Supernatural “At the Movies”: Context, Canon, and Genre in AU Vids

Curator's Note

Fan vids and fan fiction are examples of fan responses that creatively analyze, interpret, and respond to the various source texts they engage. And yet their different mediums tend to influence their prominent forms of engagement. Fan fiction certainly includes texts that remain solidly within canon (however that may be defined within the interpretative community that creates and consumes the stories)—yet more often, the stories move beyond the narrative potentials of the show, creating new characters, experiences, and worlds. In contrast, vids are technically more dependent on the footage given, and cannot manipulate it as easily. Most vids thus create their narratives by letting the intersection of music, lyrics, and selected images create a particular lens through which to see the original text(s).



And yet, there has always been a subset of vids that purposefully changes the narrative by pulling images from their original context to completely recontextualize them. Such Alternate Universe (AU) vids create narratives by imagining new events, crossing over different shows, or illustrating existing fan fiction.[1] Whereas interpretive vids often use viewers’ knowledge of a given shot’s context in the source text, AU vids tend to radically de- and re-contextualize footage, helped often by voiceovers or text overlays. Other times, the recontextualized meaning is transmitted by shifting the narrative into a different generic register, expecting the viewer to recognize the genre and resituate the images accordingly.

Ash48’s “At the Movies” is a collection of fictional movie trailers that clearly use Supernatural as a source yet recontextualize the footage with music and other features like decoloration to invoke specific generic conventions. In the Saw segment, for example, the viewer recognizes Sam yet quickly rereads the given footage within the genre of slasher movies. Supernatural already combines various genres, including teen and horror, yet this vid moves through an even more diverse array of genres. Ranging from spaghetti western and film noir to slasher movie and screwball comedy, “At the Movies” requires only a few seconds to invoke these diverse generic filmic conventions and create a series of AUs.


[1] Examples for AU vids: Mystic Twilight's House/Dead Poet's Society crossover If We Shadows Have Offended, which creates Wilson's back story; Magy's Bones vid Tears of an Angel, which traces Bones' responses after Booth's death; and Livniggle's Someone you Might Have Been, which accompanies a Supernatural RPS spy story.


Thinking about Supernatural AUs always makes me think of the various Dean/Buffy and Dean/Faith crossover vids -- which, in light of your post, makes me think of the ways in which genre and context get used in crossovers. Shows of similar genres, such as BtVS and Supernatural, are relatively easy to cross over because so many of the visual conventions are shared. And context can either be played down or played for comedy, depending on the vidder's focus.

Yes, there are tons of interesting shipping xovers. But then my analogies to fic continue nicely, don't they? Buffy/SPN and even SPN/CM work in ways in which HP/SPN or, heck, LOTR/SPN do not as easily.

Then again, if you choose to completely play against genre, let's say, the Legends of the Fall SPN version, then you could easily create it in the same universe as, let's say Gossip Girl or Greek. Blair meets the apocalypse might be interesting, but generically kinda a nightmare :)

As we speak, I am preparing a vid 101 collection for a class I am teaching: which means I have to select 'accessible' texts to avoid stumping all those who are non-fans of this or that series. I think this vid is going to go in my top ten because it nicely bridges fan vids with other genres: even in the unlikely event that students don't know SPN, they will get the idea of vidding as textual re-imagining, transformation and bridging.  The main objective from non-fans, "lack of originality" is easier to rebut if there is an overt reaching out to non-fan references--such as in this case.

I'm glad this works for you. In general, I think, Constructed Reality vids with their decontextualization make the transformativity claim a tad easier even as you lose some of the interpretation/analysis aspect of vidding.

I know Nina picked this piece in part because of its "accessibility," and I wonder if there's a sort of inverse relationship at work here. Are AU vids generally more accessible than traditional vids because they rely less on knowledge of canon and conventions and try to create a more self-contained gesture? In this case (in contrast to your other, more narrative examples), it seems there's something else going on: a crossover with the fake trailer genre, which offers the accessibility of recognizable parody rather than of autonomous storytelling. I think this begs the question of why it's important that the source is Supernatural. I would read the commentary on Supernatural's own genre play as more significant than you're giving it credit for being. Regardless of the relationship to the show, I'd argue that what differentiates this vid from other fake trailers is its contextualization within a Supernatural fan community that regularly experiments with genred AUs. So maybe it's not so accessible as it appears?

I do think that Constructed Reality vids can be more accessible because they do not require canon knowledge. That's more the case here and in the J2 example than in the Bones one, for example, because the latter relies heavily on canon nevertheless, more rereading the canon moments under a different premise. But here the stories get completely created out of thin air so to speak, randomly using fitting images.

I do think, as you point out, that the genre play IN SPN is important--I actually talk more about that elsewhere. I disagree, however, that it's the SPN fan community and its genre play as much as it is fandom in general (I think many fandoms experiment with genred AUs, so I wouldn't see that specific to SPN in any way) and, more importantly, the show's genre play in particular. 

I may be misunderstanding you, though. Are you suggesting that SPN unlike other media fandoms specfically plays with genre and that the vid reflects that? Or just that genre shows in general, and the fandoms they create, play with genre???




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