It’s the end of the year and that means it’s the end of my year-long series, “1994: The Most Important Year of the Nineties!” I close things out with another grab bag that features music, movies, television, politics, and the Internet and then give a final, closing statement about why 1994 is the most important year of what’s proven to be an incredibly important decade.
I rarely intend to turn this space into a media studies seminar, but I have to say that I’m intrigued by how the culture of YouTube has upped the ante on homemade parody and satire, especially when it comes to music videos.
The idea that you can watch a television show, movie, or music video and then grab a video camera and film your own version has been around longer than the world wide web. When I was in junior high school, my friends and I would commandeer my parents’ video camera (one of those huge cameras that held a full-sized VHS tape) and make funny videos of us lip-synching to certain songs or pretending to be in movies or on talk shows (we had one recurring thing that was a parody of Geraldo where the guests would always get into fights).
If YouTube existed back then, I’m sure we would have posted at least one or two videos, although remembering what those videos were like, we would have definitely had to perfect our craft in order to get noticed at all. The idea of copying a professional’s work and making fun of it/paying tribute to it is a craft all its own and just as the people who are creating videos on sites like YouTube have gotten better over the last few years, the audience has definitely gotten more discerning.
Which begs me to ask: is there a benchmark for homemade quality? Have we become so flooded with homemade videos that our home movies now have to have production value?
To examine this, I want to take a look at what’s been a parody meme of sorts (if that is even the right term–I’m not an academic, so most of this really is talking out of my ass) in the last year or so, which is videos that parody, or re-appropriate the Jay-Z/Alicia Keys hit, “Empire State of Mind.”