Mashup as temporal amalgam: Time, taste, and textuality

Paul J. Booth

DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, United States

[0.1] Abstract—The mashup video is examined as a specific textual component of remix culture. Mashup videos represent one particular type of remix and require an intricate base of knowledge to understand and appreciate the complex reworking of textuality engendered by the form. The mashup video becomes a key symbol of the engaged 21st-century media creator because it speaks to a media-literate and active audience. If we are to particulate in a fully autonomous media environment as scholars and as practitioners of participatory media, then it behooves us to speak not just to the salience of the mashup through a particular methodology, but also with a Media Studies 2.0 knowledge base. The temporal fluidity of the mashup video is explored as it relates to the concept of social and cultural taste. Analyses of the mashup videos "Virgin O'Riley" (Mark Vidler), "Vogue" (Luminosity), and "The Grey Video" (Fauchere and Tinguely) show how mashup videos remix new genres of cultural activity.

[0.2] Keywords—Danger Mouse; Luminosity; Remix; Temporality; Video; Vidler

Booth, Paul J. 2012. "Mashup as Temporal Amalgam: Time, Taste, and Textuality." In "Fan/Remix Video," edited by Francesca Coppa and Julie Levin Russo, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 9. doi:10.3983/twc.2012.0297.

1. Introduction

[1.1] In his essay for Remix Theory, Lev Manovich (2007) calls our current epoch a "remix culture," following on from the postmodern culture of the 1980s (Lessig 2008). Unlike the pastiche commonly encountered in postmodernism content (Jameson 1991), today's remix culture features content that has been recycled, changed, adjusted, and solicited from other artists. Originality stems less from the ability to create than it does the ability to use (note 1). Call it what you will, Manovich says—sampling, appropriation, quoting, or remixing—it all amounts to the same thing: new aesthetics, based on remixing existing content, engender a new appreciation for older texts.

[1.2] I want to focus on one particular aspect of remix culture, the mashup video, as a site of remarkable cultural confluence. I will show that the power of the mashup video to enact social change stems from the way it juxtaposes two different time frames. Although commonly conceived of as a cultural artifact, the mashup can also be articulated in a more general way: as a metaphor for larger cultural changes that envelop remix aesthetics, fan practices, convergence culture, and transmediation (Booth 2010). In concrete form, the mashup takes data from two or more different inputs and mixes them together in such a way as to create a unique, third form without loss to the meaning of the originals. For example, the video "Trailer for Toy Story 3: Inception" (ScreenRant 2010) represents a mashup of the video from the trailer for the film Toy Story 3 (2010) with the audio from the trailer for Inception (2010). On the textual level, the video and the audio reference wildly different texts, but the mashup works as an art form because the viewer must recognize each element as well as what happens when they are mixed (we must be familiar with both Toy Story and Inception to understand the joke; for example, that when the Toy Story elephant sneezes fluff, there is a direct analogue to the award-winning special effects of Inception). Yet there is a larger social significance here as well. The mashup of Toy Story 3 and Inception highlights ideological similarities between the two texts that can be read in many ways: for example, connecting the notion of dreaming with children's imagination and play; articulating a link between star Leonardo DiCaprio and the plastic Ken doll; or focusing on the way the toys fall asleep as related to the notion of inception in the film. Multiple interpretations exist, and we as viewers must be knowledgeable about both sources, as well as the convergence of them, in order to make sense of the final product.

Video 1. "Trailer for Toy Story 3: Inception," posted by ScreenRant (2010).

[1.3] This notion of media convergence has been taken up by Henry Jenkins (2006) in Convergence Culture, but I contend that a mashup is qualitatively different than a convergence of media practices. For Jenkins, a convergence culture emerges when media content flows across "multiple media platforms," when media audiences will "go almost anywhere in search of the kind of media experiences they want," and when "multiple media systems coexist and where media content flows fluidly across them" (282). Thus, a converged media text exists as dispersed across the transmediated environment. In contrast, the mashup exists as a single text with multiple meanings. The convergence highlighted by Jenkins finds a home in situ with mashups. A similar focus on the creation of alternate meanings and readings of media objects has been examined as part of fan studies through the examination of amateur production.

