Monday, May 17, 2010

Troop Troupe

I've written a lot about the ways that common vernacular video practices have embarrassed the U.S. military. For example, when videos appear in which American soldiers seem to be taunting children, mocking the destruction of mosques, or killing puppies, not to speak of the Abu Ghraib footage, there are often obvious costs to public diplomacy efforts. Of course, defense department officials often express anxiety about how digital technologies and ubiquitous recording devices compromise national security rather than set back public relations or will emphasize sanctioned portals with approved content that gives a supposedly "truer" picture of the military.

In contrast, there are feel-good videos with soldiers hamming it up to popular songs, like this video of "Hey Ya." (See here, here, here, here, and here for more; these videos get a lot of views.) Music companies are also smart enough not to send take-down notices to those who post these expressions of remix culture. There are also examples like "This is Why I'm Hot (Deployed Edition)" that use new lyrics. There's a lot to draw attention to these videos: viewers want to express support for the troops by disseminating the links, people like displays of vernacular dancing, and its an ironic send-up of the military ideal of coordinated action.

That's why I find the latest military video getting a million plus views interesting. It's much campier than the other videos, with soldiers dancing to Lady Gaga's "Telephone" in homoerotic poses and transgender costumes. It seems to show a military more comfortable with its own potentially subversive digital video practices out in the field.

(Strangely, the official video original from Lady Gaga doesn't show the cellphone communication described in the lyrics; the choreographed action is largely set in a women's prison and a roadside diner for some reason, and little is depicted with the cellphone as the "electronic leash" that the song laments.)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for turning me on to these amazing videos. You might be interested in BullyBloggers' take on Gaga (and comments) from a little bit back.

10:24 AM  

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