When I made “No Limits” as a work of videographic criticism/analytic vidding, back in 2019, I had in mind to make a video about fan video broadly, using The Untamed as an example because I had seen (and made) many fanvids of The Untamed recently. I used a selection of vids by others and my own vids to talk about how fan video as a form uses a range of aesthetics and a repurposing of beloved images for creative expression.
In retrospect, though, I think it’s not accidental that I used The Untamed rather than any other series for this video. It’s not that The Untamed fan videos are palpably or fundamentally different in any way from fan videos using other sources, but rather that The Untamed itself is especially ripe for fan video logics, because the series and the novel it is based on draw on those same logics: logics of affective modularity, of repetition, and of a play between narrative build and circularity.
Mó Dào Zǔ Shī, the novel on which The Untamed is based, advances its story nonlinearly, jumping back and forward in time, and strategically repeating key scenes. The Untamed simplifies this timeline play somewhat, with only one (rather long, 31 episode) flashback sequence. However, the series still repeats key images in the opening of its first episode and at its midpoint climax in episode 33. Indeed, these are the scenes you see in turn repeated in the videos I featured in “No Limits” of Wei Wuxian’s fall from the cliff. The Untamed also features other moments of modular repetition, in the form of a musical montage sequence that mimics the visual logics and affective push of fan videos, and in the opening and closing credit sequences as well. Thus, particular moments within The Untamed transcend their location within the narrative and become free-floating signifiers, movable building blocks from their first instance.
While not all of this play with remix logics is particular to The Untamed, The Untamed and Mó Dào Zǔ Shī both imbue particular visual moments with affective weight, and then build on that weight through repetition, and in so doing invite further affective transformations. Untamed fan video makers then work with these already loaded visual moments, and through audiovisual alignment and narrative repositioning add new layers of emotion and meaning.