[1.4] I want to argue, therefore, that an analysis of mashup videos as entities can reveal an aspect of the very contemporary cultural processes that led to the creation of those videos. In this way, my argument is based on the work of William Merrin (2009), who argues that the discipline of media studies has reached a turning point in its focus and methodology, a change led by the digital articulation of media users who demonstrate mastery over their media environment. Prompted by a transformation in our "social, political, cultural, and economic worlds…media studies has to transform itself to understand this environment" (22). To understand new media texts, outlets, and audiences, we need to revise our basic methods of analysis.

[1.5] To that end, I examine how the mashup revises traditional notions of time and taste. Specifically, I use the work of Pierre Bourdieu to examine how mashups demonstrate different tastes of their audience amalgamated through temporal juxtaposition within the video text. For Bourdieu, the value of a particular work is mutable, and depends not so much on the makeup of the artist or of the creator but rather on the interest and knowledge of the audience. A work that previously may have been thought valueless in a culture ruled by aristocrats may become revalued when discussed by or in a larger population. Bourdieu's theories of taste have been usefully appropriated by Jenkins (1992) to look at the place of popular texts in fan cultures (16–19). Bourdieu's theories represented a turnabout from previous conceptions of how value was earned in society, many of which depended on a sense of history with media objects. The older something was, the more valued it became. As Bourdieu (1984) describes, "Legitimate manners owe their value to the fact that they manifest the rarest conditions of acquisition…to possess things from the past…is to master time" (71).

[1.6] If taste and time are linked in traditional theories of taste, this relationship is complicated by the complex play of temporality in the mashup video. There are many cultural aspects of the mashup that deserve, and indeed have had, scholarly attention, including notions of authorship, copyright (Grobelny 2008), politics and social action (Howard-Spink 2004), and identity (Booth 2010). But the temporal interstitiality of the mashup, existing between two different time frames, has been little examined. Of interest to those studying remix culture, Bourdieu's discussion of taste offers a useful mode for investigating the temporal power of the mashup as a cultural activity. In sum, the process of viewing a mashup video is one of active and, importantly, constant construction. As John Shiga (2007) notes, this discussion of the activity of the mashup can be usefully integrated with taste: "subcultural developments can be understood in terms of the circulation of cultural, economic, and social capital" through time (96). That is, mashups exist both as objects with subcultural value and as activities that help construct that subculture. Indeed, the fact that mashups are based in a highly localized sense of temporal discontinuity is perhaps the most crucial factor for understanding the roles time and taste play in mashup textuality, as temporality can be usefully understood as a component of an audience's tastes.

[1.7] If Media Studies 2.0 (Merrin 2009) asks us to refine our study beyond broadcast models, then examining the aesthetics of contemporary content becomes crucial for furthering our understanding of today's remix culture. In the following analysis, I examine three exemplar mashup videos as emblematic of this time/taste amalgam. "The Grey Video," "Virgin O'Riley," and "Vogue" all use the inherent temporal flux of the mashup to make statements about sexuality as a theme. I note this theme both to create a sense of topical unity among my texts and to compare the social significance of disparate mashup texts. Ultimately, through these analyses, I arrive at a remix understanding of how taste and temporality filter through the text of the mashup video.

2. Time is of the essence: Temporality as a key component of mashup

[2.1] If we take Manovich at his word and mark a shift from the postmodern to the remix, then the issue of how we perceive time and contemporary temporal structure becomes paramount. We can see this issue represented in the way the mashup video plays with time within its text. Specifically, I examine how Laurent Fauchere and Antoine Tinguely's (2006) "The Grey Video" (video 2) illustrates a remix culture's view of temporal complexity as a critique of two different time periods' different views of sexuality and fandom (see also Reid and Patel, with Calloway and Dukes 2007). Itself a fan creation, taken from the song "Encore" on DJ Danger Mouse's The Grey Album remix, the video highlights the temporal discontinuities present within the song. Famously, DJ Danger Mouse mashed up an a cappella version of Jay-Z's The Black Album with tracks, beats, and samples from the Beatles' self-titled album, usually called The White Album. The resulting The Grey Album was prominently featured in the mid-2000s as a quintessential mashup album, and it faced its share of notoriety because of various lawsuits and acts of civil disobedience (note 2). Using both appropriated texts as the source material, Danger Mouse mixed the two albums together to make a unique sound. Both Jay-Z and the Beatles were instantly recognizable within the mix, but the sound itself was an amalgam of the two. The video similarly merges Jay-Z with the Beatles and uses the images of the artists to focus on the sonic and aesthetic similarities between them. We watch the "The Grey Video" and hear both the original Beatles' and Jay-Z's music, and we see their images as an amalgam. It is a holy trinity of textuality.

