I'm not a vidder. I'm unlikely to ever be a vidder. But of all the forms of fannish art, they are probably my favourite. And this from someone who works with text for a living because it's my passion. Part of the buzz about vids for me is the glamour of seeing a creation I could not possibly make myself. Part of the enjoyment is pure aesthetic appreciation, or finding the construction clever, or getting a giggle out of the humour. But at a deeper level, the reasons why I like vids are quite complex.
In due course, talitha78 will post an essay from a vidder's perspective, and the comments in repsonse to her original post have been fascinating. Here I've collated my original response to talitha78 and fleshed it out a little, to give a
In order to explain why I love vids so much, I needed to articulate my relationship with music and images. Different people's minds work in different ways. Some people are highly visual. They think in pictures (sort of like a 'visual slipstream' in their minds). Others think in words or concepts. Some people even dream in words/concepts. They don't actually see images in their 'mind's eye'. Most of us, I believe, have a mix of both types of thinking. In a normal day, I will spend some of my time consciously articulating in my mind (like holding a running conversation with myself) but also part of the time letting my mind 'drift'. In the drift time, images often arise in my mind, which is where the visual comes in to play. Sometimes I have a mixture of concepts and images in my head at once.
I learnt a lot about how the mind works while recovering from depression. Whole quadrants of my mind 'freed up' once the depression cleared. One of the things I learnt was better control over switching in and out of these two thinking styles. Neither style is 'better' than the other per se. It is good to be able to think in words and concepts in order to construct logical arguments, problem solve, etc. But it's also good to be more free-thinking (apart from anything else, it relieves stress to sink into the visual world for a while). This is sort of a right-brain/left-brain thinking thing, but it's not even as simple as that. Some more word-oriented people can be highly creative, but only with words. They make excellent writers and critics, but aren't known for their visual acuity. Some lucky people combine skill in both.
So to explain how this relates to music first of all, I'll relate a moment of realisation that I had a couple of months back. I had just had an extremely emotional altercation with my father and was driving back home listening to the radio. A sweeping atmospheric track by Royksopp came on the radio and I started crying as I listened to it. I wasn't having conscious thought at the time--I was too in shock. But I responded strongly to the song at a subconscious level, and visual landscapes opened in my mind. I got home before the song finished but I felt compelled to wait until the song ended. Thinking about this later I realised that what the song was giving me in that moment was a way to work through emotion subconsciously. The music arced in a way that triggered catharsis for me. Good music often does, I think. And so I needed to hear to the end to reach the natural emotional conclusion. The music and my emotions were entangled together.
I talked this over with a friend who is a purely word/concept thinker. She could understand what I related but she had rarely experienced such moments herself. From here on, my ideas are supposition, but this made me think that maybe for some people music IS a way of working through emotions. Why do we listen to some songs over and over? For many people I think it's because it taps some inner landscape of emotion.
I'm getting to vids! Promise! Vids also tap into our emotions, but in a very specific way--they access the emotions related to a particular preexisting text. For those of us in fandom, there is a lot of emotion wrapped up in our favoured text. For those of us interested in subtext, there's a whole range of emotions within us begging for cathartic release--we don't get it in the actual text. Fanfic also serves this purpose, but it does so in a more 'conscious' way. Those of us with visual minds conjure up images while we read. But with vids, we don't have to do that work--we're already *in* the image. We can relax and be 'swept away'.
There are many consequences of this:
- some vids express 'trapped' or 'hidden' emotions within/about the show
- some vids are cathartic through using grief, others through using humour or joy
- some vids tell a story--by moving through a traditional story arc, they reach narrative catharsis
- because they work on the more subconscious or visual part of our mind, vids may give us insights we might not otherwise have--insights at an instinctive/emotional level, rather than a purely intellectual one (I've certainly had that experience and some of my favourite vids are those that have triggered that within me)
- a vid may simply be good by echoing the 'spirit' of the original text (after all, we're obsessed with it for a reason!)
- vidding draws attention (Brechtian 'verfremdungseffekt') to the degree to which the visual medium in constructed. We're often more conscious of construction in vids than in the original text because we know the vidder, or we can see the editing more obviously. That's not a bad thing--in fact, I think a good vid watcher becomes a more highly tuned viewer. (Aside: this is also one of the reasons I think Smallville lends itself to vidding--the original creators value the visual as a medium of storytelling as much as the plots or dialogue, although talitha78 tells me that from a vidder's perspective there isn't enough diversity of shots. However, what Smallville does have is a lot of strong imagery, and from a vid fan's perspective, I love to see how this is used by vidders for their own purposes.)
Of course most people don't stop to think why they like vids, or why they like some vids more than others--they just like 'em. And that kind of proves my point--they fill a subconscious emotional hole for us. They create satisfaction through catharsis or completion.
Because they are constructed (mostly!) from the content of the original visual text, they are also very 'true' to the original. So when a vid really taps what we as viewers personally feel about the original show, or echo how we respond to it, we are happy and excited. We like it.
Lyrics and music also play a big part. Music dictates mood and emotion, lyrics suggest mental connections or other concepts. They supplement the original and help build a different narrative. Lyrics are a great jumping off point to create a fresh take on the original text. This doesn't mean they have to be prescriptive--many new vidders begin by being very literal with their linking of lyric and image, which is understandable. But I love seeing people play with less obvious lyric/image combinations, and the most sophisticated vidders create links that seem to magically resonate on the right frequency even though I can't always articulate why! (It just feels right.)
These are just some of the reasons I like vids. Regarding why some people like vids more than others--that's still tricky to work out. At first I wondered if it's mainly visual thinkers that like them best. But on the other hand, for some people who are more word thinkers, watching a vid can be a nice 'break' from heavy conceptual work and internal dialogue. I'm a funny paradox, because I'm mainly a word/concept person, but I love the visual world. I consciously decide to 'go there' when I watch movies, when I watch vids, when I listen to music. But I also intellectualise the process. So it works on two levels for me. And hence I get a double kick out of it! Maybe others do too.
As a final note, I'll say that the more vids I watch, the more I learn about what I like and why, and the more finely tuned my appreciation of the genre becomes. And I'm sure my clever friends list will be able to enlighten me even further, especially as I know a lot of you are far more articulate about music and images than I am.