Cultural Products and Creativity: The “TMZ” Video and the Lego Librarians

Earlier this week I spent an afternoon reading trashy celebrity gossip magazines (give me a break, it’s summer). I learned way, way more than I ever needed to know about the antics of the Teen Moms, the possibly jail-bound Real Housewife, the sexting politician, and the Kardashians – and all that useless information about people I don’t even know made me think of one of my recent favourite music videos: Weird Al Yankovic‘s TMZ.

As pretty well everyone knows, most of Weird Al’s music is parodies of popular songs, and most of his music videos are parodies of the original song’s video. However, Yankovic occasionally collaborates on videos that aren’t based on the video of the original song – and some of the best of these collaborations, in my opinion, are those with independent animator and cartoonist Bill Plympton. Plympton and Yankovic first worked together on the video for Yankovic’s Don’t Download This Song. That’s a pretty epic video, but I like their TMZ video even more. It’s a really insightful and cutting commentary on the pervasiveness of celebrity gossip culture, and the animation is brilliant. Take a look at it – it’s wonderful.

In another great example of creativity involving cultural products, librarian Joe Hardenbrook, who blogs as Mr. Library Dude, has been having a great deal of fun with Lego on his blog over the past few weeks. Joe discovered that the newest addition to Lego’s line of minifigures was a librarian; however, in his opinion, the minifigure represented mostly negative stereotypes of librarians (e.g. female, wearing glasses and a cardigan, sensible hair). So Joe grabbed a couple of Lego minifigures and embarked on making his own hilarious series of librarian Lego figures.

This post got such a hugely positive response that Joe has now expanded his creative horizons into fashioning an entire Lego library. Now I am not a librarian, but because of the nature of my job I tend to spend a lot of time in libraries (plus I like to read for fun) – and I was laughing my head off looking at every single area in the Lego library. Like most regular library users, I’ve observed all of these things. And it’s nice to see that, although some of these situations must be annoying as hell for librarians to deal with, at least there’s a sense of humour about them.

The title of Joe’s Lego library post promises that this is the “the absolute last post [he] will write about Lego librarians” but I kind of hope it isn’t. The TMZ video and his Lego creations each take a cultural product (the standard music video format; Lego and stereotypes about libraries) and creatively reinvent them in ways that show you all kinds of possibilities and interpretations you never would have thought of otherwise. And that kind of creativity and innovation is always worth celebrating.

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