Video 2. "The Grey Video," by Laurent Fauchere and Antoine Tinguely (2006).

[2.2] "The Grey Video" expounds on the temporal juxtaposition of the song, and in doing so, it references and critiques the sexualization of fandom of two time periods. Clips from the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night (1964) are interspersed with Jay-Z in concert. Already temporal confusion occurs: the music of the Beatles comes from their 1968 album The Beatles, but the video is taken from the 1964 film. Other temporal juxtapositions become apparent as the video progresses. For example, as the Beatles begin their song, portrayed as an appearance on a television program with their producer behind the scenes watching them on monitors, there is a momentary jump in the soundtrack and Jay-Z appears on the monitor, timed to coincide with his first vocals. Fans of both artists are prominently displayed, screaming orgasmically at the Beatles and dancing sexually to Jay-Z. The discrepancy between two time frames—the Beatles in the 1960s and Jay-Z in the early 2000s—finds resolution in the video as the vocals begin to match the video.

[2.3] As Jay-Z starts to sing the lyrics to "Encore," the video opens up a third temporal discrepancy. Behind the Beatles, playing on stage, a large sign displays his lyrics in lights: "Can I get an encore / Do you want more…" Mashed up on screen, the Beatles' music (represented visually) encounters Jay-Z's lyrics (represented textually). "The Grey Video" highlights such breaks with classic temporality throughout the text: at times, John Lennon puts down his guitar and pops and locks, Ringo uses his drum kit as a turntable to mix tracks, Paul and George are replaced by two hip-hop dancers, and dancers from the 21st century are placed at the Beatles' concert.

[2.4] Even the audience gets into the act. Because part of the text of the video is taken from A Hard Day's Night, the concert footage features hundreds of screaming girls; at the height of Beatlemania, the audience of young female fans could become hysterically sexual (Ehrenreich, Hess, and Jacobs 1992). At the 1:15 mark of the video, for example, when Jay-Z sings "One last time / I need y'all to roar," the footage shifts from the screaming 1960s fangirls to a 2000s young hip-hop dancing girl, complete with barely-there shirt and obvious cleavage (figure 1). The linkage between the hysterically sexual screaming of the 1960s and the sexuality of the 2000s is made clear through the textual fragmentation.

Figure 1. "The Grey Video," contemporary dancing fan. [View larger image.]

[2.5] Ultimately, if we can claim any meaning from "The Grey Video" as a remix video, it is because it exists as a mashup of two distinct sounds, two distinct artists, and two distinct time frames. The video becomes meaningful because of, not despite, the distinct temporal fragmentation. The references between the sexuality surrounding the Beatles and the sexuality surrounding Jay-Z seem different when juxtaposed with each other, but when mashed up into one video, the contrast becomes clear. Namely, whereas the fans of the Beatles seem to target their sexual energy toward the Beatles themselves, the fan of Jay-Z becomes a target of sexualization by the viewer of the video. Of course, because both fan types, 1960s fangirl and 2000s dancer, come from their respective time periods, the viewer is thus invited to see the shift in sexual focus as an aspect of the text itself. Sexualized frenzy becomes part of the text of a musical act, regardless of time period, artist demographics, or musical genre. But through this juxtaposition, a clear critique of a modern to-be-looked-at-ness emerges from the sexualization of the 2000s fan when compared to the idolization of the 1960s fan.

[2.6] One might be tempted to view this video through a postmodern lens—after all, it mixes high and popular culture, it blurs the line between art and commerce, and it in many ways elides its placement within a historical continuity. As Jameson argues, the postmodern subject "has lost its capacity…to organize its past and future into coherent experience"; in other words, the postmodern citizen resides in an ever-changing now that moves and flows with little reference to the past or the future (25). Indeed, Jean Baudrillard (1983) has argued that all time condenses on the present, becoming little more than "the absolute proximity, the total instantaneity of things" (133). As I have previously argued (2011), the result of this postmodern pessimism is that "there is no sense of the 'past' or 'future' but rather an instantaneous and vacuous sense of the 'present'" (6).

