Karina’s Capsule: Women & Online Comedy

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.