The Good, the Bad, and the Book Trailers (Vol. II: Fun With Mashup)

Earlier this year I posted a selection of book trailers for monster mashup titles in honour of World Book Day (…in the UK and Ireland). This week I’ve been doing some research into several YouTube productions, and thought I’d take the opportunity to do a second instalment. This time, instead of trailers for actual books, I’ve got a series of trailers and videos for nonexistent mashup projects that I wish someone would actually produce.

the_jane_austen_mashups_wed_really_love_to_see

The first (an old SNL sketch) mashes up the creature from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with the first Twilight film. If you thought Edward was broody, wait until you see Frankenstein’s creature in action. Also, they substituted Jacob’s werewolf with another classic monster:

This next one takes footage from the Harry Potter films and mashes it up with audio from a Pride and Prejudice adaptation. Why not fill two literary voids at once?

There’s also a ‘Real Housewives of Jane Austen’ parody trailer that I would absolutely watch if they ever made it into a proper series:

My personal favourite was the following video, a mashup of Jane Austen’s novels and the movie Fight Club:

I like this video in particular because it’s tonally incongruous with Austen’s books (I don’t remember Lizzie going around punching people, unless we’re talking about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), and yet humorously true to her feminist message, and the bold personalities of her characters.

For a few more parodies that run on incongruity and anachronism, see Pineapple-Shaped Lamps‘ sketch, in which Jane and Lizzie Bennet encounter spam mail (bonus points for their exaggeration of the way Jane and Lizzie address each other – ‘my gleaming beam of familial charity’):

And this BuzzFeed production, ‘Things Jane Austen Characters Do That Would Be Weird If You Did Them’:

And of course, Mitchell and Webb’s parody of dancing in Pride and Prejudice:

If music’s your thing, check out this montage of period dramas set to the tune ‘It’s Raining Men’:

And for a break from Austen (and also for the hell of it), here’s an Epic Rap Battles of History episode in which Charles Dickens character Ebenezer Scrooge faces off against Donald Trump:

(They’ve also got one featuring Jack the Ripper).

Consuming Gender (CfP)

From the delightful 'women laughing alone with salad' meme
At least I’ve got my salad. (Image from the fabulous ‘women laughing alone with salad’ meme.)

Because I’m clearly not busy enough writing my thesis, or putting together two events (see BAVS 2016 and Fantasies of Contemporary Culture), I am excited to announce that I’ll also be co-editing a special issue of Cardiff University’s Assuming Gender journal. If you guessed that the issue title, ‘Consuming Gender’, was inspired by this year’s BAVS theme, ‘Consuming (the) Victorians’, congratulations! You are correct.

You can find the call for papers below:


Consuming Gender

This special issue of Assuming Gender – an online, peer-reviewed academic journal from Cardiff University – seeks to explore the way gender is both presented and consumed through popular media and advertising. As Ann Herrmann points out in the article ‘Shopping for Identities’, commodities ‘are characterised by their dual nature: material composition and symbolic meaning’ (Herrmann 2002: 539). Consumer culture plays a significant role in constructing valid (and normative) identity categories with which consumers are encouraged to identify.

From a Times Higher Education article suggesting that 'students with consumer mindset get lower grades'. Not just blonde, female students, hopefully.
From a Times Higher Education article suggesting that ‘students with consumer mindset get lower grades’. Not just the blonde, female ones, hopefully.

Scholars as diverse as Americus Reed, Laura C. Nelson, and Henry Jenkins have theorised the ways in which identity and consumer culture are intertwined. Reed, for example, claims in ‘Activating the Self-Importance of Consumer Selves’ that ‘[s]ocial identities are mental representations that can become a basic part of how consumers view themselves’ (Reed 2004: 286). In a later article on ‘Identity-Based Consumer Behaviour’, Reed and others use the example of athletics to illustrate their point: ‘if consumers view themselves as “athletes”, they are likely to behave in ways that are consistent with what it means to “be” an athlete’ (Reed, Forehand, Puntoni and Warlop 2002: 310). Consumption thus becomes defined by identity, and identity becomes defined by consumption.

From the mock article 'If Athlete Ads Were Honest', 2012.
From the mock article ‘If Athlete Ads Were Honest’, 2012.

While the construction of identities based on athleticism seems relatively benign, the case quickly becomes more complicated when consumer identities are racially, economically, or sexually coded. In addition to delineating the borders between various interest groups, consumer culture plays a significant role in establishing and maintaining binary identity distinctions (male/female, gay/straight, black/white), undermining the validity of those identifying across or in-between one or more categories, or who refuse categorisation at all. Those identities not classified as valid consumer groups are not seen as valid identities at all.

feminism-gender-stereotypes-900x542
No caption needed.

For this special issue of Assuming Gender, we invite articles that focus specifically on the idea of ‘Consuming Gender’. How has consumer culture constructed (and how has it been constructed by) gender through the ages?

Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:

·       Consuming gender/gendered consumption

·       Historical contexts of gendered consumption

·       Feminist/postfeminist approaches to consumption

·       Consumption and intersectionality

·       Queer consumption

·       Media constructions of (gendered) consumer identities

·       Post/colonialism and gendered consumption

Please send a proposal of roughly 500 words to Megen de Bruin-Molé, Akira Suwa and Daný van Dam at gender@cardiff.ac.uk under the subject line ‘CFP Consuming Gender’, including your name, e-mail institutional affiliation (if any), and a biographical note (100 words maximum). We welcome papers from scholars of all backgrounds, disciplines, and career stages. The deadline for proposals is 16 October, 2016, and completed papers of 5000 to 8000 words will be expected no later than 16 April, 2017.

Assuming Gender is an electronic journal dedicated to the timely analysis of constructions of gendered texts, practices, and subjectivities. This journal seeks to continue and shift debates on how gender is problematized in contemporary discourses as well as participate in the dialogue and tensions that maintain the urgency of such conversations. Prior issues can be viewed on www.assuminggender.com.


© Sharpe Suiting
Image © Sharpe Suiting

Need some help getting started on an abstract? Check out this 2013 article on how ‘women hold the key to the regeneration of the high street’This more recent piece introduces readers to Queer fashion designer Leon Wu, of Sharpe Suiting. A 2015 study argues that gender neutral toys empower children, and this CSNBC article includes a number gendered shopping generalisations, such as the gem: ‘Men like to read’. US retail giant Target’s move away from gender-based signs is also worth a look. And in the interests of intersectionality, this article argues that ‘advertising is a tax only poor people pay’, while this one discusses the portrayal of black people in a recent Gap ad.

Or you could just watch these YouTube clips:

10 Things I Hate About You – Prada Backpack

Burger King – The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Toys Commercial (2010)

Adam Ruins Everything – Why People Think Video Games are Just for Boys

What They Do in the Shadows is Basically What We Do, Too

Whatever I had been expecting from vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, it wasn’t what I got in the end. And I mean that in the best possible way. Where to start? With plot, I suppose, though that may be the least interesting part about this film. What We Do in the Shadows follows a film crew documenting the lives of five vampire flatmates in Wellington, New Zealand, in the run-up to the annual Unholy Masquerade Ball.

what-we-do-in-the-shadows-image-1
Meet the boys.

They may be eternally youthful in the stories, but in pop culture vampires are kind of old. It’s more or less all been done before, and there’s a lot of baggage to engage with. What We Do in the Shadows runs us through the stereotypes of vampire folklore and cinema. You’ve got Petyr, a silent, Nosferatu-esque vampire who’s over 8,000 years old. Then there’s the medieval noble Vladislav (a.ka. “Vladislav the Poker”), a tongue-in-cheek reference to Vlad the Impaler, often cited as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Next up is Deacon, a mere 183 years old, who considers himself the “bad boy” of the group and enjoys pulling the turning-food-into-worms gag from The Lost Boys. The most recent addition is the two-month-old Nick, who goes around telling people he’s “that guy from Twilight”. The description is more accurate than he knows: he doesn’t make a very good vampire in the traditional sense, and honestly he’s kind of a douche. Plus all of his bragging eventually brings a vampire hunter down on the house, with upsetting consequences.

Finally there’s Viago, the primary narrator. A dandy from the 17th century who is basically a mashup of Louis and Lestat (you probably know them as Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt) from Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire, Viago tries to keep the peace between his flatmates, feed on victims without getting blood all over his antique furtiture (unsuccessfully), and entertain the camera crew, all while pining for his lost love Katherine.

cQXlDYsxdSJg9quBIM8IgpphAon
Poor Viago. He can never quite keep the house clean.

The film may be a mockumentary, but it also uses a lot of horror tropes, mostly for the sake of a joke. The typical melodrama found in contemporary vampire movies is turned on its head to highlight how ridiculous classic phrases and scenarios sound when taken even slightly out of context:

“Leave me alone to do my dark bidding on the internet!”
“Whatcha bidding on?”
“This table…”

The typical glamour of the vampire lifestyle also gets flipped around in the mockumentary. Like Ann Rice’s bored and decadent vampires, you can see that the five flatmates in What We Do in the Shadows basically make it as vampires because they were (and are) so bad at being people. Ironically this is also what makes them sympathetic as people.While we’re laughing at their quirks and misfortunes, ours feel small in comparison. Their mistakes may have bigger and bloodier consequences – though is blood harder to get out of upholstery than red wine? – but most of us can empathise with their failures and frustrations. And if that fails, we’ve still got Stu the IT guy.

You rock, Stu.
You rock, Stu.

What I honestly didn’t expect was how funny or engaging I would find this movie, something that has to do with how good of a parody it is on several levels. It takes a poke at a lot of different things – pop culture, New Zealand, bachelors, the elderly, support group slogans (“werewolves, not swearwolves”) – but it also does a great job at using vampires to pick apart our ideas about loneliness, immortality, and just generally being human. Ironically, this makes What We Do in the Shadows a good vampire movie in addition to a good parody. Though some have accused the film of being shallow, for me it was a much-needed breath of fresh air in the otherwise stale crypt of vampire cinema, and it delivered everything we want from our vampires in this specific place and time.

Without casting any literal reflection themselves, vampires still manage to reflect our needs, interests, and emotions, even in 2015.

taika_waititi_s_new_film_what_we_do_in_the_shadows_1670679555
They know what we want more than anything right now is ghostly floating teacup antics.