[2.7] But what of viewing the video as a component of remix culture? If postmodern culture saw such dire consequences for temporal flux, what, if anything, has changed with the advent of remixability and the modularization of media (Manovich 2005)? The mashup does not fracture a sense of history or historicity into nothingness but rather relies inherently on viewer knowledge of specific temporalities to create a definite sense of history. By inscribing a "new" video with temporal characteristics from different time periods, mashups reinforce historical and temporal boundaries, relying on the audience to create meaning. The meaning of "The Grey Video" emerges through knowledge of two distinct time frames.

3. Time for a taste: Bourdieu and temporality

[3.1] As a specific aspect of temporality, Fauchere and Tinguely's "The Grey Video" also relies on inherent assumptions about the taste of its audience. Traditionally, taste rests on a linear sense of temporality, not the multifaceted system demonstrated by mashup videos. But in a remix culture, it is only through a redefinition of that marker of value that we can see mashup videos as components of a larger media environment. Mark Vidler's (2010) mashup video "Virgin O'Riley" becomes a meaningful exploration of taste in a remix culture, through its symbolical linkage of the related notions of sexuality and violence (video 3).

Video 3. "Virgin O'Riley," by Mark Vidler (2010).

[3.2] Vidler, a mainstay on the remix scene, has a history of remixing classic rock songs with more light-hearted pop music, as well as creating complex remix videos as appropriations of both (see, for example, his "Carpenter's Wonderwall" and "Ray of Gob"). As with the fannish art of vidding, Vidler uses the mashup to underscore a salient yet sublimated meaning that emerges from his source texts. Two temporalities exist simultaneously in this video: the work of the Who (specifically, using clips from their concerts and the film Quadrophenia [1979]) and the music and lyrics of Madonna's "Like a Virgin." Vidler's mashup song "Virgin O'Riley" fuses Madonna with the Who seamlessly, creating a synthesis of 1960s rock and 1980s pop-synth. But what is perhaps most salient about this mashup video is not just how the layers of images and music create a new sound (a mashup object), but also how they create an active reading of two different cultural tastes (a mashup of practice): the violence of the Who and the sexuality of Madonna become salient only because the audience of the mashup is continually in the process of juxtaposing these disparate tastes.

[3.3] The issue of taste is never far from the activity of deconstructing Vidler's "Virgin O'Riley." Specifically, as the song opens on the video, the recognizable chords of "Baba O'Riley" trilling on the keyboards, images of the Who appear on the screen superimposed on each other. At the 1:05 marker, text reading "Who's next" floats on the screen, surrounded by clouds, as if to signal the coming synthesis of Madonna's face onto what had been the Who's video. The two groups dissolve in and out of each other, confusing not only the temporal placement of the text but also the taste level of the audience.

[3.4] Madonna and the Who have different fan bases: one can be a fan of both, but in the grand scheme of musical stylings, one can't get much farther apart than the grand rock aesthetics of the Who and the playful dance pop of early Madonna. Each artist appeals to a different group of people: people separated by generation, by social class, by musical history. I say this not to place either group on a hierarchy of value but to note that both groups fit into a particular social order, a habitus of their own, which helps determine (and is determined by) the social sphere of those who listen to them.

[3.5] Vidler's video synthesizes these spheres in a sophisticated amalgamation that inherently relies on our social understanding of both values. Watching Pete Townsend (1:17–1:34) pounding his tambourine to the beat of Madonna's seductive "I made it through the wilderness / Somehow I made it through" is incongruous, to say the least. Yet at a certain level, it simply works: we read Madonna's lyrics as a comment on the Who, just as we start to see the Who as a pop act as well.

