So yesterday I posted a rant in my Last.fm journal about Today by The Smashing Pumpkins being used in a Visa commercial, and how I was disturbed by that. I think my thoughts on that actually apply to fandom "coming out" to the public.
I finally truly understand the whole Fanlib.com fiasco and why that really bothered fans. It wasn't just an intellectual response to the problems Fanlib posed, it was an emotional backlash to someone commercializing something that has deep meaning to you. It's a betrayal of your feelings toward fanfiction and the movies and TV we love, and from that comes a deep mistrust that they will not handle your content responsibly. How could they, when they misunderstand on such a fundamental level that our thoughts and feelings should not be for sale? It's not just copyright issues; Fanlib wants to exploit the fact that the fans have strong emotional responses to fanfiction, like Visa wants to exploit my emotional response to Today. They want to make money, with no care at all for the fact that I actually have an opinion on the matter.
(For those that don't know what the whole FanLib fiasco is, read here, here, and here. I'm sure there's way more discussion out there, but I can't seem to find it right now.)
And now vidding is starting to be written up in the press; the signal is going out, as Laura Shapiro says. Can we control the spin the media might put on fandom and vidding, and prevent vids from becoming commercial entities to be used by The Man? Can we prevent them from being hijacked and used in a way that has no meaning for our fannish communities? According to this article at In Media Res it’s already being tried. I’ve previously been very excited at the prospect of vids gaining widespread acclaim because I want everyone to love them like I love them. But I’m starting to understand that even if we aren’t sued out of existence we could be manipulated and censored into something that doesn’t resemble us anymore. If vidding is no longer a rebellious act of irreverence and love and thought and emotion is it still worth watching and doing?
So I’m starting to appreciate more the OTW’s mission to prevent the commercialism of fannish works. If we the fans band together and actively create the kind of community we want and seek to protect it, there is a much higher chance that viding and other fan works will come through this series of changes with little to no destruction to our ideas and abilities. There are those who think the OTW will damage fandom by dragging us out into the spotlight, or by seeking to “speak for” and thus control the fans. (see Ethrosdemon’s post here) But we are already in the spotlight, and I sincerely don’t think the OTW can or will try to control fandom. To me they have demonstrated a willingness to work with everyone by accepting opinions and criticism and adjusting. And it can’t hurt to have someone on our side.
But vidding and commercialism already coexist to some degree. Many of the movies and TV shows we vid are highly publicized and are created to be commercially viable. The advertisers use any and all means to capture our interest and wallets, including using popular songs in their commercials and in their content, creating fan spaces on their websites, and going so far as to have “mash up” contests for the fans. And yet we the fans continue to have deep emotional responses to these shows and movies. The commercialism does not negate our feelings in these cases, so why shouldn’t the same be true for music?
Perhaps because we go into movies or TV shows with upfront knowledge of the commercial aspect and make the conscious choice to ignore it, but when I bought Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness it was new and raw and meaningful. It’s only later that the meaning of the music changed with this commercial, a change that I had no choice in making. And maybe that’s the difference: choice. If I choose to take a movie that’s mainstream and commercial, like 300, and dig deeper meaning out of it by vidding, then I end up with something that I’m happy with. If I show it to you but you don’t like it, well that’s fine. That’s your choice, but it doesn’t negate my enjoyment of the vid. In an environment of choice I don’t have to like everything, and that fact doesn’t bother me.
So maybe that’s the lesson to apply to music. Billy Corgan can do whatever he wants to with his song. It is his song, after all. My feelings and thoughts on the song are not negated by his commercial choices. Does that mean I’m selling out my personal meaning of the song by accepting his commercialism? I don’t know, but I still love the song.