Us (multifandom vid)
|"Us" by Regina Spektor
|TV shows, films, screencaps, a conference
streaming @ youtube
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Us is a multifandom metavid by lim. It was released to great acclaim, discussion, and some controversy. Many who loved the vid felt that it was about them, as fans and as a fannish community, and illustrated the experience and mindset of fandom. Others felt that any "us" that the vid illustrated implied an opposing or excluded "them."
The vid has remained popular both with fans, acafans, and critics and scholars outside of fandom. Alexis Lothian's essay "Living in a Den of Thieves" is a close reading of the vid. Michael Wesch included it in his Anthropological History of YouTube. It was part of an exhibition called "Mediated" which ran January 24, 2009 - April 4, 2009 at the California Museum of Photography.
Lim's Production Notes
Lim posted her production notes here.
The hardest thing for me about this vid was working out how I felt about the community that is fandom, and one of the strangest things about reading some of the discussion and criticism (to which I am not opposed btw omg) of the final product is the assertion that this is a vid immersed in vidding history and that you'd have to've been to Vividcon to understand it. Which, er, no! Yes, I've read quite a lot of vidding meta in passing doing +metafandom , but I don't participate in it. I've never been to Vividcon; I've never been to any con, or seen a vidshow. I mean, I am sitting here right now, actually, with a zine in my hand and I have literally never seen one before today. Someone has showed TIHIW at a con, but I'm buggered if I know where.
I love the hive mind; I love it when I get on the same wavelength with a whole group of people and there is squee and joy and fun and connection. But I don't agree with the Geek Social Fallacy idea that unless everyone wants to do something no one should do anything. Or that we all have to agree on worth, or even, really, that there is a war for resources (this was another discussion that was going on at the same time in Supernatural ) going on in fandom. I mean, in a way I do get that. I understand that kind of deep-belly-rumble feeling where the stuff you want to be squeed about is being impoverished by the squee that is being wasted, just wasted, on this other crap you don't care about. So, if you give her, or that fandom or that story or whatever, that attention it means you're not giving it to this thing, that I'm invested in: that finite piece of time is spent. And I don't think it's even necessarily about jealousy because I don't think it has to be about "your" squee quota being used up by someone else, it can totally be like, you guuuuyyyys, why aren't you squeeing over this story that blew me away that I want to love on and yay about?But, see I think that squee begets squee. The more you squee the more squee there is. Trying to legislate something so personal and unreasonable as fannish joy is to kill it dead. Really, just kill the whole thing dead in its head. The end. Also I feel like fandom is... fandom is like a post-scarcity civilisation. It's like the Culture! There is, literally, room for everybody. The multiverse is infinite and various and so are we. *raises fist* There are still physical scarcities, of course: I can vid because I've got a fucking great computer, and if I didn't, I simply couldn't access that part of fandom in that way; but there's no limit on ideas, on emotional resonance, on how many Frasers can live in your head. There's no limit! There's enough joy to go around; there are enough Frasers for everyone! And there always will be. Even if a hundred thousand people decide that Fraser is actually a psychopathic middle-manager from Bexhill Upon Sea, my Fraser is undiminished. And thinking differently just means there are more Frasers; it's wealth, not deprivation.
I wanted to say that —this is something that has been derided and scorned and dismissed a great deal in fandom, and characterised as "an excuse" — but I wanted to say how unhappy I am, in general, with representations of women in media, and how little I identify with most of them, and how much more I wanted to be... to BE. And I don't think that's misogynistic, because I like myself, I like real women, but I think Weir is a dickhead and Frannie is a moron, and I don't want to be Teyla because she was like the president of the world and now she just traipses around in a belly top doing high kicks for no reason and, frankly, I want more! For both of us! I don't want to be the prize in someone else's story! I don't want to be the mommy, or the wife; I want to be the fucking rocket scientist, and I don't think that Joss Whedon has an authority over me on what the story of... I can't write this out! I don't know how. Hence vid.
