Feminists on Madison Avenue - Mash-Up Week


By Davina Bhandari

Image courtesy of My Life in Plastic.

Navigating entertainment choices while holding stead fast to egalitarian values can be tough.

Enter Elisa Kreisinger, both an attentive consumer of popular media and a vocal advocate for women’s rights. While these facets of her personality might otherwise run on very different tracks, Kreisinger discovered an effective way to combine the two in a politically satisfying way.

More often than not, regular consumption of popular media requires some amount of ethical compromise. Such a compromise, for instance, may cause a television viewer to remain blissfully apathetic to a show’s poor take on a controversial issue. Or, perhaps it means tolerating an unfavorable character or storyline for the duration of viewing a series. That common approach of unspoken negotiation never sat well with Kreisinger, who took it upon herself to tailor pop culture footage to a more favorable fit.

Working in Brooklyn, Kreisinger created the website, Pop Culture Pirate, which features mash-ups of well-known shows such as Mad Men and Real Housewives for a new kind of viewing experience. While Real Housewives might seem like a stretch in terms of high-culture-low-culture when placed in comparison to Mad Men, Kreisinger says she watches both with the same amount of skepticism.

“The narratives are very different but also in many ways very similar. They’re about women, they’re about stereotypes,” Kreisinger tells Matthew DeMello on BTR’s Third Eye Weekly podcast this week.

The revamping in Kreisinger’s videos gives Mad Men a feminist twist:


And turns some ‘real housewives’ into lesbians:

By selecting clips from the shows and reworking them to form a feminist, queer-positive narrative, Kreisinger creates for herself and others a guilt-free indulgence.

“What if Mad Men was just about women? What if we cut out all the men from Mad Men?” Kreisinger asked hypothetically. “That show would never happen, but it’s fun to imagine that. It’s fun to imagine what it would look like, and [ask], is it something we would actually want?”

By delving into the deeper context of television shows and other popular media, we are given a catalyst with which to reflect more critically on our reality, according to Kreisinger. However, these catalysts are delivered in one-hour-long doses and can only delve so deep. Shows like Orange Is The New Black, a popular Netflix series, raise these sorts of discussions and are sometimes criticized for what they’re “lacking.” Bouts of criticism directed towards Orange Is The New Black state that the show tends to improperly address a woman’s place in prison, and the prison system as a whole.

“No one show is going to accomplish all of our needs as a society in a one hour stint,” Kreisinger reasons.

Treated with the same consideration, she continues to explain that no one character in shows like Mad Men is going to provide viewers with everything they desire. Rather than giving up on a production’s lack of acknowledgement toward significant social and political issues, Kreisinger takes it upon herself to reap instances of media and mash them up for other uses. Thus, she’s become a type of modern-day pirate.

“It was really hard to compromise my politics and be entertained,” she says. “So I started hacking pop culture and that allowed me to put my love of technology and new media and the internet to good use, and wrap it all together.

For more with Elisa, check out her interview on this week’s episode of Third Eye Weekly.