Fake Criterion Covers
by Jamie Sexton — Northumbria University
April 14, 2016 – 00:00
Fake Criterion DVD and Blu-ray covers have proliferated over the web in recent years and can be found on a number of sites and forums, testifying to the strength of the company as the finest purveyors of quality home entertainment, both in terms of transfers, supplements, packaging, and choice of films. There is detectable amongst a range of fake Criterion covers, however, an irreverent tone undermining the overly serious ways the company presents itself. Many fake covers satirise the company through mock covers for films that are patently inappropriate for release by the company – such as Dumb and Dumber or White Chicks. The result is a clash between Criterion’s association with quality, and the featured film, which is not. At other times, Criterion fan art can reflect a desire for a specific film to be issued by the company. Amongst fans of Criterion generally – and evident across the plentiful blogs and forums that discuss the company – there are many conversations regarding which films people would like to see undergo the Criterion treatment. In this case, imaginary Criterion designs can act as a register of desire and allow a glimpse into how such a film could look if issued by the prestigious label. Finally, designs can be alternative covers of releases already issued by the company. Alternative covers act as critiques of existing covers; though Criterion has a reputation for excellent designs – it works with a number of designers and has even released a coffee table book, Criterion Designs, showcasing such work – individual cases may still be found wanting (and hierarchies of cover art are apparent in some sites that rank Criterion covers). Alternative covers in this case can be thought of as attempts to rectify a disappointing design.
Tensions between these different approaches can exist. Some – such as Kris Maske – consider the irony-rich approach of creating designs for films that are considered bad and generally unworthy of being released by the company as the ‘proper’ approach to faking Criterion covers (and consider other fake designs as ‘missing the point’). Yet the less reverent, irony-laden covers still tend to strengthen the force of the Criterion brand through prominently circulating the label’s identity and, in deliberately mismatching the quality of film and distributing label, reinforcing the company’s links with ‘quality’.