Techniques: The vid makes use of frame-by-frame editing in a graphics program, which is fairly rare in Western media fandom vids. For an AMV using a similar technique and referring to multiple fandoms, see Elvis vs. Anime. More details of this technique are described in lim's production notes, linked in the discussion section above.
One of the non-fandom sources the vid uses is footage from Converge Culture Consortium's Future of Entertainment Conference, held November 17, 2006. The footage of Henry Jenkins, professor and influential acafan, speaking at the conference's Introductory Talk.
Many who loved the vid felt that it was about them, as fans and as a fannish community, and illustrated the experience and mindset of fandom. Others felt that any "us" that the vid illustrated implied an opposing or excluded "them." Some fans did not believe they were represented by the vid and thus felt that they were of the "them."
Many loved the vid's use of effects, which turned the mass media footage of fannish TV shows and films into something that looked drawn in pencil and thus felt handmade; others felt that the effect was distancing or otherwise hard to see, that it stood between them and the footage. Those who loved the vid felt it staged a fannish way of seeing in its use of color to highlight particular things in a frame a fan might focus on; those who didn't like it felt it was hard to process, that the effects blurred the underlying images.
"Us" is brilliant not only because it's telling us the entire history of media fandom and its wildfire spread (even up to and including the recent and slightly uncomfortable move to mainstream and/or critical attention) just gorgeously, through natural metaphors like the "mountain" "trees" "water" and "avalanche", but also because it shows us, rather than tells us about, two things that are key to fandom as I understand and love it: 1) she turns the mass media image into something that looks handworked; by "drawing" some of the most famous footage in fannish history she turns the mass-produced back into the handcrafted, just like we do: I swear to God, some of the frames as she's worked them remind me of crysothemis's pictures of Sheppard, or Jean Kluge's Blairs. To me, it's a metaphor of everything we do in fandom, where we write personalized, customized, by request stories, and make pictures and vids of commercialized, mass-produced images; and 2) it stages what it means to "see" fannishly, which is to attend to (sometimes odd or interesting or peculiar) details, to care about the parts of canon that aren't necessarily "important", to interrogate and focus on and fetishize bits and parts--a scarf, a shirt, the tic of a hand. That's what it's like to SEE like a fan, imo. And this vid doesn't tell us that, it DOES it, by showing us not only the "big" pictures (note the fantastic sequence where she links a ton of fannish actors through their fannish roles) but by focusing us on the kind of minutae we adore.
God, this is amazing. I'm not a visual person, and it's going to take me watching this a million times to actually see half the things she's put in there, but I already love it.
and now it is MINE too, in that way, because oh, OH, how NOT to melt? This is so-- It's a little bit fast in places for me to make everything out, but that is part of the thrill, too, like my fandom experience no matter how wide and broad and long will never cover all of yours, hers, ours, IT ALL. But, yes, perfect, the choices and the HAND drawing, the masking and unmasking parts of the image, the PROCESSing which is what we do, and the proper unmasking of the crowd at the end, oh, man, GOOSEBUMPS.
