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Fic Rec Wednesday goes visual: here’s our list of the all-time best fanvids out there, music videos that embody smart parody of classics like Firelfy, Sherlock Holmes, and The Avengers.
This week we’re taking a break from our regularly scheduled fanfic recommendations to introduce you to some fanvids. Although some like to sit back and relax with a long fanfic read, vids can provide a short visual burst of 3-5 minutes of action, humor, or romance—great for bite sized entertainment. They can also be thought provoking and powerful. In many ways, a short video can pack more of a punch than the proverbial thousand words. This Wednesday, here’s a brief list of some of our favorite musical fanvids.
Firefly: How much is the Geisha in the Window? by lierdumoa.
In the decade since its cancellation, Firefly has gained a massive cult following and become a staple of sci-fi conventions everywhere. It’s universally beloved by its fans. However, some viewers such as Racebending’s Mike Le have pointed out that for a show that supposedly embraces Chinese culture and features white characters speaking Mandarin on a regular basis, there is a mysterious lack of Asian characters on screen.
“How much is the Geisha in the Window?” takes this idea and runs with it, highlighting the way Firefly exoticises Chinese culture while simultaneously omitting Asian people. Providing an emotionally charged music video style summary of the issue in question, the vid explains the racist undertones of Firefly more succinctly than most writers could. By 2009, “How much is the Geisha…” was iconic enough that it was cited by Georgetown professor Rebecca Tushnet during the US Copyright Office’s DMCA hearings.
Star Trek: … on the dancefloor by sloanesomething.
Arguably the most famous fandom in the world, Star Trek is now the subject of countless academic theses as well as a groundswell of fan commentary. The original 1960s television series was unusually forward thinking for its time, but J.J. Abrams faced some problems when it came to the 2009 reboot movie, Star Trek XI. How to update such a dated concept for modern audiences? As it turned out, Star Trek XI was a huge excess for old and new fans alike, but one can’t help that notice that the original series crew looks considerably less progressive in the 21st century than it did in 1966.
“…on the dancefloor” is a perfect example of the way fanworks often manage to combine enthusiasm for their fandom with provocative criticism of the original source material. In poaching the “Too Many Dicks On The Dancefloor” song from cult musical comedy show Flight of the Conchords, this fanvid immediately lets us know that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Still, this is a case where the lyrics of the background track are almost too perfect. The camera pans over a cast of male heroes rushing around while Uhura rolls her eyes in the background, and we have to wonder: is the “bro-ho ratio” on the USS Enterprise kind of ridiculous? Can it really be that difficult to fix the problem of “Too Many Dicks?”
This vid went on to inspire several homages, including one about videogame characters by Anita Sarkeesian of FeministFrequency.
Sherlock: A Bit Not Good by sketchy2.
Taking its title from a line in the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes adaptation, when John Watson carefully informs Sherlock that his behaviour is “a bit not good,” this fanvid gets a little meta, and is a cheerful satire of fanfics—the many fanworks that glorify Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock as a misunderstood hero. A great deal of the humor in Sherlock is based around John’s long-suffering tolerance for Sherlock’s awful behavior, but through the lense of slash fandom this is often interpreted as a sign of deep and abiding love.
“I love you ‘cause you’re shaking and ‘cause you’re always tense. / Compared to you I’m Mr Cool, Professor Confidence.”
As the quintessential buddy cop duo, Holmes and Watson can be interpreted in any number of ways, from lovers to business partners to crime fighting cartoon mice. The overwhelming popularity of the John/Sherlock pairing often leads to stories where Sherlock’s flaws are smoothed over or romanticised; “A Bit Not Good” takes a gleeful look at the opposite idea—that Sherlock really is as terrible as the show suggests, and is just keeping John arround to make himself feel superior.
The Avengers: In the Bullpen by genusshrike.
“It’s been assumed I’m soft or irrelevant, / ‘Cause I refuse to downplay my intelligence.”
One idea that surfaced in reviews of last summer’s Avengers movie time and time again was the suggestion that Scarlett Johansson’s character, Black Widow, was a token female addition to the team. Many reviews scorned her catsuit-like costume (as if Captain America wasn’t wearing virtually the same outfit, albeit with a more patriotic color scheme). In the Bullpen kicks this opinion in the teeth, smartly illuminating all the ways in which Black Widow was actually one of the most significant characters in the film.
This popular misinterpretation of the Black Widow is oddly relevant to her role within the movie, as much of her strength comes from other characters underestimating her skills as a spy and strategist. In her notes for “In the Bullpen,” fanvid artist genusshrike writes:
“I didn’t just want to show her action scenes in this vid; I wanted to show her interrogation skills; the way she helped to bring the team together; how she was the one with the presence of mind to shut down the portal… After I’d made it, I found out there were people who hadn’t seen Natasha’s contributions to the story.
‘The famous Black Widow, and she turns out to be simply another pretty face,’ says the mob boss in the movie. Turns out some people took that seriously–even though it’s made quite clear that Natasha’s been the one in control. Even when they’re shown the consequences of underestimating her.”
Art by Aja Romano
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor