Buffy vs. Edward: A lesson in gender roles, digital activism and fair use rights

You won’t usually find me watching movies about teenage vampires. But I commend you to have a look at this mashup of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Twilight:

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Buffy vs. Edward by Jonathan McIntosh is published under a Creative Commons by-nc-3.0 license.

At this point, “Buffy vs. Edward” could be classified as a nicely done piece of fan fiction. I have seen some better, and many worse, and since I am not very interested in teenage vampires (or vampire slayers, for the matter) I could zap to the next viral video, just as we do so often.

With this mash-up, by doing so you would miss the best. This is not just fan fiction, this is one of the most sophisticated uses of online video for social change I have seen so far.

In a guest post for “Women in Media & News”, Jonathan McIntosh writes about his work:

“Buffy vs Edward is essentially an answer to the question ‘What Would Buffy Do?’ My re-imagined story was specifically constructed as a response to Edward, and what his behavior represents in our larger social context for both men and women. More than just a showdown between The Slayer and the Sparkly Vampire, it’s also a humorous visualization of the metaphorical battle between two opposing visions of gender roles in the 21ist century.”

The post is definitely worth a read. It is an impressive lesson on the power of mash-ups:

“At their best, mash-up videos can serve as a form of critical media literacy, exposing myths and messages embedded in media typically masked by glossy Hollywood productions,”

says McIntosh and quotes a 10 year old Twilight fan:

“It’s really good, I liked the girl power it showed. I’ve watched it like 10 times and showed it to my friends. It’s the best thing I have ever seen on the internet!”

The video is also interesting from a copyright perspective. In the FAQs, McIntosh calls it “a great example of employing my fair use rights” – it is, indeed. And it shows that fair use is something many copyright laws in other countries are desperately missing. In Germany, for instance, this video could not be published: There is no such thing as a fair use right here; and I am quite certain that the rights holders of Twilight would not, even for money, allow their work to be used as an example for antiquated gender roles.

McIntosh himself chose to put his mash-up under a Creative Commons license that allows further derivation of his own work.

He has also taken the opportunity to make his video easily translatable by putting it up on DotSub, crowdsourcing translations in 20 languages.

The latter two points mean that McIntosh is giving away a lot of his control over his work. He allows it to be spread, even altered, and he encourages others to translate the video in languages he has no command of. It is the best he can do to spread his message.