I've been looking around for some discussion about this amazing vid, hoping to clear up some of the parts I didn't quite "get" and share some opinions, but haven't been able to find any chat on it anywhere. The artist's LJ is locked which means if she talked about the vid, the work that went into it, or the intention of the vid and various images she used, it's not where I can see it. Have you seen any critical meta on this vid around, and if so, could you point me in that direction? I really want to see what people had to say about it.... I was thinking as I viewed the vid (for the 100th time) that a great clip to drop in during the "mountain" quick cuts would be at the very beginning of the first Indiana Jones movie where the Paramount logo fades into a real mountain and we pan down to start Indy's adventure -- that fade would have been a perfect shot to "steal" (HA! I wrote that unironically when I first typed this out) and drop in at some point during the fast cuts of the mountains, as a comment on Paramount's ownership of ST. Because to me, the vid says that They create it and We rework it, and it goes on to say that They are now trying to hold us in and hold us back by claiming rights & ownership beyond what they've claimed in the past (Blake trapped in his chair, Bodie suppressin' Doyle, Krycek imprisoned and trying to get out, the wonderfully ironic and iconic change of the Bat Signal into a big Copyright symbol), but it can't work because public discourse & the public's imagination *must* give us a certain rights of "fair use" in order to express ourselves (Fraser bursting out of the vault, the avalanche, the hordes of fen revealing themselves defiantly.) But I lose the thread during other parts of the vid, where shots I have no idea about are given a relatively long time on the screen: the floor of lit circles, what is that? I can't for the life of me tell who or what that figure is, it's too murky. I don't know much about The Matrix: Neo's face seems to morph into a toothy mask at one point after a dark line climbs up his shoulder, not sure what that means or if it means anything at all. Why do the Matrix shots split into 3 stacked blocks for a few moments, is there a reason the book goes green, etc. -- does it mean something or nothing? I'm fascinated to read the symbolism other people got from specific shots that I did not get. Also, the girl at the end... is that supposed to be *us*? -- because she works for me as The Common Fan; she looks like, well, ME and about a million people (girls & women) I used to attend cons with.
I get "Us" and that it's about fan appropriation more than any single show, though it took me quite awhile to understand its message. One of the reasons I think it took me as long as it did to "get" that vid is because I don't recognize the iconic shots from the big fandoms, which just happen to be male-centric shows, and often shows with large slash fandoms. My prevailing reaction every time I watch is. . . where are the women? I think there is maybe one shot of Scully and a couple quick ones of women later? I can definitely count them on one hand. And if there are any shots of characters of color, I missed them. That's because the answer is that the women are behind the curtain, underneath the mask. They're the audience and the appropriators writing and vidding the stories, but the stories are still about men. Though again, I do understand the power of the concept of women as the recreators, the almost total lack of women or any other non-white straight male characters in the stories themselves, as portrayed by this vid and several others, is worthy of note. As ghost_lingering says in her comments linked above, "‘Us’ isn't celebrating my version of fandom. It's not even celebrating what my ideal version of fandom would be.
When it was released, this songvid ate fandom. It's easy to see why: it's an anthem to fangirls and the way they love and invest in stories and pictures and characters -- all the things I've tried to encapsulate in this rec set. Saying anything else about "Us" would be hype for the sake of it; this vid speaks for itself.
When I saw the recs for this vid, I thought "oh good!" I am always looking for good meta vids and gen vids: i.e., things I can show to people who aren't part of this particular segment of fandom* to talk about the long history of fan remixing, participatory culture, etc. etc. And Lim's videos take good advantage of the sorts of filters and effects digital tools provide, in ways that I think bring home how these tools really lower the bar of entry into high production values.
But, here's the thing. I can't show someone that vid without sitting them down and explaining to them, in detail, 40-odd years of slash and media fandom. Hell, I don't think I can explain all of it myself: there was certainly footage in there that I didn't recognize at all.
This is not, in itself, a good or a bad choice. But it's a choice I find interesting.
The fannish community spends a lot of time explaining itself to itself. An understandable impulse for a group of people brought together around what is, essentially, an interpretative act. But -- here's the thing. There are a lot, a lot of people coming into your turf, if you're a vidder. And it's not just going to be BoingBoing linking to Killa's Spock vids, or people posting your work to YouTube. Now that anyone can vid, there are media corporations falling all over themselves trying to figure out if and how they can make money off the impulse. And when they work out how to do so, they're absolutely going to be spinning vidding as their latest and greatest innovation, something completely new that no one has ever done before.I think it's great that there are celebrations of this small, queer (in every sense) community within this community itself. But I also think it's a community that's worth celebrating in a way that speaks to outsiders as well, so someone not already deeply versed in its shorthand can understand what's valuable about it.
