PUBLISHED SwedED VIDEO
Conceived and Directed by Tracy Stephenson ShafferArtist's statement by Tracy Stephenson Shaffer
On August 1, 1981, MTV premiered on cable television and changed popular culture as we know it. The station was the first of its kind, a revolutionary idea, playing music videos 24/7 and becoming the obsession of teens and young adults across the globe.
On the occasion of its 40th anniversary and as a continuation of my work exploring the impact of popular culture on our lives, I imagined a performance that was both a celebration and critical exploration of MTV and how it shaped the world in which we live. Because I work at a university, engaging with multiple generations (Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z) daily, I wanted to create an intergenerational performance that had something to offer everyone. Finally, I knew this performance could not be performed for a live audience, that the rules, regulations, and reasonable expectations surrounding the ongoing COVID pandemic limited the production to a digital version. As such, I collaborated with seven Louisiana State University students, instructors, and alums to create a thirty-minute digital performance that featured both video remakes and interviews with individuals who were "there" when MTV planted its flag in our imaginations.
MTV is noteworthy not only for its 40th anniversary but for the way it shaped our understanding of identity beyond our individual high schools and hometowns. For some in Generation X (MTV's primary viewing audience), MTV was their first mainstream access to diverse representations. Race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation — MTV offered an alternative to the stifling stereotypes on their TV screens. I Want My MTV asked collaborators to either remake (swede) a video played on the station during its heyday or to identify, interview, and perform (ELP) a member of Generation X (someone born between 1965-1980) on their memories of MTV. We mashed these performances within the performance together with creative editing and reenacted and historical MTV footage. The following explains these methods more fully.
Swede: a budget-friendly, do-it-yourself, remake of a film made popular in Michel Gondry's 2008 comedy Be Kind Rewind (and made popular among performance studies folk through the research of Lyndsay Michalik Gratch). We used the method of sweding to remake videos. Swedes are almost always humorous as they do not rely on the budget or professional quality of the original, yet they approximate the original through details like staging, performance, costumes, and props. They can also have a critical edge, and ours certainly do. I Want My MTV offers four wonderful swedes of classic MTV videos made by Lyndsay Michalik Gratch, Jonny Gray, Michael LeVan, and Misty Saribal.
ELP: a performance method that assists a researcher/performer in collecting and performing the "everyday life" speech of another, taken from the research of the late Dr. Robert Hopper. I Want My MTV features performers, Bonny McDonald and Johanna Middleton, who identified, interviewed, and perform individuals who experienced the first decade of MTV in their formative years. In addition to offering the perspective of the interviewee, this method created an intergenerational communication experience for both interviewer and interviewee and increased understanding for each.
Mashup: originally used in DJ culture to describe combining two different songs or genres of music into one. Aerosmith and Run-DMC's "Walk This Way" is an early version of mashup. Over the last 40 years, and with much influence from MTV, the mashup aesthetic has broadened to include a variety of things (including video) that combine elements from disparate sources to make something new. For performance studies folks, mashup is one way to compile texts. I Want My MTV is a mashup of sorts. Charles Christian Jones (our editor) and I worked together to combine the sweded videos and ELP performances with memorable clips from classic MTV to create our project. We took the "mashing" seriously, knowing that form is content. The editing together is as much a part of the overall project as are the individual contributions.
I Want My MTV put out a teaser trailer on August 1, 2021, exactly 40 years after MTV premiered. It also had a "regular run" in LSU's Department of Communication Studies as the season opener for the HopKins Black Box's 30th season in late August. We are delighted to share I Want My MTV with the audience of Liminalities.
Hopper, Robert. "Conversational Dramatism and Everyday Life Performance." Text and Performance Quarterly 13.2 (1993): 181-183.
Gratch, Lyndsay Michalik. Creating Memes, Sweding Movies, and Other Digital Performances: Adaptation Online. Lexington, 2017.
Gratch, Lyndsay Michalik. "How I Learned to Swede (and You Can, Too!): In Praise of Amateur Aesthetics," Text and Performance Quarterly 38.1-2 (2018): 109-114.