Mashup Ex-Voto: Fanvids as Devotional Objects

Published on November 29th, 2007 in: Issues, LGBTQ, Magick, TV, Video |

By Jessica Melusine

Being a student of religious practice, magick, and mysticism as well as an avid pop culture devotee means that certain things look very different in my eyes. Ever since a turn-of-this-century Vericon in Cambridge, MA, I have been fascinated with fanvids.

If you’re not familiar with the form, a fanvid is a video tribute to a favorite movie, anime, or television series set to music selected by the creator. Fanvids can focus on characters, events, plot points, or romances (or in slang, “ships”) that can be canon for the material or exist only as fantasy for the fans. Fanvids are labored over and were formerly shown as part of video rooms at science fiction cons, but thanks to editing software and sites such as YouTube, fanvids are suddenly available to be created outside of a science fiction context. Fanvids can be funny, sexy, tearjerking, or a mix of all depending on what the artist chooses with the song and the subject. For me, it is an exciting field that opens the storytelling path of a show’s storyline and makes a visual medium more interactive.

tara & willow
Tara and Willow

Fanvids are kindred to mashups and other collage art techniques; however, the nerd association means it hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves. What really makes these video creations (which are unsanctioned by either the show or the musicians) stand out is that they are solely labors of love. Looking at them now, I see them as particular devotional objects: a fanvid is a visual representation of love for a particular character or relationship.

For me, it’s an offering as much to the emotional impact of a show and a thank you for the feelings inspired by the show. This makes it very similar to an ex-voto—an object or a piece of art left for ritual purposes, to demonstrate devotion to a divinity, or to thank a divinity for particular aid. These are often seen in pilgrimage sites as paintings, carvings, empty liquor bottles for healed alcoholism, art, discarded crutches, or pictures of the body part that has been healed.

However, there is no cathedral for the Buffyverse (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), for Serenity, for the crew of Battlestar Galactica, or Xena and Gabrielle. Instead, fans swap videos or currently put them on YouTube. Like any devotional offering, they are fascinating and puzzling because you never know the full story—we don’t know exactly why someone chose a particular song (be it saccharine or impressive) and the story unfolds itself for a few minutes, then is gone.

I find myself particularly drawn to the Buffyverse fanvids and fascinated by seeing what people choose to see or choose to show to others. The Spike and Buffy relationship (or “Spuffy”) is notable for having lots of sexy videos focusing on erotic energy, but also a great deal of videos focusing on Spike’s redemption and honor.

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