Luminosity, Vidding, and Auteurism

Luminosity has been one of my very favorite vidders for years now. I’ve shown her vids in class and I’ve been thinking of talking about one of her Supernatural vids, Bricks, for an In Media Res vidding week in January (not to be confused with the current In Media Res fandom week, where I chose to talk about Gossip Girl–will be posting tomorrow…)

So for the most part I’m thrilled that she’s finally getting all of this well deserved attention. And yet I’m noting in myself a little ambivalence, too, at the direction the conversation seems to be heading, and I’m trying to get to the core of why that is.

I think part of it is that Luminosity as a vidder, and more specifically the vids that are being focused on–Vogue and Woman’s Work–are easy for media scholars and public criticism to get behind because they echo academic and popular critical practices and theoretical stances. I share Henry’s concerns about Woman’s Work—that while it presents a resonant critique of the horror genre, it does a disservice to Supernatural’s more complex stance (and at times genre-revisionist tactics) towards masculinity and femininity. I prefer Bricks’ complex representation of Sam and Dean and the program’s rendering of issues of masculinity. The difference isn’t only that these vids are critical while others are emotional (as Jason and Kristina point out here and here), although certainly there are differences in affect. The difference is in the layers of critical positioning, the nuances of each moment; my favorite vids can’t be summed up with one thesis statement.

Also there’s a way that the prevalence of auteurist discourse in vidding specifically and fandom in general (something I mentioned in the authorship workshop at Unboxing) that makes vidding culture and a vidder like Luminosity accessible for popular and academic recognition. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t recognize her skill, creativity, style, and influence (really, I am an enormous fan of Luminosity), but that we should be aware when we’re recreating auteurist discourse, and the ideological implications therein.

For vidding and fandom specifically, in female authorship communities, auteurism is especially significant in its heralding of female producers as meaning makers with cultural import. And in this way, it’s perhaps even more important that Luminosity be lauded, as an auteur, in all of these levels of public discourse.

But I guess I’m afraid that public discourse will move on, having paid Luminosity public due, without delving into the complexity of the majority of her vids or of vidding culture(s) as a whole, leaving the many realms of perhaps less accessible female creative authorship unacknowledged and unexplored.

7 thoughts on “Luminosity, Vidding, and Auteurism

  1. robin reid says:

    Interesting post–I have not gotten into vids (time constraints mostly) but did watch a couple–not myi fandom, so I’m sure I’m missing stuff, but I was most impressed with the 300_vogue (and since I’m not a SPN fan but a fan of major feminist critiques on horror, I possibly liked WW better than you and Henry do–all the more in that the only names I ever see people talking about in that fandom are Sam and Dean!).!

    In terms of what you’re saying–I think it makes sense that, as Matt Hills said, academics being *readers first* and academics second, will choose fan texts that most resonate with their academic practices and interests (I’d say that underlies a bunch of our theory choices, too!).

    The problem is the failure of academics to wish to even allow into debate such “subjective” issues, with many still clinging to the threadbare cloak of objectivity which is, I think, showing the king’s lack of underclothing (to mix several metaphors–I did not get enough sleep last night, and the cold front dropping our temps about 20 degrees in a couple of hours isn’t helping).

    It also makes sense that media/public discourse would focus on one or more “big names” (however that’s defined for them), rather than try to deal with the vidding or fan cultures as a whole–that discourse is driven by the single big celebrity/great man theory: thus, Gloria Steinem gets annointed as The Official Feminist Big Name by the press.

    It’s frustrating–but given the nature of these public and still largely patriarchal discourses, none of which have given due credit to any feminist and/or women’s communities/cultures (or even shown much awareness of the cultures), it cannot be too surprising.

  2. robin reid says:

    The website just ate my comment! (I’m trying again, w/apologies if this comment is redundant).

    An interesting post: I’d heard about “Women’s Work,” but hadn’t gotten a chance to look at it. I’ve not really gotten into vids (time constraints mostly), but I did look at that, and 300_Vogue recently. I admired them both! I don’t know SPN at all but given that the only names I ever hear in fandom are Sam and Dean, I am wondering about the nature of female characters on television, yet again–i.e. their lack of appeal in a primarily female fandom and reasons for that lack of appeal. But that’s another post.

    In terms of the nature of the academic and public discourse: it makes sense, as Matt Hillls has noted, that academics, being readers first (before being academics) would pick those texts which most resonate with them as readers, and that includes resonating with academic and theoretical practices. I strongly suspect we pick our theories in much the same way.

    What the problem is, I think, is the collective refusal to admit such subjective elements exist (I imagine most humanities types are already bashed over the head for lack of quantitative/scientific objectivity as it is) in our analysis (except in some small pockets of academia).

