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festivids

So the worst part about Festivids

Is that while you're making your vid and you're deep within your source, you have all these thoughts but you can't post them because that would give it away.

I dutifully held my tongue earlier, and now I can finally say what I wanted to say at the time.

Really, really, really tl;dr below the cuts.



Young Americans (vid link)

Young Americans lasted eight episodes in the summer of 2000 - nine if you count the unaired pilot - and, sadly, has never been released on DVD. It was a teen drama and vague Dawson's Creek spinoff that took place at the boys' half of a New England boarding school. There is much romance and angst associated with the rich/poor divide between the students and the town residents. In particular, one of the boys (Scout) falls in love with a local girl (Bella) who works at the garage, only to discover that she may be his half-sister. Bella, as it turns out, may have been the product of a brief fling that his father had when he was a student at the same school sixteen years earlier.

But in addition to the whole "maybe incest" storyline, and the ongoing rich-poor storylines, there's a really interesting ongoing issue of gender.

Examples of gender divides and genderbending appear throughout the show. Much of the action centers around the crew team - which is all-male - while the girls are designated onlookers. The crew coach/English teacher - (who I hate, incidentally, with a fiery passion) - tells the students that true writing genius comes not from the head (pointing to his head) or the heart (pointing to his heart) but the penis (clutching his crotch). Which I can only assume means he thinks women can't write.

Bella works in her father's garage, and is almost always shown doing mechanical things with cars, frequently stained by grease. Meanwhile, the boys are photographed to be almost androgynous. They are extremely baby-faced and soft-cheeked, with huge eyes, and deep red lips and cheeks. There's also homoerotic bonding behavior (moreso in the unaired pilot than in the aired one, so I cheated and stole some scenes from that for the vid). Boys, not girls, end up in a huge pillow fight, for example, and there's even a scene where a boy borrows a girl's jacket and wears it for most of the episode.

And at the center of all of this is the Jake-Hamilton romance.

Hamilton is a student at the school who thinks he might be falling in gay love with his best friend, Jake. Except that as we the viewers know, Jake isn't a boy - Jake is a girl pretending to be a boy for reasons that ... make no sense at all.

The show is particularly noteworthy because Hamilton is played by a baby Ian Somerhalder, and Jake is played by Katherine Moennig. Together, particularly when she's in boy clothes, they are both adorable and insanely hot.

Even though textually, we're told (essentially in passing) that Jake's charade is intended as some sort of weird revenge on her uninvolved mother, the reality is, Jake's disguise makes absolutely no sense even within the context of the show unless you believe that Jake is transgender, or at least not comfortable as being defined either male or female. The show communicates very clearly that Jake is not merely "dressing up" in boy's clothes - she is obviously more comfortable behaving like a boy, physically, and in the episode where her mother shows up and she scrambles to conceal her dual-identity, she explicitly treats girl-clothes as though she's in drag.

We don't get to know Hamilton nearly as well as we know Jake, but his whole struggle with believing he might be gay is actually quite charming - because he's clearly uncomfortable with the idea, but at the same time, he's trying to adjust. There's a marvelous scene where he says that he thinks Jake is gay, and that he's bothered by that - but he's trying not to be.

The other really adorable aspect of the Jake/Hamilton romance is a fangirl/yenta character who appears in a couple of episodes. She has a crush on Jake, and a semi-crush on Hamilton, but then figures they're in love with each other and keeps urging them to get together. I swear, if the show had lasted longer, she'd have been writing RPF about them.

Anyhoo, I do recommend the show if only for this storyline. Both Somerhalder and Moennig light up the screen with their chemistry, and Moennig in particular is fantastic as Jake - and it's amusing to me that she comes off as more mature, and more centered, than any other character on the show (including the adults).




Young Sherlock Holmes (vid link)

Mere words are inadequate to convey how deeply Young Sherlock Holmes obsessed me when I was but a wee pre-teen. I saw it twelve times in the theater (frequently sitting through two or three showings at a stretch), and when it finally was no longer playing, I typed up the script from memory. I made up elaborate fantasies about it in my head, and I was desperately, head-over-heels in love with its star, Nicholas Rowe. My obsession was, I recognize today, extremely fannish, but at the time I didn't know from fandom and there wasn't an internet, so I just endured the pain of my love in silence. And devoured all the ACD stories, of course.

So when Waldo's original vidder defaulted, I jumped at the chance to exercise my modly right of first refusal and claim the pinch hit.

Unfortunately, the problem was that I'm not a pre-teen anymore, and I can now recognize the extreme racism that went over my head 25 years (!) ago.