[3.6] Vidler then shifts his video remix technique to emphasize a connection between the two groups, positioning Madonna on the left side of the screen and Quadrophenia's young protagonist, Jimmy, on the right. She sings "I didn't know how lost I was until I found you," mirroring the look in Jimmy's eyes (1:39). One could almost picture the two of them hooking up, perhaps in a romantic comedy. The connection is made through both the music and the video text, linking the two pieces through a network of meaning. A repetition of a mob breaking a shopwindow (1:53–2:00) echoes with Madonna's lead-in to the chorus, creating a dramatic overlay of violence (from the Who's rock song) and sexuality (from Madonna's pop song). The chorus begins and the image shifts to Madonna, sexily attired in her wedding dress and seductively caressing a bedsheet. A dramatic tension highlights the mashup of rock and pop sensibilities, creating a decided connection between taste and image.

[3.7] The connection between rock violence and pop sexuality continues, thematically linking Townsend's aggression with Madonna's sensuality. The buildup to the chorus after the bridge (2:53) features a repeated booming, as if of a cannon firing, with the text "The Who" flying on beat onto the screen numerous times. To the sound of heavy drum beats, Townsend's famous guitar-destroying antics take over the screen, as clips of him throwing his ax and breaking amps, strings, and necks contrast with Madonna's repeated lyric that she is "like a virgin." As the video continues, the drums kick in and Townsend's dramatic strumming mirrors the chorus Madonna sings. The contrast could not be clearer: the violence of the Who matches and equals the sexuality of Madonna.

[3.8] It doesn't take too much extrapolation, then, to see the different taste levels of the two pieces of music mashed up. The rock sensibilities of the Who, seemingly at odds with the pop-synth dance music of Madonna, find a home when juxtaposed within the viewer's linkage of sex and violence. The mashup here doesn't just link two different time frames; rather, it takes the activity of the audience to intertextually reference deeper meanings of the texts to construct a mashup in all its complexity. Bourdieu offers one particular reading of taste as a marker of social history that, in a way, helps elucidate the separate meanings of both Madonna and the Who. But to see the mashup meaning, the remix value, of these two pieces requires a more complicated view that integrates the temporality and the varied taste of remix.

[3.9] In a traditional postmodern sense, taste has always had a temporal quality, as Bourdieu (1984) describes:

[3.10] The objects endowed with the greatest distinctive power are those which most clearly attest the quality of the appropriation, and therefore the quality of their owner, because their possession requires time and capacities which, requiring a long investment in time…cannot be acquired in haste or by proxy, and which therefore appear as the surest indications of the quality of the person. (281)

[3.11] But rather than being dependent on a historical presence, this version of value and taste is based on, as Williams (1976) describes, "a particular way of life" (80). Although the question of temporality is never far from Bourdieu's mind, it is also rarely directly articulated in his model of taste. In Bourdieu's philosophy, time becomes a way of understanding the development of larger aesthetic and philosophical temperaments, not a key element of taste in and of itself. Although some attempt has been made to connect Bourdieu with a tradition of historical sociology, time is a constant for Bourdieu, serving larger ends without affecting issues of taste (see Steinmetz 2011). His work sees time not just as an external object, but also as an activity that structures and is structured by our construction of taste just as much as taste is constructed by time. "Virgin O'Riley" works because the viewer must reconcile the aesthetics of the Who and Madonna; but in doing so, the viewer also links violence with sexuality, creating an amalgam of tastes that reflects back on the original artists.

4. Fandom and mashup culture

[4.1] After looking at "The Grey Video" and "Virgin O'Riley," we can construct a more fleshed-out analysis of Manovich's (2007) remix culture. By focusing on the mashup video, however, I imply that there is more to the remix than just "samples which come from already existing databases of culture" (5). Rather, if we look at remixes as decidedly pointed activities rather than just as objects or collections of samples, then we can form a more robust understanding of the cultural value of contemporary remix theory.

[4.2] Conceptualized as objects, mashups can be seen across the diverse fields of popular music and software programming (Manovich 2007). For years in the music scene, contemporary artists have been using samples of other artists' work to reference within their own music. One trend in mashup culture has seen the complete remix of songs from other musicians to create something new and unique: The musician Girl Talk, a prime example, mixes hundreds of samples from other people's works to make a fresh sound that references but also subverts the meaning of the original work. In software studies, a mashup is similar, in that it refers to any software that uses or remixes data from two or more sources to create a new service: for example, Earth Album mixes the software for Google Maps with the software from Flickr and YouTube, so users can log on to Google Maps and view images and videos that have been tagged from these locations (Brinkmann 2007). Manovich (2008) has shown how "most major Web 2.0 companies—Amazon, eBay, Flickr, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and YouTube—make available their programming interfaces and some of their data to encourage others to create new applications using this data" (39). Amber Davisson (2011) argues that Google Maps mashups played an important role in the 2008 presidential election, leading to a larger cultural innovation in our understanding of the role of civic engagement.

