COLLECTING VHS DOES NOT MAKE A HIPSTER!
by Mike Wilcox
Why do I collect antiquated media formats, aka why do I buy Trash?
My friends call me a hipster. Technically they aren’t wrong, but I would be lying if I said that I accepted and honored the title with no bitterness. The truth of the matter is that hipsters would be quite jealous of the communities that I frequent. While I still remain reasonably closer to the outer rims, friends of mine, accounts that I follow, folks that I interact with might as well still live in the 80’s and 90’s. Accounts like @theWallofVhs and @TheBetamaxRundown and @VCRofDeath (instagram) that post daily doses of old school b-horror and action and cult classic vhs films that a great many of us would often see on a weekend trip to Blockbuster Video. I live in the forgotten times. Typically you can find VHS tapes if not in a “FREE: TAKE MY JUNK!!” pile, certainly for bargain basement listings. I usually pick mine up at my local record shops and haunts for around .25 cents a piece, maybe a bit more if it’s a complete collection (like the rad 007 James Bond collection that I foolishly passed up not too long ago.) But aside from the nostalgia I am frequently asked the fateful question, “Why do you collect junk?” When there are many higher quality formats available currently (I actually don’t even own a blu-ray player, though it’s been on my To-Get list for a bit now) why would I willingly spend money of any amount on these practically forgotten relics of an age and era forgotten? The simple answer is Aesthetics. The compound answer is culture and community. When I am viewing a film such as personal favorite, Tobe Hooper’s 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre (or any of it’s first four sequel films) there is some added quality to viewing it on VHS. The grainy picture quality. The occasional lines through the picture and warble of aged tape. The hype advertisement and graphics on the box. All of it add to the overall viewing experience. With a film of that nature, of that subject matter, I don’t want a clean and sterile viewing experience, I want dirt and grit, akin to the shit covering the floor of the slaughterhouse that Leatherface calls home. I want to feel like I’m there with Sally and Franklin. This type of aesthetic can be seen as an enhancement if that makes any logical sense…and the concept can be applied to many different films and genres, from sci-fi masterpieces like Blade Runner and Dune to action cult classics like the Die Hard Trilogy, to experimental films such as Eraserhead, Videodrome, and even Dr. Strangelove. Think of it as a viewing party, evening if it’s a party of one (you sad, friendless, VHS loving, hipster sap…) In addition to the aesthetics of VHS and the like there is an amazing and budding underground culture and community for the preservation and appreciation of these films and media. We just finished this year’s round of #VHSeptember, a month long movie-a-day marathon where enthusiasts follow a category listing and post a film (or a few in many cases) that they feel align with the given tagline of the day. Themes like, “Third time’s a charm” (post a film that is the third installment of a series. Mine was Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors.) or “New York Shitty” (post a film showcasing New York filth and grit. My offering was the Scorsese classic, Taxi Driver.) The last day, September 30th, the theme was “Shelf Love”, a theme dedicated to the shelves housing our collections and the trinkets and collectables that we adorn them with. A recent acquisition of mine was a Pennywise the Dancing Clown figurine with four changeable heads and accessories (the original mini-series, none of that new IT crap that’s going around.) Pennywise is far from the only collectable that I have. My fiancé constantly harps on me for all of the crap lining my shelves actually, she says that we don’t have enough room as it is. She’s right. My crap isn’t going anywhere though, and I’m not going to stop collecting it. I can’t. So at it’s core, what drives this apparent compulsion, this obsession to collect, enjoy, and preserve what is effectively a dead era and art? Maybe it’s ultimately nothing. Maybe it’s a deep seeded nostalgia, a longing for a better, more innocent and simpler time. Maybe it’s an expression of my concept of art. Maybe it’s an amalgam of all of those answers and more (yeah, it’s that one.). Whatever the case, I can confidently and joyfully say that VHS and the culture and community surrounding it might be on a social back burner but I guarantee that it’s not dead and it certainly isn’t going anywhere. Be sure to tune in next time when I rant incessantly about why I collect Vinyl and Cassette Tapes, probably a two piece installment in my “I swear I’m not a hipster” series. Blotter loves you and please feel free to see the world through my eyes and follow me on Instagram at @blotter_blotter . Love, Peace, and Bats!!
*p.s. Mike Wilcox our new staffer is in no way related to Adam Wilcox, the names are simply a coincidence.