The premise of the movie is a standard angry-brown-person-takes-revenge-on-whites trope. In this case, the angry brown people are Egyptians who are angry because white Englishmen tried to construct a hotel on sacred land, desecrated the graves of five ancient princesses, and ended up destroying a local village. The Egyptians - played by white actors - have come to England to murder the men responsible, and to mummify five innocent blonde girls to replace the princesses. They accomplish this goal by shooting poison darts at people; the darts induce violent hallucinations that cause the victim to do something self-destructive.

The movie is filled with "exotic" scenes of the Egyptian death cult that has been organized in London, white actors in psuedo-Egyptian garb looking grotesque and scary, etc. And despite the fact that the villains do have a real grievance - the destruction of their village and the death of their kin - they are never treated sympathetically, and we're induced to have great affection for at least one of the original Englishmen who caused the massacre. The movie never even shows us the massacre; instead, it's just recited in monologue.

(Sidebar: It was only as I vidded the movie that I realized that there probably wasn't much of a budget, or at least, what budget existed was blown on CGI. We never got Egypt in flashbacks even though it would have been natural to do so, we saw the same London streets over and over without much focus on scenery, etc).

So the big challenge for me was to vid it without reinforcing the racism, and the entire structure of the vid was built around that goal. And this is why I ended up using five betas - more than for any other vid I've made except Origin Stories.

The idea was that I wanted to try to minimize use of the pseudo-Egyptian scenery and costumes, and I also figured that it would help if I tried to put the Orientalism of the movie in a larger context of extraordinary exaggeration, where at least it wouldn't come off as a representation of reality.

In fact, my actual idea in my head - although I don't think it communicates very well - is that almost everything starting from Watson's hallucinations in the second chorus are hallucinations. I figured that the song itself - Senses Working Overtime - suggests a drug-induced state, especially as it becomes increasingly loud and builds to its climax. The Homes 'verse is canonically full of recreational drug use, and while that element is missing from Young Sherlock Holmes, the villains' choice of murder weapon also depends on drugs. I figured that if the Orientalism was portrayed as merely part of Holmes's drug-induced hallucination, that would at least mute some of the problems. So the latter half of the vid has brighter colors and a fuzzier look to it, which is about as far as my technical skills could take me.

Anyway, in the final product, I doubt I was able to really convey that particular idea, although the increasingly-cracked-out structure seems to have come across.

The song was also useful because it kept referring to "guilty ones" and "innocent ones," which enabled me to link the white Englishmen who caused the massacre with guilt. I'd have loved to have been able to link the Egyptians with "innocent," but there just wasn't the footage for it.

So, I guess people may differ on how successful I was at muting the movie's inherent racism, but this was how I chose to make the attempt. I realize that an alternative would have been to try to openly call attention to the racism and critique it, but I don't think I would have felt comfortable doing that for Festivids, and given the limited nature of the footage I think that sort of project would work better in a multifandom context.




Rebel Without a Cause (vid link)

The thing about this movie is, I can't help but read it with modern and adult eyes - which means my perceptions of it are almost certainly extremely different than what was intended in 1955, when things like the "chicky run" scene were shockingly new.

And the thing that's so striking about the movie when you come to it with modern eyes is how incredibly young James Dean seems. Because the title of the movie - Rebel Without a Cause - is incredibly apt. He has no cause; he has no complaint. He lives a privileged, middle class life. His parents have real flaws, absolutely, but they are not genuinely abusive in any way that we see onscreen, and in any event, his angst is far, far out of proportion to their sins. He spends huge portions of the movie sighing and flopping moodily about and tossing and turning with the force of his pain - and the only actual source of that pain is his own adolescence.

Dean's chief complaint about his parents is that his father is dominated by his harpy of a mother. He laments that his dad should just "pop her one" and put her in her place. Obviously, I refuse to accept that as a valid grievance, but he is correct that his parents are dysfunctional. His father refuses to provide any sort of advice or guidance even when Dean begs for it; his mother seems to be more concerned with propriety and appearances than the fact that her son is obviously in a lot of emotional pain. But they also do truly care about him; it's Dean's own immaturity that causes him to focus on, say, the fact that his father puts on an apron to clean up a spill than to focus on the real problems in the household. (Once again, I'm talking from a modern perspective: my understanding is that to 1950s viewers, the apron was a shocking display of emasculation). So in the vid, at least in my head, I was trying to convey that it was Dean's problem - not his father's - that Dean was so disturbed by the apron.

