Sunday, September 18, 2011

Video Parody: Bending Visual Genres

The accepted conventions of a given genre are often best seen in parody.  By looking at trailers and "spoof" trailers for Mary Poppins and The Shining, we can see how choices in scene selection and music can drastically change the tone and message of a piece.

Please Note: A few of the video trailers featured here are a bit disturbing.

Unit 2 / Music Videos - Parody Videos
Intro to Chaos and Narrative
Of Related Interest: Parody and Satire

"Scary Mary" - The Side of Miss Poppins You've Never Seen
Mary Poppins is possibly one of the most cheerful and uplifting movies ever filmed.  It welcomes creativity and encourages children to be children.

Taking a look at the original trailer, note how Disney uses song and images to convey the appeal of this movie.  Also, since this is an older trailer, take a look at how much time is spent "telling" the audience about how great this movie will be.  Is this effective?  Do you really feel like sitting through the whole trailer?

Now let's take a look at "Scary Mary," a spoof of the original movie.  By rearranging the scenes and changing the music, the original tone of cheerful reassurance is almost entirely replaced by a sense of menace.

In comparing the two trailers, consider what factors go into shifting the tone.  Here are some questions to consider:

  • Which trailer uses longer scene clips?
  • The original Mary Poppins trailer includes brief clips of animation.  Why are these left out of the "Scary Mary" retake?
  • What role do facial expressions play in the two trailers?

"Shining" - An Uplifting Film Staring Jack Nicholson
Even today, over thirty years since its premiere, The Shining stands out as an icon among horror films. The central premise of a man going mad while isolated at a ski lodge continues to carry it's own kind of cultural weight.  But then, what else would you expect from Stanley Kubrick's take on a Stephen King novel?

Here's one trailer made based on the original movie: (this video may be disturbing to some)

Knowing about the terror of The Shining, you may be surprised by how easily one can create an uplifting "coming of age" trailer using clips from the same movie:

As with the Mary Poppins trailers, consider the roles of music, scene selection, and facial expression.  In the "happy" version, what conventions do you recognize as common to other "uplifting" movie trailers?  How does the happy version compare to the original Mary Poppins trailer?

The (Actual) Shining Trailer is quite different from either of the two examples given above.  Stanley Kubrick was an exacting filmmaker, and you'll find that he put a lot of artistic attention into his trailer for the film: (this video may be disturbing to some)

Yes, that's a river of blood spilling out from the elevator well.  And no, this trailer doesn't tell us anything at all about the movie.  This was apparently done on purpose - Kubrick wanted his trailer to build the sense of terrifying expectation without revealing anything.  (Click to learn more about Kubrick's approach to The Shining.)  Do however note the use of credits in this trailer, and compare with the use of credits in the original Mary Poppins trailer.  Why do you suppose the original trailers had much longer credits than any of the spoof trailers?  And how do their credits compare to the credits normally seen in today's movie trailers?

As you consider movie trailers, you may find the narrative technique of in medias res helpful.  Essentially meaning "into the middle of things," this phrase refers to the effect of starting a story without any introduction, sometimes even clipping out the "beginning" in order to heighten tension and keep the reader guessing.

Unit 2 / Music Videos - Parody Videos

Of Related Interest: Parody and Satire


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