Remixes, Mashups, and Parodies of Celebs on YouTube
Everyone knows that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen got their ill-fated Hollywood start playing baby Michelle on the wholesome family sitcom, Full House. This irrelevant fact has been drilled into our heads, probably in a subconscious, socially responsible effort to mitigate the celebutante status to which these hapless twins eventually rose (sank?), reminding us that they never really had a chance, having suffered exploitation before they could even speak. In solidarity, I actually found myself saddened when I recently viewed a remixed YouTube version of a 1995 music video the Olsens did for their series, You’re Invited to Mary-Kate and Ashley’s Sleepover Party. The original video, entitled “Gimme Pizza,” featured the nine-year-old duo singing about the versatile possibilities of pizza-making, alongside three of their youthful compatriots, each of whom has been lucky enough to since avoid household-name status.
The YouTube bastardization of this innocent (albeit pointless and grating) piece slows down the music of the originally peppy song, resulting in a sort of demonic mantra that makes you wonder if “pizza” is a code word for some sort of evil ritual, and is made all the more freaky by the fact that the slow-mo’ed singers are children. One gets a distinctly “Chucky” feeling from this remix, and I only pray that nobody decides to somehow work clowns into it. Upon seeing the video, it also occurred to me that part of its popularity relies on the bizarre and surprisingly insightful statement it makes – it actually manages to capture the sinister quality of fame that lurked ahead of these unsuspecting girls, waiting to create chaos and distress like the ghost of Christmas Future.
Watch the video:
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This also made me wonder about what other things YouTube has the power to subtly imply about the celebrities we all know and occasionally love. Of course, people tend to get a bit excited when some popular celeb is caught on tape with his or her proverbial pants down, as when Christian Bale was recorded reaming out his director of photography on the set of Terminator: Salvation. This event itself triggered an Internet extravaganza of hype, and Bale’s unfortunate meltdown was characterized by a flurry of web activity, in which every devoted YouTube user out there either stumbled upon a whimsical remix of Bale’s tantrum, or took the initiative to make one himself.
The smartest and most creative of these is actually a mash-up of another viral favorite, “David After the Dentist,” set to the audio of Bale’s rant. In the unadulterated former video, a father films a few minutes of his seven-year-old son’s trance-like, loopy behavior after being drugged at his dentist’s office. The original spread among YouTube users like wildfire for its originality and cuteness. The mashed up version retains young David’s bewildered, drugged dialogue, but superimposes bits of Bale’s furious tongue-lashing over what was initially the comforting voice of the father, for a result that goes something like this:
David: Is this real life?
Bale: [screaming] No! Shut the f**k up, all right?
David: Now I . . . I have two fingers!
Bale: [sarcastically] Oh, good for you!
David: Four fingers.
Bale: You’re un-f**king-believable.
If it’s not already abundantly clear, this user, who titled his brief masterpiece “Christian Bale takes David to the Dentist,” does a brilliant job of emphasizing Bale’s famous overreaction and pointing out the ways in which it is both vicious and absurd. By juxtaposing his needless fury with David’s innocent confusion, he illuminates the actor’s melodrama and accomplishes what celebrity parodies, remixes, and mash-ups are designed to do: make prima donnas look even more ridiculous than they make themselves look. This is no easy task, and this particular example just happens to be spot-on, both because it makes its point subtly and creatively, and because it uses as its source material two popular pieces with which most YouTube fans are already familiar.
Here it is:
Sometimes you come across something really special on YouTube: The Celeb Parody Reversal, wherein the celebrity – lo and behold – is not the one being mocked, but the one doing the mocking. In short, the celebrity is the user. To be successful, this type of YouTubing requires only that the initial viral video be more, or equally as, famous as the celebrity parodying it. This sometimes means that the original video has succeeded in making a minor celebrity of the previous nobody that posted it. For example, the name Chris Crocker might not mean much to you, but I’ll bet 10 to 1 that you know who the “Leave Britney Alone” guy is. This eccentric, controversial performance artist (who may, arguably, bring too much “performance” and too little “art” to his megalomaniacal pieces) took the Internet by storm in one of the most recognizable viral videos since the birth of YouTube with his impassioned, tearful plea to the media and public at large to lay off poor Britney Spears, who “loves her aunt” and “had two f**king kids.” His video has received more than 35 million views since its 2007 release, a figure which does not even include all the iterations and remixes users have posted of the original.
Watch it here:
I suppose it’s just possible that Crocker is not only a genius for tapping into the unforeseen human desire to watch someone humiliate himself over the plight of someone else who humiliates herself, but possibly an exceptional performance artist, if (and this is a big “if”) his histrionic rants are actually a façade, and not the product of a truly disturbed psyche. But somehow I doubt it. So too, apparently, does actor/comedian Seth Green, who posted a popular parody of the video merely a week later, when Crocker had already become an easier target for ridicule than the singer he originally defended. Green, eyes stained with tears and rimming with eyeliner, pleads into his hand-held camera for us to “leave Chris Crocker alone!” because he “loves his grandmother” and “has ideas that he knows are important, and opinions that people should hear about other people.” Periodically throughout his fake tirade, Green subtly refers to the scripted aspect of Crocker’s own rant by self-consciously retouching his eyeliner and pitching his series, Robot Chicken. I sometimes wonder if Green’s popular response made Crocker angry, or if he interpreted it as somehow “making it.” Knowing this would certainly reveal something about his intentions. As it is, there are too many levels of artifice, performance, and subterfuge in this YouTube duo to deny that something worth deconstructing is taking place. But, however you feel about either Green or Crocker, one thing is sure: for at least a little while after this onslaught of videos was released, people did seem to leave Britney alone.
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When I was a child, my Mother loved to provide me with an insight when I would act foolishly. She would grasp me by the arm and pull me aside and hiss into my ear: "They are laughing AT you not WITH you!". Now, in these heady days of Acceptable Narcissism, I watch these little slices of imagined fame with my Mother's searingly real advice echoing in my ear. These little role reversals where the meme is taken, reversed and pointed back at the originator, slathered with mocking derision are the collective voice of all of our Mothers, telling the fools who create them, be they movie stars or imagined stars, we are laughing AT you, not with you. This advice would always make me stop behaving like a buffoon, alas it does not work for these folks.
Much of the popularity of the "gimme pizza" video is the fact that many people (me included) find this video hilarious. It's got a sort of Tim & Eric feel to it.