Ophelia and YouTube | Early Modern and Open Access
It is no longer possible to think of Ophelia simply as the restricted tragic girl of Hamlet. Rather, she is a recurrent text, image, and even a brand that can be endlessly repurposed and appropriated. Building on recent work on Ophelia as a discourse that names and constitutes the contemporary girl, this essay examines a variety of Ophelia productions on the video-sharing platform YouTube. It identifies particular genres of response and situates them in terms of current debates within girls’ studies, as well as media studies. The objective here is to think more precisely about the modes and politics of girls’ media uses. What is at stake in the turn — or return — to Ophelia within online culture? To what extent is Ophelia a progressive text? More broadly, does the democratic media-making associated with Web 2.0 signal new, meaningful forms of feminism, or might we dealing with the latest phase of “girl power”? This essay interprets Ophelia videos in terms of a triptych, “YouTube-Shakespeare-Ophelia.” Each of these terms should be understood as a frame, both enabling and delimiting, through which girls produce and/or perform postfeminist identities online. Ophelia becomes a meta-language for a set of negotiations about girl culture and the (im)possibility of authentic expression in the contemporary mediascape.