Fred on Film

September 17, 2010

I was recently interviewed by Monica Hesse at the Washington Post for her article on Fred’s big move to movie: “This is a movie. This is a movie based on a YouTube character. This is a movie based on one of the most successful YouTube characters of all time.” Like last time, we had a great talk, but little of my ideas about Fred made it to her page. Here they are:

1) While media platforms are quickly converging (Fred moves from YouTube to movie!), the maintaining of distinctions between old and new media continues to be equally definitive for web 2.0’s day-to-day. Which is to say that Fred, and most other major user-producer-stars on YouTube (NigaHiga, Shane Dawson), take on a juvenile, boyish, immature style, content and tone (and even persona: they all play themselves younger than they actually are) as the easiest insurance policy to verify their user-produced chops in counter-distinction to the slick corporate fare that also gains mucho-popularity on the site. See, I’m just a boy, and I made this all by myself in my room…In the meantime, this also efficiently corrals their humor to YouTube’s signature bad-boy fun–shit, farts, pre-adolescent sex, and generally adult-off-putting shenanigans–and childlike audience (face it, we the audience play it young, too.)

2) The pseudo male pre-adolescent voice dominates both new and old media forms (Fred/40 year old virgin/transformers/tosh.0), producing a dominant multi-platform all-male discourse where pre-PC offenses are permitted (I’m only six or forty, I didn’t know you shouldn’t treat a woman that way), and actual adult male anxieties about real-world unsettled gender norms are played out and with but never with any depth, subtlety, or (I am willing to say) adult sophistication. I, for one, would love to see some work by real kids about the changing nature of masculinity, or even by real men, or better yet women, too: all of us in a conversation that could include but also surpass the fart jokes or make-up anti-women men.

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