I don't want to speak for Lim, but I think that's exactly the point!!! This is for US...celebrating fandom (in the small narrow, queer, media fandom sense :) without having to explain or justify ourselves... And I think you're dead on on the changes already happening, and to me this vid is very much a celebration of what has been and what's being changed as we watch...
If people rec something as "This is me; this is *us*" and you describe yourself as not fully interpellated by that culture, why would you expect it to speak to you?
In other words, I didn't see anyone rec the vid as "This is is a perfect explanation of what fandom is and does for outsiders." I've seen those recs; in fact, Sheenagh Pugh's book, which I wasn't very impressed with, does exactly that, which makes it a useful resource for people who are *not* me...
n d I think you're dead on in that vidding does have its own language and generic conventions. It's like picking up a romantic poem that everyone praises as being amazingly insightful about epistemological concerns and responding to Kant's critiques (hey, I wanted to have a reason to use my icons :) and all you're seeing is a poem about freaking daffodils *g*See...and even if you couldn't pick out Jenkins...the lecture room, the pointing towards the screen, towards the media character I think might have been sufficient? [And on yet a deeper layer, to me the fact that the character on screen was Eccleston invoked yet another layer of, this time acafannish issues, b/c Hills et al use Doctor Who as this exemplary convergence cultural move where fans become producers etc.--only it's all guys: guys analyzing and guys becoming TPTB...and we get left out in thecold yet again in all senses!)] 
But nobody's fully interpellated by "Us"--I mean, I suppose there's some ideal platonic fan who get all the references, but it wasn't me (my big fannish hole in this vid was Babylon 5.) But I knew enough to know that when I see Kirk/Spock, Bodie/Doyle, Mulder, Scully and Krycek, dr. Who, and those Blake's 7 guys (who I only know from other vids) that I'm in metavid territory. But also, it might be too much to expect that a vid is both outward reaching and community celebrating at the same time. I think it's the latter and was never intended to be the former; I mean, "Us" as a title that does suggest insularity (and presumes a "Them.") It's not a vid for "Them"; it's a vid for those who choose to identify--and there's no external litmus test--as "us". If you feel you're not in "Us," or, more likely imo in the fannish profile, are resistant to becoming an "us"--in that most of us feel more comfortable as "them"/ defining yourself as an outsider--well, then it's not your vid! But it's very very very much mine! 
I didn't say it wasn't the point of the vid! I just said that I wished as much fannish energy went into things that were less indecipherable outside the community -- and, in fact, I would argue that it can't be a celebration of the changes if it's indecipherable to someone who isn't "old-school." 
So, to share my thoughts... a) Yes, it's an awesome vid; I like the use of effects and all. b) Does a vid need "explaining"? I do think this vid could be enjoyed by someone who doesn't have a background in fandom/slash/whathaveyou, but someone who has that background would understand it differently.
I was watching some vids last week with someone who had no idea what a vid was, and she was really confused. Massively confused. The only vid she really got was a humour vid for Hercules, which was really just a wacky clip vid. (A very good one, and I mean no critiscm, but it was a really one-level, accessible vid, and so good for beginners.) So yes, I think vids do need explaining.
ive been in fandom for years anI was totally lost - the only thing i got what the batsig as (c) symbol. the rest- over my head :( and because people say oh this is 'us' (even thoguh, for sme of us its not) it likely wont be explained since theres an assumption its universally (within fandom) understood.... i recognised very very very few things in that vid- i got the bat sign and (c) but erm, my understanding ended there. Its alienating to see soemthing called "us" that I think im supposed ot b a part of- yet, i watch this and feel as an outsider. I dont recognise the clips, i dont see how they fit together :(
and yet, if other people do- thats good still- it reminds me of mythologies- a story about say an angry fire-sppitting god that lives in a mountain might make alot of sense to a group of people living near a volcano- but after th story is told and retold and people eventually hear it who dont live near a volcano - the story looses its meaning and is hard to explain.I feel like i'm part of the tribe but, im not close enough to the volcano to know what the fire god in the mountain is supposed to be, if that makes sense? 
