‘Skyrim’ and ‘Sopranos’ memes collide
Do you remember that scene in The Sopranos? You know, the one where Tony and Johnny Sack made up in the snow and are about to get back to discussing murder on charcuterie plates, when on the horizon pretty much the worst thing a gangster can come up to. to see when he speaks with one of the heads of the five families: a level 30 frost dragon unleashed?
If you don’t, it’s probably because it never aired. Or, at least, not on HBO. This is the work of YouTuber Pertinax, who for a year has been collecting Soprano characters from their New Jersey backgrounds and unleash them in the landscapes of Bethesda, mainly Skyrim, but a little New Vegas, too much. On his channel, you’ll see mobsters hunting the elusive White Stag and criticizing the weeping Tavern Bards. You’ll see Tony in his dressing gown, fleeing from NPCs on the streets of Whiterun. You will see comments such as “Wake up this morning, buy yourself a sword. Mum always said you would be the Dragonborn.” For a very special type of fan, it’s a glorious time to be online.
Pertinax (and his imitators) have a screenwriter’s knack for creating a surreal contrast between two worlds: Their videos are hilarious, like sitcom crossovers. They’re also deviously shiny, a neat encapsulation of how pop culture is metabolized in the 21st century. In an age when it becomes increasingly impossible to separate cultural artifacts from the memes they generate, just think of the strange afterlife of The simpsonssteamed hams – memes universes are now cannons in themselves. And they merge together, forming the kind of multiverse only possible at a time when even a spectacle as vast as The Sopranos can be reduced to images of it circulating online.
Pertinax, who asked to remain anonymous, explains the formula of his Soprano–Skyrim the mashups came by doing Medieval 2 and Rome Total War “experience videos”, clips summarizing the games or some of their aspects. He had inserted memes and references into every video and was delighted to see the people in the comments calling them. This led him directly to The Sopranos and its very world of unhappy messes and deadly interior designers. The actors of The Soprano are also incredibly emotional, so they are easy to place in new scenarios; Bethesda’s games, filled with iconic glitch locations, were an obvious pairing.
The videos, according to Pertinax, are simple to make, but take time: “First, come up with an idea, then hide the characters from the original scene, then record footage in Skyrim which corresponds to the angles of the camera. “
In many ways, what Pertinax is doing is nothing new. Machinima – the movie productions fans were building into computer graphics engines in the 1990s – is a forerunner. The same goes for dozens of other fan creations online. Memes, says Anastasia Denisova, lecturer at the Westminster School of Media and Communication, “thrive on the remix”, and in that sense merge The Sopranos and Skyrim isn’t that different from the “mashups common in Hollywood, Broadway and the British panto”. Internet culture has always taken contradictory references and mixed them into a pleasant sort of chaos: it was only a matter of time before two huge “memes-verses” collided.
“I think it’s just about mixing things up that people like,” says Twitter user IGotSilver, who directed a viral, Pertinax-inspired music video for Tony Soprano. running away from a Deathclaw. “A lot of people like Bethesda and a lot of people like The Sopranos. If you can mix these things together well enough to be respected and loved by both fans, you have a masterpiece. “
This is all true, but the fundamental reason why these creators can merge these two worlds so successfully is that, at least for those of us who use the internet regularly, our memories of those cultural moments have been cut into clips. Pertinax explains that he first met The Sopranos via YouTube, in compilations of quotes from big Italian bullet-breakers. It wasn’t until after seeing these clips that he sat down and watched the entire show. Now, more than a decade after the finale aired, many people’s first encounters are via YouTube memes and compilations.