Friday, April 03, 2009

Who's Fooling Who?

This example of a supposed April Fool's prank shows the subject's familiarity with many aspects of the coming out video a distinctive YouTube genre that combines the channel's familiar webcam confessionalism and database surveillance with a communal affirmation of resistance to YouTube's normative sexuality, as an example of what Alexandra Juhasz has called "NicheTube."

I've been collecting other examples of YouTube videos about public affirmations of sexuality and coming out in this gallery, and I've been struck by four themes or features that come up in many of the samples I have found:

1) protests against online homophobia and the anonymity that fosters it
2) how-to advice about coming out as a step-by-step DIY process
3) reminders of the seasonality or occasional character of an alternative calender with Gay Pride Month and National Coming Out Day as singular and yet iterative events
4) rhetorical engagement with response, comment, dialogue, and debate that sometimes uses direct address to second person interlocutors

Political campaigns to legalize gay marriage have also created their own online channels with personal stories and first-person narratives about coming out, often featuring celebrities, which may superficially seem similar to the amateur videos online. But these commercially produced videos are fundamentally different from their vernacular counterparts because messages that follow the model of commercial broadcast networks obfuscate difficulties created by being forced to manage competing networked publics and insist that the social actors who are presented "stay on message" rather than address seemingly unrelated elements or personal conversations between vloggers that may be very germane to the surrounding rhetorical situation in which more home-made YouTube videos are often highly engaged.

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