This parodic trailer is a “paratext without a text.” It has no actual film that it is advertising. Instead it is an aggregation of tropes and clichés of independent films that have succeeded at the Sundance festival. The producers, who are part of a media collective in LA, Tastesfunny, explicitly designed the trailer for a perceptive LA audience of “jealous and bitter filmmakers” well versed in these tropes.
Through parody, the paratext invites viewers to unpack various layers of meaning so they can be “in on the joke.” By not focusing on a single film, the trailer ridicules the Sundance institute’s overarching tendency to define quality films as those with content which is “other” to the privileged, white, liberal, heterosexual and normative subject position of many of the presumed judges. Yet, even though it is not focusing on a single “text,” the paratext is calling on viewers to engage with its intertextuality, which as Jonathan Gray defines is the “the fundamental and inescapable interdependence of all textual meaning upon the structures of meaning proposed by other texts.” The trailer mentions by name Sundance films like Precious and actors well known for starting in films that premiered at the festival, including Michael Cera and Anna Paquin. Visually the trailer draws on imagery from Beasts of the Southern Wild and Brokeback Mountain and more subtly evokes that of other independent films.
This trailer illustrates that despite the interesting provocation of this theme week, there are really no “paratexts without texts.” All media draws on, references, and interacts with texts of some sort. Yet, I’m interested in exploring the role that a parodic paratext, which doesn’t lay claim to a specific text, can play in displacing the meaning and understanding of that which it is ridiculing.
I discovered this trailer while researching the gendered discourses in paratexts for independent films. And, I found that even though the intended object of ridicule in this trailer is the Sundance Institute, through the parody’s explicit intertexuality that ridicule is extended to the films it draws on. Specifically, I am troubled by how easily images of race, class, and gender diversity can become the unintended, but nevertheless salient targets of ridicule in a parody such as this. I wonder whether the function of a paratext without an intended text is to encourage readers to easily displace meaning from one subject onto another?