Comments on: Analog Video and Derisive Laughter Responses to Media and Culture Fri, 12 Feb 2016 19:35:04 +0000 hourly 1 By: Evan Elkins Sun, 14 Nov 2010 19:01:53 +0000 Thanks, everyone, for these great comments.

Alyx–Thanks for the link. Yes, racism, classism, etc. seem often to be embedded in the broader logics of virality and spreadability, even without the technological dimensions that I wrote about. The Antoine Dodson case is an instructive one, particularly considering the prevalence of blackface Dodson Halloween costumes this year. And not to get too far afield, here, but I’m glad that Jefferson brings up People of Wal-Mart. That site and Stuff White People Like make up two sides of the “celebrating white privilege through memes” coin, and I’m often disturbed when I see people linking to these sites without fully considering the dimensions of what they are laughing at. But I digress…

Derek–Great points about audience fragmentation and the fact that nostalgic culture is already so ubiquitous. It reminds me of VH1’s “I Love the…” series, which encroached more and more on the present day, eventually turning into Best Week Ever, Best Year Ever, etc. The shelf-life of cultural productions before they can be remobilized as nostalgia seems to be shrinking. And since so much contemporary culture seems to involve recombination and bricolage, it is perhaps more difficult to locate a common set of images from which the ironic nostalgists of tomorrow will draw. Maybe this isn’t such a bad thing.

Lindsay–Thanks for bringing up the live show. There’s definitely something to the old-school theatrical dimension that seems to reframe the reception of this stuff. I think you can read it a couple of different ways. Is it a gathering where a bunch of people aim their mockery at familiar targets, or is it a community of fans who have found a resource for the particular media that they enjoy–media that find few outlets in “mainstream” aesthetic cultures (to the extent that such a concept exists anymore)? As is always the case, the answer is probably both and everything in between. Indeed, I perhaps undersold in my post the element of earnest appreciation and love of these texts (which I think is there much more in the Found Footage Fest than Everything is Terrible). Heck, I’ll admit that I tend to get much more pleasure out of these old videos than I do from just about anything that currently airs on television.

By: Lindsay H. Garrison Sat, 13 Nov 2010 19:59:44 +0000 Great piece, Evan! I find the Found Footage Festival especially interesting in that it’s turning old VHS content into a live event at a theater which is then repackaged to DVDs. Lots of interesting questions there in terms of form and function of humor – it seems like it’d function best as some sort of viral video content (it’s short, it’s funny, it’s retro, etc.) but I love that it’s worked so well in other places. Is it funnier (or a different kind of funny) if we go to the event and watch/laugh with friends than it is if we watch the clip online alone, or even if we watch the clip online together in our office while taking a break from grading?

By: Derek Kompare Fri, 12 Nov 2010 18:45:58 +0000 It seems we’re stuck in a perpetual nostalgia/retro/irony/derision loop, whereby the recent past (nearly always determined by the childhoods of the beholders) becomes intense fodder for the enlightened present. Oh, how silly we were then! Ha ha ha! Etc. The retro variation (the past as cool) is just a corollary of this.

This treatment of the past inspired my dissertation (and many, many discussions with my Vilas Hall cohorts) back in the 90s, when Gen X was geeking out to its 1970s childhood and intoxicated (literally) by 1950s-60s cocktail culture. However, if you jump back another 20 years, to the 1970s, exactly the same thing was going on, only with the Fifties in the crosshairs (i.e., the childhood of the baby boom).

The major differences today are that access to the recent past is more readily available (assuming that critical analog-to-digital shift is made) yet more diffuse. We all know that sometime soon the 2000s will be the subject of similar treatment, but with a diminishing number of broad targets, given audience fragmentation and the fact that culture is already saturated with the nostalgia of previous generations. I also think that, despite the massive volume of video constantly put online, the typical categories of “found footage” are unlikely to remain “lost” for long in an all digital environment.

That said, the hipsters of 2020 will no doubt get a kick out of those cutting-edge 320×240 video clips of the early 00s, the ridiculous panic around Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” and the like, while they party in their Dora and Boots t-shirts and sip juice boxes, cause it’s “ironic.”

By: Alyx Vesey Fri, 12 Nov 2010 17:45:18 +0000 Great post, Evan. Some of the issues you raise here remind me of Cord Jefferson’s recent piece on embedded racism and classism in the reception of certain Internet memes like the ones made of Antoine Dodson’s news interview. Obviously, I’m not charging these claims against you, but I think his piece dovetails nicely with yours about issues of derisive laughter and distanced Web spectatorship.