoms — inevitably, perhaps, given the vidding medium itself — so it’s also a celebration of vidding as a medium — but I digress) are transformed into something hand-crafted. The hand-craftedness is an illusion because the effect of scribbled crayons is achieved by digital means but nevertheless, the illusion gestures towards something non-medial, a pre-Benjaminian handcrafted artifact.

Media-based fandom is dependent on the media, and it circulates its own media via the media but the handcrafted effect is also a metaphor for the non-capitalist, ‘underground’ economy of fandom. There’s a pre-capitalist exchange-of-gifts economy in fandom, and the crayon effect gestures towards that, and also towards the do-it-yourself attitude of fans (anyone can do it! you don’t need to get an M.A. in Creative Writing, just pick up your keyboard and type away!).

I love this vid. It’s a celebration of fandom. I, too, thought of the woman at the end as Lim herself, but even if it’s not actually her, I think of it as metaphorically her, and also metaphorically each one of us.

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