Gender Remixing in Legoland & Stealing Snacks at Mozilla

Posted on: Friday, July 06 2012

by Zoë Banks, Marketing Manager

Yesterday I had the opportunity to hear Jonathan McIntosh (of Buffy vs. Edward: Twilight Remixed video fame-- 4 million hits and counting!) speak to the Summer Web Native Program at Mozilla HQ about the power of Popcorn, the ethics of appropriation and gendered oppression in LegoLand.

First things first, Mozilla's offices have a pretty sweet view:

We met up with Ben Moskowitz, one of the Mozilla Popcorn.js gurus who played a crucial role in helping the Factory filmmakers turn their social issue documentaries into web-native masterpieces last year.

Ben showed us around the officeshoused in the historic Hills Brothers Coffee Co. factory finishing with "...and because we're a Silicon company, we have lots of snacks.* Help yourself."

Here's Ben, talking the talk:

Ben explained, "Mozilla is a mission-driven organization, meaning that values are more important than making money."** The specific mission driving Mozilla is making the web open and "a good experience for people", which includes a strong emphasis on the notion of privacy, anonymity and safety for everyone. If I wasn't a Firefox fan before (and I totally was!) I didn't stand a chance after that.

Jonathan McIntosh's fascinating talk on the ethics of remix/appropriation began with a few examples of the driving ethos behind the megasuccessful remix work he has done, including Right Wing Radio Duck (an infuriated Glenn Beck once read Jonathan's entire bio on air), So You Think You Can Be President, the aformentioned Buffy vs. Edward, and the upcoming Batman Reimagined.

Jonathan believes that as we become an increasingly A/V-based culture the products of pop culture become the common language that we speak to each other in. As members of this A/V culture, he believes we have not only a right (under Fair Use!) but a responsibility to recut, remix and reimagine these stories to tell them our way. He believes that each film we see is a challenge to create our own story and that current technology gives us the tools to make this possible.

Jonathan emphasized that remixing is a tool, one that can be used for "good" (throwing stones "up" at systems of power and challenging the norms) or "bad" (throwing stones "down" at people based on race, class and gender differences that reinforce the status quo). A great example of a remix video that challenges systems of oppression is Planet of the Arabs, a Sundance selection supercut of the vilification and negative depiction of Arabs and Muslims in Hollywood films.

The Gendered Advertising Remixer an interactive tool Jonathan recently built in both HTML5 and Flash allows the viewer to mash up the audio and video tracks from Lego ads targeting boys and girls. Swapping the audio or the video of commercials targeting boys (violent, adventurous, solitary) versus girls (social, domestic, consumerist) emphasizes the differences in pop culture messaging, and raises questions about why these differences exist and what purpose they serve. Try it yourself.

I'd like to thank Jonathan & Ben for the informative discussion, the Web Native Summer Camp for letting me crash the party, and Mozilla in general for the snacks and, naturally, excellent wifi. The discussion provided a really illuminating insight into the principles behind the booming art of pop culture remixing and I can't wait to see the videos that the summer camp students create.

Learn more about the Summer Web Native Program, part of the Popcorn Story Camp >

* I couldn't possibly...

** So succint.