DIY Video 2010: Political Remix (Part One)

This is the second in an ongoing series of curated selections of DIY Video prepared in relation to the screening of DIY Video 2010 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and organized by Mimi Ito, Steve Anderson, and the good folks at the Institute for Multimedia Literacy. The following curator's statement was written by Jonathan McIntosh, who describes himself as "a pop culture hacker, video remix artist and fair use advocate." Political Remix Video can empower people to assert their creative voice, tell alternative stories and critically engage with mass media systems. It is a form of critical DIY media production which challenges power structures, deconstructs cultural norms and subverts dominant social narratives by transforming fragments of mainstream media and popular culture.

The practice of remixing and re-framing moving images for political purposes has been around since the invention of film. The tradition dates back to the 1920's when Russian re-editors (many of them women) would repurpose American Hollywood films to create different political narratives and class messages. During World War Two, the Allies propaganda machine re-edited footage from Nazi rallies for newsreels to poke fun at the German Army making it seem less threatening. These early re-mixes were painstakingly done by hand, splicing strips of film and setting them to a new audio track.

The 1980s and 1990s brought video tapes and home VCRs allowing artists, activists and fan-vidders to make remixes via tape-to-tape editing. The media tools and technology of the 21st century have made the power of critical remix available to anyone with access to the web, a computer and some extra time.

Increasingly we are becoming a global culture that communicates in an audio-visual language. All political remix videos are made without the permission of the copyright holder and rely on the fair use doctrine. However despite the fact that they should be protected under fair use many critical remixes are especially vulnerable to DMCA takedowns and automatied content ID matching systems.

Today a small number of large corporations own, control and produce most of our popular culture. The remix video process provides creators a powerful way of talking back to this mass media machine. It is a way to communicate using that audio-visual language in poetic, humorous, poignant and entertaining ways.

I curated the political remix portion of the DIY 24/7 Video show at USC in the Spring of 2008. I was asked to put together a new show for 2010 highlighting some of the best remixes of the last two years. Here I have collected videos representing several distinct remix styles, covering a wide variety of social, cultural and political topics. I have focused in particular on re-cut trailers, identity correction, transformative storytelling, supercuts, and music videos. These works comment on, subvert, critique, ridicule, celebrate, illuminate and build on aspects of mass media by utilizing pieces of mass media. The topics of these videos vary widely; some focus on big "P" political issues like war, elections and government policy while others highlight small "P" political issues like race, gender and sexuality.

Re-cut trailers

Re-cut trailers are probably the most popular form of video remix online today. Some dramatically shift the genre and tone of popular movies while others remix straight characters to create new queer relationships and queer narratives from heteronormative Hollywood films.

Pretty Women as a Horror Film

Becca Marcus re-imagines the popular romantic comedy Pretty Woman as a terrifying thriller. The 1990 movie stars Richard Gere as a wealthy businessman endearingly obsessed with a women who prostitutes herself on the streets of New York City played by Julia Roberts. Becca re-cuts the films trailer adding a new soundtrack and transforming Richard Gere's character from "wealthy saviour" to a more appropriate violent controlling predator. Interestingly, the original film was written as a dark drama dealing with the difficult lives of sex workers but prior to production, Walt Disney Motion Pictures rewrote the film making it into a lighthearted Cinderella-story with the tagline "Who knew it was so much fun to be a hooker?"

Gay Marriage Storm Chasers

Mary C. Matthews of VideoPancakes remixes the now infamous anti-gay marriage "gathering storm" ad created by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM). She couples it with footage from the Discovery Channel show Storm Chasers, she creates a promo for a new fictitious reality show called "Gay Marriage Chasers". Matthews' seamless combination produces a hilarious critique of the absurd fear mongering embedded in religious anti-gay PR efforts.

Harry Potter and the Brokeback Mountain

By now there are thousands of Brokeback Mountain parody videos online, some edging on ridicule and homophobia and others successfully subverting heteronormative Hollywood narratives to create new queer relationships. This Harry/Ron slash remix, by 19 year old vidder MissSheenie, re-casts the stars of the heteronormative Harry Potter films as young, queer wizards struggling with magic and their feeling for each other. Slash fiction using film trailers as a foundation allows makers to easily queer nearly any on screen straight relationship and is an especially important tool for LGBT fans who have so few characters to identify with in mass media.

Jonathan McIntosh is a pop culture hacker, video remix artist and fair use advocate. He blogs at and is a member of the Open Video Alliance. He also facilitates workshops with youth that utilize remix video and a crucial media literacy tool. His latest remix "Right Wing Radio Duck" along with the rest of his work, can be found on his website