    Too many people have to justify their work (especially in a marginalized field) by claiming excellence/uniqueness or some other form of star quality, I imagine.

    In terms of the public/media focus: well, again, it makes sense that a culture driven by “famous man” and celebrity/stardom practices would focus on a single “star” and neglect to cosider the cultural contexts surrounding her work (old style literary analysis did the same thing: Jane Austin was not the only women novelist of her time, but you’d think she was from what was assigned when I was in school). The same is true for the media in general: look at how Gloria Steinem was annointed the Official Feminist, with no sense of the complexity of the feminist culture around her, or any care for collectivity (ditto Naomi Wolf, and others, in later years).

    When has the press ever been aware of cultural collectivity and depths? Some parts of academia are changing, and I argue that many of the women aca-fen doing this work will help the change come about.

    But why be surprised that primarily patriarchal/hierarchical systems acknowledge no more than a single “star,” or “token exceptional woman” artist?

  3. Jonathan Gray says:

    I’m a total newbie to vidding culture, so I don’t have the history or proper context (yet. I’m trying to do some catch-up). That said, given the discussions about authorship, auteurship, etc. here and elsewhere right now, I find myself wondering to what degree Luminosity’s name helps her represent the public face of vidding. If it were, for instance, Sharon Mortenssen, she’d “just” seem like a regular woman, and some (non-fan, NY magazine readers, or FoE attenders) might be inclined to treat her as a regular woman (with all the belittling and disregarding that can go with that). But there’s something otherworldly and nonhuman to “Luminosity” that to the non-vidding/non-fan world might imply a special or exceptional identity, and one that isn’t as tied up in everyday femininity and gender identity. This is by no means a criticism of Luminosity, but simple speculation about the effects of her name.

  4. robin reid says:

    Third try, since blog ate the first two attempts (but I see a comment has been posted since, so I’ll try again on the blog, but also email back-up just in case).

    I am glad to have had the chance and time to finally see Luminosity’s vids (well, two of them, I only had a little time, mostly because the water went out the other day and we were stuck at home a while). I enjoyed them greatly—I’ve not gotten much into vids yet mostly because of time constraints.

    I am not surprised that as Matt Hills has noted academics pick work that resonates with their theories and practices: we’re readers first, before we’re academics, and being academics just mean we have a bunch of baggage tied up in our reader responses (including, for many, the fiction that academic analysis is supposed to be objective and, in the case of many trained in literary studies, the idea of aesthetic evaluation, i.e. we’re only supposed to work with “the best (of the best of the best, sir!)!”). The problem, I think, is how seldom academics want to admit to any subjective elements in our processes of choice and analysis.

    And I’m also not surprised that the media would want to deal with a “star” (i.e. they’re not going to write about the complex vidding cultures—and if they did, they’d do as good a job as they have done with the complex fiction writing cultures! /sarcasm): the mainstream media and public discourse (and academia) is grounded on the assumption of the “great man (now occasionally token great woman)” and “celebrity” single person focus. I remember how Gloria Steinem was selected in her day to be the Big Name Feminist. The academy is more and more infected with the star system as well (shown most insidiously in attempts to hire Big Name Academics—usually those who have been picked up by the media—and pay them big bucks to more or less hang around, often teaching very little, while starving the lower-level faculty in a department).

    There should be no surprise in how these systems, patriarchal and hierarchical, “deal” with stories, with cultural productions, and with, when it comes right down to it, cultures. Complexity is right out, and the star system is right in.

    But all of that said, those vids were incredible, and I’ll be using them in my classes in future (as well as other vids)! (And I’m not even a fan of either 300 or SPN)!

  5. lstein says:

    Interesting! I do think that the specifics of Lum’s name gives a certain sheen to the public discussion. But that dynamic stems not only from Luminosity’s specific choice of nom de plume, but from the pseudonym-dependent author/auteur culture of fandom, enhanced by livejournal’s username structure, which together enable a celebration of the author/fan as separate from elements of her or his RL identity.

    But of course, it would have been possible for Luminosity to have chosen a name steeped in femininity (and certainly some fans and LJ users do…) Instead, the name Luminosity does suggest an almost-gender-free spectacularness.

  6. Michael Roberts says:

    Well, I think pretty much most of what we utilise as online interactive media( LJ, Chat Groups, etc) lend themselves to anonymity and therefore the temptation/opportunity to become “constructs” rather than being reliant upon the limitations to constructing persona we face in “real-life”. By logging on/registering to these groups, we are able to re-invent ourselves and permit only what we allow to be seen to represent us. Yes, the choice of name is symbolic and representative. However, so is much of what people show on-line.

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