It’s always both amusing and kind of uncomfortable when the New York Times deigns to discuss the unwieldy specificities of YouTube, kind of like when your parents ask you about “this band The Decemberists?” after a long week of drive-time NPR. The attempt at youth media awareness is endearing, yet always just not quite right, even when it’s done in the most journalistic of ways.
But the best and most timely are music videos that reflect the primal, Adam-and-Eve attraction that Austen so discreetly cloaked. A clever montage of Austen movie heroines is set to Nelly Furtado’s “Maneater,” and clips of Regency-era men set to Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack.”
These kids and their hard-ons for Regency-era men! Aren’t the young people today just a scream and a half?
But that was really just a testing of the waters, something kind of genteel to ease them into Monday’s exploration of “Crank That”/Disney mash-up videos. The article’s main focus is, wisely, the business end of the issue, namely: why do entities like Disney and Nickelodeon tolerate this desecration of their personified animals and cleaning implements?
Nickelodeon, part of Viacom, sees the humorous videos as fair use of its copyrighted content. “Our audiences can creatively mash video from our content as much and as often as they like,” said Dan Martinsen, a Nickelodeon spokesman. “By the way,” he added, “that was a very nice edit job by whoever did the SpongeBob mash.” (That laissez-faire reaction, it should be noted, comes from a company whose corporate parent has a $1 billion piracy lawsuit pending against Google, the owner of YouTube.)
Disney’s view is starkly different: any unauthorized use of Disney property is stealing. Still, the company picks its battles carefully. While it closely monitors the Web for infractions, Disney will not discuss how it evaluates potential cases of copyright infringement and declined to comment on the “Crank That” videos.
The fact that the postings have not been removed — YouTube regularly yanks videos that media companies identify as pirated material — highlights the situation mash-ups pose for media companies: are these videos parodies of cultural icons and thus protected under copyright law, or do they trample on intellectual property?
Anthony Falzone, a copyright expert at Stanford, said, “media companies have been fairly tolerant of Internet mash-ups and parodies so far. Wholesale piracy is a much bigger issue, so that is where they are focusing most of their efforts.”
Translation: Nickelodeon is, as usual, desperately trying to convey an edgier, down-with-the-kids vibe, while Disney retains its monolithic evil empire silence, allegedly fighting greater evils. But is this a sufficient explanation of Disney’s tolerance of these mash-ups? Not for me, which is why I’ve made my own assumption: Disney secretly gets a kick out of the videos. “Crank That” is obscene, but just innocuous enough to turn a blind eye. Plus, and it pains me to admit this, the videos are generally pretty entertaining. It’s like, if your little brother made you watch them you’d probably be like, “Yeah, whatever,” but just taken at face value for investigative purposes, they’re refreshingly bouncy and fun. Except for maybe the SpongeBob video, which is just inherently grating.
I asked my film school friend Matt Porter to apply his gimlet eye to a few of these videos and give me some of his opinions, as a Final Cut Pro…pro. I’ve also taken the liberty of noting the means by which each video visually represents the lyric “super soak that ho.”
Winnie the Pooh
Matt says: Ok, so, “Soulja Boy” Pooh I approve of. The editing took attention to detail, and while it may not be quite on par with videos like The Electric Six’s “Gay Bar” when it comes to syncing mismatched video with audio, it still works, and creates a very enjoyable uncomfortable vibe.
Super soak that ho: A heffalump squirting Roo with water from its trunk.
The Lion King
Matt says: I like the fact that this one chooses to use different clips for “yoooooo” each time it comes up instead of the same series of clips. Again, the lining up of audio and video isn’t perfect, but in terms of the general action matching the song, this one might be better than Pooh. This is more like a music video.
Super soak that ho: Simba playfully pulling Nala into the water.
Matt says: Good use of Bambi’s facial expressions, even though the lip syncing is pretty far off. Various good character positions; the attitude in their stance matches the mood (of the song). I like the final shot of the two just looking at each other.
Super soak that ho: Bambi stumbling around in a puddle with a turtle on his nose (kind of disappointing).
Matt’s verdict: I think Bambi is my favorite, actually. It gets the pace right more than the others. Lion King is good, but lets some moments go too long, and cuts oddly offbeat.