[4.3] Although mashups can thus be seen as objects, they also can be interpreted usefully as a combination of specific and deliberate activities across a range of cultural responses. Video mashups have become integral to the contemporary media environment, and have become fixtures of discussion about Web 2.0 media (Tryon 2009, 158). Indeed, Chuck Tryon illustrates the crucial role that mashups have played, not only in the legal fields of copyright, authorship, and fair use rules, but also in political campaigns. Mashup videos that remix political content and advertising function as "satire, commenting on current events rather than remaining content to focus on genre conventions" (Tryon 2009, 167). These political mashups often take audio material from one source and mash it up with content from another, as in David Morgasen's 2008 video "Obama and McCain—Dance Off!" (video 4). In this video, audio from fake speeches and interviews made by Obama and McCain are mashed up with images of their faces superimposed on dancers' bodies. The 2008 election between Obama and McCain impersonators becomes fodder for a dance-off, in which both candidates compete to see who has the slickest moves. Morgasen effectively satirizes the spectacle of the 2008 presidential election with this juxtaposition, calling into question our delineation of entertainment and news through the mashup.

Video 4. "Obama McCain Dance Off," by Morgasen (2008).

[4.4] If the mashup represents a larger cultural imperative, then it makes sense for us to examine those spots in culture that suture this meaning together. Fan studies is a natural place to start, as fans represent the sort of creator/audience that holds a spotlight up to our culture. We've seen how mashups create new modes of temporality and new understandings of taste; in a practical sense, then, where can we see the effects of this remix culture? What would a Media Studies 2.0 analysis look like? How can we turn the lens of fan studies onto traditional media theories?

[4.5] One such examination could take place in genre theory. Although different mashup videos utilize different strategies for textual creation, in many instances the text of the online video actually serves to mash up popular generic conventions. Remixing to change the genre of a particular work is a practical application of the de Certeauan notion of tactical reading, where alternate readings become externalized (de Certeau 1984, 37). One popular mashup video, "A Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead" (video 5), features a remix of the Beatles' film A Hard Day's Night with a slew of zombie movies to depict the Beatles being chased by the undead (Clates 2006). In this video, the mixture of genres leads to a cultural critique of popular fandom: the orgasmically screaming girls, earlier seen in "The Grey Video," here parallel the zombification of popular culture. Another example is the mashup "Ten Things I Hate about the Commandments" (video 6), a mix of Cecil B. DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1956) and the genre of high school comedy (Vayabobo 2006). Here, the mashup doesn't mix two texts but rather mashes up a text and a genre to create a new reading of the Moses story as a parable for high school cliquishness.

Video 5. "A Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead," posted by Clates (2006).

Video 6. "Ten Things I Hate about the Commandments," posted by Vayabobo (2006).

[4.6] Fan studies has articulated this externalization of tactical reading, seeing it applied in fan fiction (Jenkins 1992), consumerism (Hills 2002), gaming (Crawford and Rutter 2007), and social networks (Booth 2010), among others. For example, one fan of the original Star Wars trilogy, Mike J. Nichols, upset at the presence of Jar-Jar Binks in the first prequel, loaded the footage of 1999's Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace onto his computer and "edited the entire movie, eliminated story redundancy and cut some extraneous…scenes" (Shulgan 2002, 67). Other fans distributed his new film, titled The Phantom Edit, over the Internet. Remixing the Star Wars movie allowed Nichols not only the creative input to change the film, but also the ability to create a new film entirely. Nichols's Phantom Edit sits in the middle of Manovich's remix culture, putting the creation of cultural products in the hands of amateurs, of users, of audience members, and of fans.

