Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Parody: Affective Registers, Amateur Aesthetics and Intellectual Property

Academic journal article Cultural Studies Review

Parody: Affective Registers, Amateur Aesthetics and Intellectual Property

Article excerpt

Chris Fowler: One of the amusing things about Twitter is that they have these pseudo accounts, these parody accounts, Pseudo Fed. Very funny.

John McEnroe: You mean fake guys pretending to be these guys?

CF: Correct.

JM: Why is that funny? Shouldnt they be arrested? Being imposters?

CF: They make it plain i ts not the real Rodger Federer saying the things that pseudo Fed says. Im not trying to convince you of the comedy potential of Twitter, Im just saying i ts out there.

JM: So theres a guy out there, that doesnt... you dont know who he is, some guy out there somewhere who pretends to be Roger Federer and you never know even who this person is?

CF: (laughs) they pretend to be Federer with the understanding i ts not, i ts a good-natured parody. Take it or leave it, Im not trying to sell you.

JM: Oh Ive leftit!

Transcript of Wimbeldon commentary, July 20121

Video parody is today becoming part and parcel of the interactions of private citizens, often via social networking sites, and encourages literacy in multimedia expression in ways that are increasingly essential to the skills base of the economy. Comedy is big business.

UK Intellectual Property Office May 20112


In April 2011, Canadian comedians Graydon Sheppard and Kyle Humphrey launched a Twitter account called Shit Girls Say (@shitgirlssay). Carrying the tag line could you pass me that blanket?, the site posts humorous, pithy comments parodying the idiom supposedly used by young, middle-class women.3 The Twitter site proved to be highly popular, garnering many followers, and in December 2011 the pair produced a short video starring Sheppard as the eponymous girl. This clip circulated rapidly through social media and, at the time of writing, has attracted in excess of fifteen million views.4 In response, YouTube users have produced a number of similarly themed creative derivates5 including Shit Gay Guys Say and Shit White Girls Say to Arabs.

Not surprisingly, the video series has drawn complex patterns of critique across popular press and academic contexts. Chief among the concerns is the risk that such representations perpetuate sexism and racism. As Naima Ramos-Chapman puts it, many of the videos refer to adult women as "girls", and portray them as weak, stupid, silly, bad with technology, and helpless.6 Along the same lines, Samhita Mukhopadhyay suggests that what is problematic about stereotypes is not about whether they are true or not, i ts that they are used to disempower people or deny them certain privileges; in other words, lets make fun of girls cuz we already know everyone thinks they are dumb and annoying.7 However, other participants have been more sanguine about the transgressive or progressive power of this series. Franchesca Ramsey, for example, produced her video Shit White Girls Say ... to Black Girls in an effort to draw attention to the discrimination she experienced having been labelled, as she puts it, an oreo for her proper speech and valley girl accent. As she explains:

Over the years Ive found that dealing with white people faux pas can be tricky. If I get upset, I could quickly be labeled the angry black girl. But if I dont say anything or react too passively, I risk giving friends and acquaintances permission to continue crossing the line. So I decided to create my own parody to make all people laugh while, hopefully, opening some eyes and encouraging some of my white friends and acquaintances to think twice before they treat their black friends and associates like petting zoo animals or expect us to be spokespeople for the entire race.8

Response to the series demonstrates the tension that operates between a parody and its target text, a tension, as this article explores, that is historically, legally and culturally situated. The series is also useful for raising questions about the definition of amateur cultural production and, in particular, the place of parody within these conceptual frameworks. …

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