On the “Susan Boyle Experience”
June 30, 2009
I think Virgina Heffernan is really smart, and look forward to her weekly NYT columns. However, I take some small exception to her recent thoughts on the “Susan Boyle Experience.” She writes: “The great subjects of online video are stunts, pranks, violence, gotchas, virtuosity, upsets and transformations. Where television is supposed to satisfy expectations with its genres and formulas, online video confounds them.”
One of my consistent worries about YouTube is that it is already dumbfoundingly generic and numbingly formulaic (especially given its young age, and the common sense assumption that YouTube videos are in their earliest forms and are still developing). My sense is that YouTube is baked. Its video forms are finished. And this—”stunts, pranks, violence, gotchas, virtuosity, upsets and transformations”—is what we’ll be stuck with for quite awhile, at least until web 2.0 delivers us a different platform. As I express elsewhere, everything else imaginable will brew, storm, and invent itself on NicheTube with little pressure on the norm.
Sure, each little video holds its own small surprises, adaptations, variations (that’s why we are momentarily drawn to it), but this is expressed in a language, melody, style, and structure (for Susan Boyle the glorious rise and tragic defeat) with which we are already familiar, pleased, and comfortable.