Supernatural “At the Movies”: Context, Canon, and Genre in AU Vids
by Kristina Busse — Independent Scholar
November 16, 2009 – 22:36
Fan vids and fan fiction are examples of fan responses that creatively analyze, interpret, and respond to the various source texts they engage. And yet their different mediums tend to influence their prominent forms of engagement. Fan fiction certainly includes texts that remain solidly within canon (however that may be defined within the interpretative community that creates and consumes the stories)—yet more often, the stories move beyond the narrative potentials of the show, creating new characters, experiences, and worlds. In contrast, vids are technically more dependent on the footage given, and cannot manipulate it as easily. Most vids thus create their narratives by letting the intersection of music, lyrics, and selected images create a particular lens through which to see the original text(s).
And yet, there has always been a subset of vids that purposefully changes the narrative by pulling images from their original context to completely recontextualize them. Such Alternate Universe (AU) vids create narratives by imagining new events, crossing over different shows, or illustrating existing fan fiction. Whereas interpretive vids often use viewers’ knowledge of a given shot’s context in the source text, AU vids tend to radically de- and re-contextualize footage, helped often by voiceovers or text overlays. Other times, the recontextualized meaning is transmitted by shifting the narrative into a different generic register, expecting the viewer to recognize the genre and resituate the images accordingly.
Ash48’s “At the Movies” is a collection of fictional movie trailers that clearly use Supernatural as a source yet recontextualize the footage with music and other features like decoloration to invoke specific generic conventions. In the Saw segment, for example, the viewer recognizes Sam yet quickly rereads the given footage within the genre of slasher movies. Supernatural already combines various genres, including teen and horror, yet this vid moves through an even more diverse array of genres. Ranging from spaghetti western and film noir to slasher movie and screwball comedy, “At the Movies” requires only a few seconds to invoke these diverse generic filmic conventions and create a series of AUs.
 Examples for AU vids: Mystic Twilight’s House/Dead Poet’s Society crossover If We Shadows Have Offended, which creates Wilson’s back story; Magy’s Bones vid Tears of an Angel, which traces Bones’ responses after Booth’s death; and Livniggle’s Someone you Might Have Been, which accompanies a Supernatural RPS spy story.