"Us" seems very much a vid for people who came up through slash fandom via "old-school" pairings, starting with Kirk/Spock, through some of the shows I didn't recognize, Due South, etc. Some of the clips won't make sense without that context. But that doesn't make you less of a part of the tribe! Just hanging out with different myth-makers.
Really this post is about lim’s new vid, Us. Which is a thing of beauty and artistry to be sure but is it a vid or an art animation or something else entirely? Does it matter? Not really, a whale is just as awesome whether you call it a fish or a mammal but biologists would argue the point all the same.
Us has media content in abundance but where does the source stop and the filters and effects take on their own life as original animations? It just highlights the continuum that exits along the special effects axis, from editing to directing with no clear-cut cut-off points when one becomes the other. It’s also interesting how the pencil-like effects obscuring the original source work much better as a metaphor for what fic writers often seem to do – overlaying and overwriting the original story with their own whereas I tend to think of vidding as illuminating aspects of the original, making it clearer. But this vid isn’t about the source stories but the story ’we’ made about ‘us’ and about that the clarity is frightening.Using history as the determinant things get even more interesting, the vid *is* a history, a virtual cladogram, so surely that counts. And if it does, does that mean that vidding has reached the decadent state of being its own subject and is about to disappear up its own fundament? BBC4 had a 90 minute special on last night called The Reichenbach Falls, which turned out to one of those fictions about being a fictional character and specifically the crime writer’s dilemma. To a non-writer it came across as ultimately a little self-indulgent, all me, look at me, this is what I do. That’s where the community aspect of fandom makes it fundamentally different perhaps. Not about Me but about Us.
I watched Us the other day, and it just blew me away. So amazing. It's been so long since I've actually watched any vids, I have no idea what's out there any longer. But it definitely reminded me of how much I love them.
I hadn't thought about it before but I could see how new techniques could start altering what we've come to expect of and call things. The whole interaction of technology and use. I think it could be argued that locales like LJ affected fic to inspire the creation of drabbles, tag-fic and other new forms of fic writing.... Some people started thinking of drabble posts as an acceptable way to write fic because the LJ format was well suited to small posts of material. Then new writers came along who saw the drabble as an easy way to start writing fic and it provided them a way to join in.
You imagine the unfair treatment of users expressing an idea through recreating art, music, videos, etc. by use of digital media by 'fair use' and we see that it is a vaguely interpreted welcome sign to commit a criminal act of copyright infringement... a law we all would want for our own work, but a law that for many others is deemed egregious and a danger to society from seeking one's own personal expression... Andy Warhol portrayed Campbell's Soup Cans as a form of Pop Art... Andy saw the art not as art but as an expression of Pop Art - at the moment art - cheap and disposable art. Today, I use Andy's Campbell Soup Can art as a Memo Board, stuck with pins and sticky notes... this to me expresses the nature and value of Pop Art's usefulness -- I would encourage any museum that holds the real print to do the same -- as this is truly what Andy had in mind for his art; not to be taken seriously nor restricted by some copyright or intellectual law, but to be used as a medium for another functional use.... not as art, but as a practical covering over a unsightly whole in the wall, a dart board, a window covering, a bed sheet, or even used as a door mat. Music and movies should be used similarly, imagine a reel of Star Wars or Gone With The Wind printed in its entirety onto tissue paper or toilet paper... this would a practical use in the world of 'Fair Use.' To this I say, one man's art is another man's trash, and one man's trash is another man's art freely and in perpetuity, not bound by the breath or by action of an 'illegal' act, and not bound by the every existence of life through nefarious snares and traps harboring the bindings and bondage of egregious laws.
Discussions of "Us"
- Lim's production notes: WebCite on "Us."
