Just Lose It at Wal-Mart

I’ve been planning to watch the Wal-Mart videos Henry Jenkins mentioned a few days ago, but because I didn’t have internet service at home until yesterday, I didn’t really have a chance until now. Discussing the Wal-Mart videos, Jenkins argues that these amateur videomakers have posted videos that “celebrate the Wal-Mart shopping experience.” Many of the videos posted on YouTube were shot illicitly using personal cameras brought into the store and often feature teenagers dancing to music played on radios found in the store’s elctronics department. Others, such as the affectionate parody of Eminem’s “Just Lose It,” entail elaborate staging, often using props found in the store (or at least using a shopping cart as an improvised dolly). Jenkins also points to the “Wal-Mart Time” video, described by its creators as a “hardcore rap about everyones favorite super store.”

In his reading of these videos, Jenkins notes that they all display “a kind of affection for the store as a public space which contrasts sharply with the anti-corporate messages one associates with the ad-buster or culture jammers movement.” Because I’ve recently moved from DC to a much smaller city, I’m finding myself much more attentive to these questions of access to public space, and given that “Wal-Mart time” runs 24-7, it’s one of the few public spaces available at any time, day or night, but I’m wondering whether these videos signal affection for Wal-Mart or whether they actually convey a degree of ironic distance (and I’ll be the first to admit that the categories aren’t mutually exclusive). In the “Wal-Mart Time” video, the teenage girls do make some pointed critiques of the store’s practice of selling guns and its practice of selling cheaply-priced goods in bulk quantities. It also seems significant that these videos are produced illicitly, “under the watchful noses of Wal-mart’s ever attentive and friendly welcomers,” as Jenkins puts it. I’m not sure that my reading is vastly different than Jenkins, in that these videos do look quite a bit different than Robert Greenwald’s more overtly anti-Wal-Mart documentary, but I am interested in how these videomakers are negotiating their relationship to Wal-Mart.

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