This video of Kermit the Frog singing plaintively (about his love for Miss Piggy?) has been making the rounds for at a while and it brings up an interesting discussion of cultural appropriation and copyright — when is it acceptable to use someone else’s work for your own entertainment? This video is simultaneously making a statement about the characters involved (muppets: Kermie and Piggy, Jim Henson), the original version of the song and author (Nine Inch Nails), and the more popular remake (Johnny Cash). An argument can be made that it is a parody (but of what? all its elements?); what it does well is demonstrate is how pervasive cultural elements are in our lives.
Reworking or redoing the culturally significant works of others has been an important part of children’s play for forever; after all, what else are nursery rhymes? Children still sing a song about the Black Plague! However, there are two modern changes from the past — the interference of copyright law and the the increased possibility of permanence via video and video sharing.
Ana Domb on MIT’s Convergence Culture blog writes about the example of kids reshooting Indiana Jones shot-by-shot:
a mission that would last all of their teenage years….Seven years and $5000 later, Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb finished their movie, Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation. …. Although they were congratulated by none other than Stephen Spielberg and have received numerous offers for theatrical and home video distribution, the film’s not-quite-legal standing restrains them from any widespread distribution. With current legislature, the filmmakers will be 105 years old when they are officially allowed to release their film. As much fan produced works, Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation is both homage and creation. It’s an aim in itself and a gateway for further development and growth. No one work is truly and only dependent on one individual, and it’s a shame to see society limiting it’s possibilities in order to protect individual interests. We don’t know what great works could get lost in the process.
Ana also expounds on how fanworks have become part of Hollywood storytelling:
In response to a question about intellectual property, Michel Gondry told us at the MIT screening of Be Kind Rewind that his ultimate objective was to incite people to create their own work. But the fact is that his movie is a celebration of fan production, a type of exploration that has been around for a very long time, but society still has a hard time validating it.
While the video of “Hurt” Kermit could be seen as parody or satire, most of the fanworks created by kids (like the remade Indiana Jones or the fictional sequel to the Rambo movies in Son of Rambow) are done with extreme reverence to the source material. Oddly enough, reverence doesn’t count for anything when it comes to “fair use”!