I think remix is a queer act. Why? Because it requires a rejection of the dominant and acceptable notions of copyright and challenges the author/reader and owner/user binaries on which copyright is based.
The following are some of the best queer video remixes on the web. Now, I define “best” as representative of the queer remix community; this is not an exhaustive list. I include works that carry the most potential for further or more nuanced subversive readings. I write more about this in the newest issue of Transformative works & culture. You can read the entire piece here.
Playing guitars on their beds, saving each other from the evil forest and dancing hand in hand through the hills—this is not your usual fairy tale or your normal Barbie adventure. Most fairy tales reinforce heteronormative gender roles in girls early on, but this simple remix turns a Barbie fairy tale into a queer love story. Gaberine, a 41-year-old YouTube user, made this recut trailer with her kids by taking scenes from the 2008 Mattel movieBarbie and the Diamond Castle and recording a more subversive voice-over. Now remixed, Barbie and her current girlfriend have to save Barbie’s ex-girlfriend (they are still friends!) trapped in a castle. There is no Ken; “these gay girls” only have each other.
It’s difficult to call the homoeroticism in the 2006 blockbuster fantasy action film 300subtext. Director Zack Snyder claims that featuring shirtless, tan, and leather-clad muscle men was not intended to be homoerotic, especially because his film was targeted to straight male audiences. But similar to other action-genre films, 300 had a distinct appeal to gays, garnering media attention for its ability to cater to this bonus audience to boost sales. When paired with the Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men,” the film’s testosterone-fueled masculinity is mocked and subverted, illustrating how easily images of performative gender roles can be subverted through remix.
Deemed one of the “sharpest male-oriented comedies of the 1990’s” by TV Guide, the original 1996 Swingers movie follows five 20-something men as they cope with the mysteries of women and life in Hollywood. The queer remix subverts a male friendship between two lead characters, played by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, into a romance of loss and longing. When the former friends and current lovers break up, Favreau is suddenly “lost in a world he [doesn’t] understand”—that is, heteronormative Hollywood. He attempts to court men and comes out of the closet, but he continues to frequent straight bars to keep up appearances. Experimenting with societal expectations, Favreau “decides to be someone else”—that is, “a man” (as defined by blue captions), meaning a straight man who upholds heteronormativity. However, he soon realizes he’s still in love with Vaughn.
What makes this remix different from the thousands of other queer remixes of mainstream bromances is the sensitivity we’re encouraged to have for Favreau as he tries to negotiate gender roles, masculinity, and societal expectations of men. The video successfully invites the viewer to identify with Favreau’s struggle as he tries to fit into a world where heterosexuality and normative gender expression reign.
Viewed over 3 million times on YouTube, “Top Gun Recut” is one of the most popular examples of queer video remix. As main characters Maverick and Iceman begin to fall for each other in this constructed reality, their sexual encounters and romantic relationship mock the aggressively masculine and heteronormative fraternity of fighter pilots explored in the original 1986 Hollywood hit Top Gun. Repeated phallic images are used to drive the point home: these guys want each other bad. Will the homophobic world of the military condone their desire to be together, or will it threaten their love forever?
“I’m Your Man” uses 48 different visual sources, offering the viewer a full range of gendered media clichés meticulously organized and edited to successfully mock the notion of essential gender identity. Repeated images of drag, cross-dressing, and stylized of butch/femme identities are used to parody our concept of binary gender. The author packs an additional parodic punch by using the song “I’m Your Man” covered by a female performer, Patricia O’Callaghan. This queer remix celebrates the rare moments when marginalized or alternative genders and sexualities make it into pop culture while critically questioning gender representation and the resulting clichés in the mass media.