Various scenes that may have seemed tough when they were made in 1955 are almost comic today. Dean very seriously, very solemnly explains that it's absolutely necessary that he engage in pointless, self-destructive behavior to avoid the dreaded, life-ending label of "chicken." (A plot point that is, of course, mercilessly mocked in the Back to the Future series.) Before going out for his tough-guy drag race off a cliff, Dean pauses to engage in the very defiant, very manly behavior of cutting himself a piece of cake left over from dinner to eat on the way. And in one scene, Dean very rebelliously, very moodily drinks himself some milk directly from the bottle out of the refrigerator. Not alcohol - milk. I honestly have no idea how that scene was supposed to be perceived at the time - was it supposed to be shocking that he didn't pour it in a glass first? But today it's endearingly innocent and harmless.

Dean's friends, on the other hand, have much more real troubles. Plato's parents have largely abandoned him to be raised by his housekeeper, and on top of that, he's dealing with the fact that he's gay. (For anyone who doesn't know the movie, Plato's sexual orientation isn't explicit, but it's clear - the shot of the Alan Ladd photo in his locker is classically interpreted as a sign of his sexual orientation, and it's well-known that Sal Mineo was directed to gaze longingly at Dean's character. I saw an article that said originally there was even a plan for a kiss between Dean and Mineo, but I'm not sure I believe a Hollywood director was willing to go that far in 1955). Meanwhile, Judy's father has become distant and emotionally abusive, because - as we the viewer can see, but she can't - he's sexually attracted to her.

One interesting visual theme I noticed while making the vid is that in the grammar of the film, no good comes of having a light shine on you. Before the fatal drag race, Buzz turns a headlight on Dean and then the headlights of all the cars shine on Judy. The bullies shine a flashlight on Plato before attacking him, and, of course, at the end, it's the police lights that drive Plato into the panic that results in his death. I made some effort to capture that in the vid, with the idea that a spotlight is a metaphor for impending adult responsibilities, along with the moment where Dean is literally placed "on the spot" - a metal seal carved into the ground - on his first day of school.


And, that's what I wanted to say weeks/months ago.

I feel better now.

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Comments

I'm glad that you explained all that! It added a lot of depth to the Rebel Without a Cause one.

I did get a real sense of emotional pathos when you included the clip of the dad in the apron. It's not that difficult to update the moment into a more modern idea of masculinity. Kind of how the 2009 Star Trek did to Kirk. They added a lot of ... angst or self-loathing or something. The use of the "I'm not ready" music over the video did kind of the same thing to the apron moment.

I dunno if that's all that clear, but it is in my head.

That Young Americans show sounds amazing. I may have to check it out.
Glad you liked the post :-). I'm glad that some of it was conveyed in the apron-moment; it was tricky to vid because it's so significant in the film that I wanted to use it, but I didn't want to suggest that I was agreeing with Dean's character's complaint.

As for Young Americans, I think "amazing" may be overstating it. It's a WB teen drama, with everything that entails - but in the incest storyline and the crossdressing storyline it does seem to push more boundaries than most. But it's so ... WB ... that you're never 100% that even they know what they're signifying.

But it's fun and I just squee with absolute delight whenever Jake and Hamilton are onscreen.
Ha, yes, I just watched that vid as well, and I really did wonder how the cross-dressing was supposed to come off. I mean, I'm not sure you could show that these days (10 years later) without actually addressing transgender issues... I'm all in favor of a little Shakespearean gender-confusion, but you're right that Hamilton did not come off like a girl pretending to enjoy dressing and acting like a boy.

I like the song you chose for that. Very apropos.
- correction - Hamilton's the guy; Jake, aka Jacqueline, is the girl pretending to be a guy :-).

And I'm glad it came through in the vid - and it really is there in the source - Jake doesn't seem like a girl playing at being a guy. It's the opposite - when she puts on a dress, she seems like she's playing at being a girl. It probably goes too far to say that the character is textually transgendered - she clearly identifies as a girl - but she's definitely straddling a gender line.

Glad you thought the song worked :-).
Thanks for the correction! That gender stuff does sound very interesting. I like it when things are a bit unusual and nuanced.
I LOVED Young Americans, but not enough to *think* about it. So you know, you just blew my mind :D

Jake/Hamilton 4eva1!!1!1!
Heh, I'm glad you liked the post :-)!
Ahh, I didn't know Young Americans had gender stuff like that in it! *grabbyhands* I've been trying to find a copy for my sister, but I've only found a really tiny crappy version. I don't suppose you know where I could find a better copy? *hopeful*

Loved the vid! From what you've said here, the song is just perfect.
I'll message you about copies :-). And I'm glad you enjoyed the vid! And yeah, I think if nothing else you'll enjoy the Jake/Hamilton storyline, and possibly the rest of it :-).
And the future-star spotting. Thank you!!