- Fannish discussions in comments at cesperanza's livejournal, Archived version
- Fannish discussions in comments at corinna_5's livejournal, Archived version
- Fannish discussions in comments at aycheb's livejournal, Archived version
- Kristina Busse, Us: A Multivid By Lim, Archived version at In Media Res, February 1, 2008.
- Michael Wesch, Anthropological History of YouTube, Archived version, presentation at the Library of Congress
- Remixing Television: Francesca Coppa on the vidding underground; WebCite, Reason Magazine, August/September 2008
- Gender and Fan Studies Round Two, Archived version, Robert Jones and Louisa Stein at fandebate
- Alexis Lothian, [http://www.queergeektheory.org/docs/Lothian_DenThieves_nocover.pdf Living in a Den of Thieves: Fan Video and Digital
Challenges to Ownership] Cinema Journal 48.4 (2009)
- "Mediated", exhibition at the California Museum of Photography. (January 24, 2009 - April 4, 2009)
- Comment of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Archived version to their petition for a DMCA exemption, Docket No. RM 2008-08
- Reply Comment, Archived version of the Organization for Transformative Works to the EFF's petition for a DMCA exemption
- New media and old institutions: 2, Archived version by Alexis Lothian
- Vidders Talk Back To Their Pop-Culture Muses, Archived version by Neda Ulaby for National Public Radio's All Things Considered.
Exhibitions of "Us"
- "Vidshow" at Millicon 2.0, July 19–22, 2007
- "Newbies Rock" at Vividcon, August 13, 2007
- "Video Art Track" at Anime Weekend Atlanta, September 21–23, 2007
- "24/7" DIY Video Summit at USC School of Cinematic Arts, February 8–10, 2008
- "Vids As Meta" at VidUKon, Oct 24 2008
- "Video Show" at Bascon8, Nov 8 2008
- Catalog for exhibition, "Mediated"; at the California Museum of Photography. (January 24, 2009 - April 4, 2009)
- Spitting Video at Workspace, Mar 13 2009.
- lim's notes, archived March 18, 2007
- Us announcement post on vidding, March 01, 2007.
- Us received an honorary award from The Fourth Wall in 2007, a fan-run vid award site.
- comment by Francesca Coppa at Away message and insto-magic-vid rec, Archived version, March 1, 2007
- comment by neery at Away message and insto-magic-vid rec, Archived version, March 1, 2007
- comment by anatsuno at Away message and insto-magic-vid rec, Archived version, March 1, 2007
- comment by amy13 at Away message and insto-magic-vid rec, Archived version, March 1, 2007
- comment by teenygozer at Away message and insto-magic-vid rec, Archived version, March 1, 2007
- Vids about fandom: How we interact vs. what we say, an 2011 essay by chaila.
- [http://crack-van.livejournal.com/tag/star%20trek%3A%20next%20generation 2007 rec at Crack Van
- comments by corinna 5 at Vid thoughts: "Us", Archived version, March 2007
- cathexys at Vid thoughts: "Us", Archived version, March 2007
- cesperanza at Vid thoughts: "Us", Archived version, March 2007
- cathexys at Vid thoughts: "Us", Archived version, March 2007
- cesperanza at Vid thoughts: "Us", Archived version, March 2007
- corinna 5 at Vid thoughts: "Us", Archived version, March 2007
- comment by ravenclaw devi Vid thoughts: "Us", Archived version, March 2007
- comment by delurker Vid thoughts: "Us", Archived version, March 2007
- comment by alchemia Vid thoughts: "Us", Archived version, March 2007
- corinna 5 at Vid thoughts: "Us", Archived version, March 2007
- comment by aycheb at Is this Snark a Boondog?, Archived version, March 2007
- comment by swsa at Is this Snark a Boondog?, Archived version, March 2007
- comment by yourlibrarian at Is this Snark a Boondog?, Archived version, March 2007
- comment by Hydden N. Plainsyght on Youtube, 2018