[4.7] The now-famous "Vogue" video from Luminosity (2008) also serves as an exemplar of this new understanding of remix culture (video 7). "Vogue" has been described before in terms of its gender politics (Cupitt 2008; Turk 2010), links to fandom (Jenkins 2007), and relation to copyright (Tushnet 2010). In the popular press, Luminosity has also become relatively well known as a fan, thanks in part to her profile in New York Magazine (Hill 2007). The reason for her celebrity is not hard to fathom. For "Vogue," Luminosity selected scenes from Zach Snyder's film 300 (2006) and then digitally reedited them to synch with the 1990 Madonna song "Vogue." Luminosity first calls into question the generic positioning of both the two external texts, referencing a fluid understanding of sexuality (see Cupitt 2008). But by linking the very hetero maleness of 300 with the queer politics of Madonna's song, Luminosity highlights how the blending of two tastes can critique traditional assumptions about sexual politics (Turk 2010).

Video 7. "Vogue," by Luminosity (2008).

[4.8] What scholarly attention has been paid to Luminosity, however, has not discussed the mashup of temporality and taste within her video remixes. There is a complexity at the heart of "Vogue," one articulated by the interaction not just of the two texts at its core, but also in the interaction between the past and future. The misogyny of 300 is easy to dismiss, given the "historical" nature of the drama—one can imagine a student's retort that "that's the way it was in ancient Greece." Luminosity's juxtaposition of a 1990s gendered sensibility, however, reveals the underlying heteronormativity of 300 and articulates a mashup retort.

[4.9] Like her "Like a Virgin," Madonna's "Vogue" fits into the dance pop category of music with its catchy hooks, heavily bassed drumbeat, and vapid lyrics. As is common to most dance music, there is an underlying theme of posture: "Don't just stand there, let's get to it / Strike a pose, there's nothing to it." As he stands there, literally with nothing to him, King Leonidas follows Madonna's command by actively striking a pose. Using the generic power of the dance pop genre of music, Luminosity challenges and ultimately undermines the genre of 300. The temporal mix here—threefold, as the action depicted in the 2006 film takes place in 480 BCE but is set to music from 1990—hearkens to a more nuanced reading of the spectacle of the film. The action-adventure movie retells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae. Told in a kinetic style that relishes the spectacle, however, the movie skips over much of the historical basis for the battle (the unification of Greece against the invading Persians, the sociopolitical strife amongst the Athenians and Spartans) and instead focuses on the blood and carnage of the battle, as well as the oiled abs of the Spartan army. In 300, the warriors who conquer the Persians in this film adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel look like perfect masculine specimens. Their muscles ripple and undulate in the film, while their scantily clad loins hide only enough to prevent an NC-17 rating. In Luminosity's video "Vogue," however, we see these Spartan warriors in a new light. Set to the tune of Madonna's song, these warriors are more than sparring machines: they represent the essence of beauty and fitness when they dance to the nondiegetic beat. 300 thus exemplifies the generic spirit of the action-adventure movie, which in general thematically links to a highly visual spectacle and barely veiled patriarchal, hegemonic ideology.

[4.10] By juxtaposing the two genres, Luminosity parodies the original genre of both texts. "Vogue" calls for a sexually charged playfulness, while 300 argues masculinity and action. As we listen to the song, we hear the lyric "strike a pose" again just as we see the image of the evil Persian king Xerxes step from his carriage with his hands outstretched, striking a pose himself (figure 2).

Figure 2. "Vogue," Xerxes striking a pose. [View larger image.]

[4.11] Though this juxtaposition, Luminosity highlights the instability of traditional genre analysis in a digital environment, and the focus of the video becomes less textual and more cultural. By this I mean that the video focuses on the larger meaning behind our cultural construction of gender via the mashup of a hypersexualized film with a hypersexualized musical performer. "Vogue" offers a self-conscious emphasis on sexuality: the triptych at the beginning features an undulating woman with breasts heaving in slow motion (figure 3). Shots later in the video mark the violent masculine sexuality of the Spartan soldiers; rippling abs match decapitating swords ("Look around," Madonna sings at 1:03, as a head spins off its neck). By both connecting the gender characteristics of the source texts and playing each off the other, Luminosity presents a dual reading of gender that highlights not only the way our cultural taste has changed (in a Bourdieuan sense) but also how the multimix of temporalities (1990s mashed up with 2000s mashed up with a fictionalized 480 BCE) coheres and offers a solid critique of the mediation of misogyny.

