I've gotten some good emails in my day, and last week I received one of the all-time best: Sean O'Rourke, a research coordinator for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno reached out to me for permission to show my Taylor Swift Is Surprised video during an upcoming sit-down interview with the pop star. "Duh! Squee! Duuuuuh!" I said (not really, but I did go, "HA!" in a quiet gym locker room when I initially read it off my Blackberry). Sean assured me I and/or my blog would get credit. Duh squared, that wasn't even a concern. How silly I become when I'm excited! In my response, I stressed how important it was for my friend Kate Spencer (who came up with the idea for the video in the first place) to be credited, too. Kate and me/fourfour and The Fab Life/both attributions -- however they wanted to do it, I asked that they somehow mention us both. Sean warned me that he couldn't promise any specific mention from Jay, but at the very least, our names would appear in the show's credits -- at least our names would be down somewhere. Great! Since Jay Leno tends toward the diabolical, I wasn't going to get my hopes up that he'd actually say my name on air. I didn't even know if they'd end up showing it at all. Sean and I went back and forth a few times about getting him the highest-resolution video possible (a tall order, as my video was a compressed compilation of already compressed source material, since so much of it came from YouTube).
Fast forward to last night:
Taylor's on his couch and he talks to her about winning awards (this is where the clip above begins). After (unconvincingly, I think) explaining that she refrains from being presumptuous while sitting in the audience of awards shows, Jay tells her, "We put together a little montage of you being surprised." What follows are four clips that appeared in my supercut, clearly cut from HD sources (they're 16x9 and look infinitely clearer than what I used) but put together in the same order that they are in my video (clips that originally appeared between the first and the second of the reel shown on The Tonight Show were removed, but the second through fourth appear in the exact succession with almost the same rhythm as my original video). And that's it. Taylor (after letting out a wonderfully appropriate, surprised, "Oh!" right before Jay rolled the clip) explained herself without a shred of irony or a seeming understanding of how silly all the instances of gaping mouth come off: "It's so exciting! I never thought I was gonna be at awards shows and nominated, and then you win them. It's just like, 'What?!' It's always fun!" The interview continued, so did the show. At its end, there were no credits in sight.
What surprised me the most wasn't so much that Kate and I weren't mentioned, but that the video wasn't credited as having originated on the Internet. This is not an obscure work -- it's racked up over 200,000 views in a week! I thought at the very least, he'd give and indication of this thing's preexistence so that his viewers could hunt it down if they were so inclined. That was, apparently, expecting too much.
This post is to reclaim due credit -- that is one very tangible function of this blog that I appreciate very much. As with my NPR/cell-phone supercut feud, I am grateful that I don't have to stand by and watch when someone's going to be so rude as to swipe something I worked on just because it was made for the Internet. Newsflash to the mainstream media: just like you have actual human beings making you work, so does the Internet! A little respect for the people providing your content would be nice! I understand that ownership is a dubious concept these days, and that I'm claiming ownership of a series of clips that I never owned in the first place, but an idea is an idea. They're so hard to come by and so, so valuable.
But really, the way all this went down is almost as good as if we'd been credited: a chance for righteous indignation is a gift, and I did get to see Taylor Swift's reaction to my video of her reactions, which is deliciously meta and very satisfying in its own right. Her seeming inability to see the humor in her behavior makes me feel like Kate's and my point is even more resounding. She is naive and lacking in self-awareness, it turns out without surprise. What is Jay's excuse?
Update: I heard from Sean, who chalks the matter up to the chain of communcation and says that this isn't the first time that a non-Jay Leno creation has been credited as such. Go figure. Credits throw TK, perhaps.
Update 2: Justice is served!
Or whatever! Frankly, it was served immediately via the overwhelming support everywhere I turned yesterday. I wasn't even that mad! I feel like people got mad for me. That was nice. I highly recommend getting ripped off (provided that you have a blog where you can tattle about the misdeed). Yesterday was amazing (the Times Arts Beat piece was a highlight), so much so that I passed out before I could catch the credits (thanks to Dave Itzkoff and Matt Cherette for catching this for me). Lots of fun, everyone. Let's do it again soon. (Or not!)