Karina’s Capsule: Women & Online Comedy

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A thread on The Chutry Experiment (a blog maintained by film and media studies professor Chuck Tryon) sent me on a mission this week. Tryon is working on an academic paper on movie trailer mashups, and in this blog post, he observed that most of the “hit” trailer mashups (i.e.: Brokeback to the Future, Must Love Jaws) “are for films that are more commonly associated with male audiences…[and] I’m wondering if fake trailers are more commonly identified with male producers.”

One commenter on the post noted that the trailer mashup phenomenon is heavily dependent on the use of “unexpected juxtapositions”, which can be easily produced by either feminizing or masculinizing the subject of the parody (ie: a sensitive soundtrack magically turns Glengarry Glen Ross into an inspirational tale of triumph over diversity.) Another commenter theorized that maybe men produce mashups/parodies while women concentrate on more confessional forms such as video diaries and fan tributes, because “boys [are] rewarded for cleverness” while girls get the same kind of affirmation from sharing their feelings.

I didn’t really buy that, so I went looking for female created and/or female genre-dependent trailer mashups. I hoped to unearth a vibrant subculture of girl-centric mashups. But, as luck would have it, I was disappointed.

I did come across a few videos that test Tryon’s theory that these mashups are usually spun out of “films that are more commonly associated with male audiences.” One example is the hugely popular Scary Mary Poppins, which doesn’t really count; though the source material itself is girl-friendly, it’s clearly been reworked with the masculine (and maybe even misogynist) gaze in mind.

Another example is Notes on a Queen (above), a mashup of the trailers for Notes on a Scandal and The Queen set to the theme of Rocky. Reminiscent of Cecelia Barriga’s 1991 art film Meeting of Two Queens (although probably not consciously so), Notes is the closest thing I’ve seen to a trailer mashup made with the female audience in mind. Still, obviously the Rocky reference effectively transplants the two very feminine sources into a male-associated genre (the video is also a little too brief to fully hammer home its driving joke).

So why do mashups––and, really, all subgenres of comic online videos–tend to skew masculine? Maybe it’s partially indicative of the general paucity of media made for women today; obviously, pop culture parody makers can only mine what the mainstream media gives them to work with. But I also agree with Tryon that a good mashup incorporates a basic affinity for its source, and a lot of the pop culture that is produced expressly for women is often so inherently silly that there’s a sense that it doesn’t need to be subverted, as if the joke is already on anyone who takes it seriously.

This original trailer for Pretty Woman is a good example of that problem; it’s so redolent of late-80s, high-capitalist fantasy that, almost twenty years on, it basically plays as self-parody. Trailers for contemporary chick flicks such as Because I Said So are even worse.

It’s not like women are not participating in the online video boom; any type of visual media is going to offer a wealth of opportunities for smart, attractive on-camera female talent. But I think, on the whole, it’s true that satirical/parodic videos are generally being produced by dudes.

I really don’t want it to come down to something as easy as “girls are more confessional and less interested in irony,” but I do think that cultural expectations play into it. Maybe Lonelygirl passed as real for as long as it did because nobody thought it was weird that a teenage girl might want to broadcast her diary–can you imagine a non-ironic Lonelyboy?

I would love to be proven wrong on this, so if you know of a woman making mashups (or any kind of funny, satirical web videos), please post a link in the comments. I’ll write about any submissions I receive next week.

6 Comments

Chuck

Mark, I think the distinction, at least in my research, is between the kinds of mashups that men and women are making. In fact, women tend to make slash videos, tribute videos, etc, far more often than their male counterparts. My argument is that parody is usually associated with male “creators.”

I don’t disagree at all about Hollywood being oriented for males, given that most Hollywood films tend to be made to ensure that 18-25 year-old men will show up on opening night.

Mark Schoneveld

I don’t think there’s a lack of women making mashups, or editing but rather a paucity of popular material from which to draw. Considering that the most popular movie trailer mashups use Hollywood creations (male-dominated territory indeed), is it at all surprising that mashups, too, appear so masculine?

Aside: Karina, I heard your interview on Spout’s Film Couch podcast (great!) of which the other half was a an interview with Greg Araki about his new film, Smiley Face. They have a lengthy point about how unusual it seems that the film is a female protagonist-driven comedy.

Chuck Tryon

Ohigotchya: Women do engage in other forms of mashups, especially fanvids and tributes or shipping vids. And, in fact, historically many more women have been involved in editing, at least when it comes to film editing. So my question (and maybe Karina’s) is slightly different: why aren’t more women participating in this specific form of web culture?

Also, since when is being “analytical” bad?

ohigotchya

I think this seems a bit too analytical…. Would it be too much to assume that maybe more men are involved in editing? All of these hit videos on trailermash.com, and all of that, are done, for the most part, by men. But, I’d probably be labeled a raging sexist because I said that, right?

check out good will hunted. it’s hilarious.

drew olanoff

I’ve collaborated with 2 women on my show scriggity now. The key is an actual knack for comedy. Comedy is probably the hardest thing to fake. It’s really an art. Alex, who hosts the show now, is extremely real and has a great sense of humor. These were the 2 things that made me pick her :)

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