Figure 3. "Vogue," Triptych. [View larger image.]

[4.12] This construction of genre through mashing up time and taste is arguably the most powerful aspect of the mashup video. Ultimately, the mashup highlights a massive shift in our culture, from a broadcast-era dichotomy between producer and consumer to a digital media–era amalgamation of them. Mark Vidler sums it up nicely in a short BBC video about remixing (BBC 2011): "Don't bother watching television," he says, "just get on your laptop and create things—there's endless possibilities" (video 8). Mashups articulate fully the possibilities of a participatory culture.

Video 8. Mark Vidler, BBC (2010).

5. Conclusion: Mashup culture

[5.1] I've highlighted the way mashup videos have played with the notion of sexuality as a key component of the significant cultural revisionism that mashups enable. However, it's important to note that sexuality (and/or gender politics) is not the only cultural critique that mashups engender using this play with temporality. The juxtaposition of different temporalities within the mashup becomes a vehicle through which multiple critiques could take place: the juxtapositions of times can highlight issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, body image, capitalism, and so on. What's important to take away from this is that remix culture enables, rather than inhibits, the production of meaning through temporal fluidity.

[5.2] In postmodernism, the perception of time as a unifying or overlaying structure on our life has become less meaningful. To turn a Lyotardian phrase, the concept of time itself is a metanarrative, one that shapes a person's relationship to his or her environment (Lyotard 1979). And postmodern culture is defined by a loss of metanarratives. It's not that there's a new type of temporality in the world, but rather that, as postmodern theorists might argue, our understanding and cultural response to the issues of temporality has shifted. Unlike this temporally uncertain view of culture, however, remix culture highlights a stability within our sense of temporality, manifested through the temporal juxtapositions seen within mashup videos. The mashup ushers in a new moment in Media Studies 2.0, reinterpreting the discourse within contemporary cultural theory.

[5.3] Postmodernism, that most pessimistic of cultural theories, suggests that individuals are losing control of their own lives. With a lack of historical knowledge or desire to learn history, everyday people become lost in the flow of time. Remix culture indicates a different shift: the flow of time is complicated, but by being able to construct meaning from and through it, individuals take control over their own lives. As we become more reliant on technology, we begin to find our cultural identity stemming more from that technology and less from content. And when we do it ourselves, we become active participants in our own media construction. Taking a lesson from Bourdieu, we can instructively see our contemporary culture as an amalgam of different tastes, different temporalities, and different genres, all productively synthesized into a larger cultural metaphor. Remix doesn't stop at the object, but rather becomes a cultural activity, performed at all stages of cultural investigation, that has an immediate and profound effect on the individual. It's through the symbolism of a network of temporality that the mashup can foster meaningful discourse, and unlike the dire warnings postulated by postmodern prognosticators, our sense of time and history is still intact. The breaks in temporality seen by these postmodern theorists resurface in remix culture as concrete manifestations of historical stability.

[5.4] The mashup as a cultural object offers moments of exquisite joy: who among us hasn't enjoyed sharing a clip on Facebook or marveling at a fan's unique interpretation of a text? But when viewed as something larger than a text, when viewed as a moment of cultural rupture, the mashup video can take on a significance beyond a simple juxtaposition of image and music. By juxtaposing different audiences' tastes, the mashup also symbolizes the coming together of different viewpoints and ideas. To mash up is to invite cooperation: when different tastes mingle, new ideas form and vast differences can be bridged. In an already fractious culture, we need more cooperation. We need more dialogue. We need more mashups.

6. Acknowledgments

[6.1] Portions of this essay were previously presented at the 2011 Cultural Studies Association conference in Chicago, IL. I am indebted to June Deery, whose comments and feedback on an early version of the essay were invaluable.

7. Notes

1. Obviously, there is a great deal of slippage between terms here—using can be seen as a form of creation as well.

2. Grey Tuesday, held on February 24, 2004, was an online act of electronic civil disobedience, when numerous Web sites hosted The Grey Album for free download, in protest of EMI's attempt to limit access to the album (see Rimmer 2007).

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