Riding Dixie

Perhaps the most famous and/or significant event to occur at the Dixie Square Mall has been captured by visual media.  The scene from The Blues Brothers, in which Jake and Elwood Blues cruise through the Mall with the police in hot pursuit, is one of the most famous from the film.  Indeed, The Blues Brothers DVD contains a bonus feature on the making of the film, and segments from this feature have been lifted from the DVD and posted on YouTube.  We realize the phallic metaphor of a big powerful car has become a cultural cliché, but when the Blues Brothers take theirs and ram it through the womb-like structure of the mall, the gendered implications of this destructive scene cannot be ignored.  In fact, YouTube clips highlight these implications.

In one posting, the director of the film, John Landis, is interviewed:  “I’m proud to say that we were the first movie to trash a mall.”  He reveals his pleasure at this prospect by rubbing his hands together in glee, and murmuring “hmm, hmm.”  In another posting, an unidentified person remarks: “Danny Aykroyd thought that shooting at that mall was just one of the greatest things he’d ever seen . . . I’ll never forget just the sheer delight that this . . . idea he’d had late one night was being played out in a very big way.”  This person’s account is supported by video that shows Aykroyd visibly excited as he watches the filming take place in the Mall, as the cars break through store windows and run over the scattered merchandise.

Given its notoriety, the scene provided pleasure for theater audiences who reveled in the destruction of the mall.  This behind-the-scenes footage, however, reveals that both Landis and Aykroyd also derived great pleasure from this destruction.  The fact that these clips have been reposted on YouTube reveals how this pleasure is circulated by the meme.  The posts were originated by “bm207125,” and the profile offers up no information other than the fact that this person is supposedly located in Serbia.  Clearly, however, the posts have been made by a fan of the movie, for the enjoyment of other fans, who then in turn can embed these video clips in their own posts.  In this way, the meme allows others to see and share Landis and Aykroyd’s pleasure, and relate it to their own visual pleasure.

Some fans have taken this pleasure a step further and reproduced this scene in their own YouTube videos.  For example, “SteveB78” took security video footage of a man driving a mini-van through the Augusta Mall in Georgia. SteveB78 edited the segments of the security video, and synced them to the audio track from the scene of the film.  “LannyOnasis” (who is listed as “Brandon” in his YouTube profile) synced the same audio track to a recreation of the scene using Lego blocks.  In these cases, the fans have repurposed the pleasure of the destruction of the mall by mashing up the audio from the film with other video.  In one case, you have a fan actually creating his own scene of destruction, albeit one performed with toys.  In the other, you have a fan who takes a scene of actual violence and destruction, and through an intertexual audio reference, frames the scene so it can be enjoyed with the same pleasure associated with the Blues Brothers.

In addition to these mashups, the Dixie Square Mall meme offers further intertexual reference to The Blues Brothers in media solely created by its contributor-consumers. A video posted by “67tr876” who is identified as “Mike” in his YouTube profile, was entitled “Take a new look at dixie mall ! comeing soon” (sic) and showed what the Mall might look like as a video game.  The clip, which was recently removed from YouTube, reflects the visual elements of a “first-person-shooter” (FPS) video game (like the popular game Halo), in which a weapon extends into the frame as if held by the viewer (or player).  The clip situates the viewer as the subject of the camera’s gaze, and after moving through a CGI (computer generated imagery) version of the mall, with the weapon at the ready, this subject jumps in a car and begins driving through the mall.  Sue Morris (2002) has already noted how FPS video games resemble the cinema apparatus, but she argues that game players exercise much more control over the diegetic screen than the film spectator.  We would add that FPS games also reflect the point of view of the male gaze. The militaristic warrior is an obvious staple of modern masculinity, and the fact that the guns in these games always stick up in the frame, as if erect, reflect another phallic cliché.

The agency that Morris mentions is extended in the example of this video.  There are software packages, such as FPS Creator, that allow people to make these kinds of games, and it is possible that this fan used such a program to create his own scene of the Mall’s destruction.  The fact the video has been taken down from YouTube reveals another level of agency enjoyed in memes.  People can decided to contribute, and decided to remove their contribution.  In other words, participation in memes in neither compulsory nor irrevocable, which also means that in the context of the meme, participating in the pleasure of reproduction is always an open option.

The pleasure of reproducing The Blues Brother’s destruction of feminine space is taken to its logical conclusion in a video posted on “Streetfire.com” by “jonrev” (who identifies elsewhere in the meme as Jon Revelle) entitled “Bluesmobile Returns to Dixie Square Mall.”  This video shows a man driving a car, which actually more closely resembles the police cars than it does the “Bluesmobile,” through the ruins of Dixie Square Mall.  The video begins with the car slowly entering the abandoned mall, and noisily running over the debris.  Once inside, the video captures the car being driven around the empty interior, and this video is edited with footage of the actual car chase from the film.  Clearly, some of the shots are designed to reproduce the film as closely as possible, and close-up footage of the driver show him to be smiling as he drives.  As the car pulls to a stop, we can hear the man behind the camera laughing.  If the original scene symbolized the sexually inflected destruction of the mall, then clearly both the driver and the cameraman of this clip are enjoying what can best be described in this macho cultural milieu as sloppy-seconds.

  1. #1 by SelfDestructingChickenBird on August 25, 2011 - 7:55 pm

    At the time “Bluesmobile Returns to Dixie Square” was filmed, the car was owned and driven by Travis Bell; his has been unanimously called one of the best BluMo replicas ever made.

  2. #2 by Michael on November 28, 2011 - 7:23 am

    Hi this is 67tr876 mike I just want to say your wrong on why I took down the video. I took down the video beacuse hammer editer something went wrong and I could not make maps anymore something wire frame is missing and I still to this day do not know how to fix it. To many ppl were asking when the map would be done and were geting mad at me so I had to take down the video I did not feel like saying o am sorry something went wrong and I cant work on the map. I did not want to make it seem like dixie sqaure mall in a game was going dead too ! I know there is a way to fix it I need to find out how in the mean time I still have the map and a video it was in that was not taking down was a happy new year video I did for 2010-2011 and if you want I can make a new video. More work has been done like 20% more down to the map. But that is way.

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