Commentary

Vogue's 'Scripted Content' Video Breathes Life Into The 'Revealing' Celebrity Profile

There are fashion dilettantes, there are fashion fans, there are fashionistas and then there's me. In my closet as in my soul, every week is Fashion Week. I possess no fewer than three distinct species of footwear. My epaulets have epaulets. That person you saw wearing sweatpants in public this morning, yesterday morning, yesterday afternoon, all weekend and maybe five or six times last week? Clearly not me, even if the person told the barista that his name was Larry and was overheard exclaiming, "Yo-ho-ho! What a delightful brand video! I should totally put that in MediaPost's Video Critique, a column which I, a person named Larry, write!"

Thus I am singularly qualified to discuss the merits of "Scripted Content," the second in a series of 'cazh' - that's fashion-cognoscenti shorthand for "casual," darling - video shorts designed to brand-bolster Vogue and its cover subjects. The clip stars actress/celebrity Jessica Chastain as Jessica Chastain, an actress/celebrity lured into a wordless New York City pas de deux with a star-starrer civilian. It's a role, one might argue, she was born to play.

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The idea, it seems to me, is to dimensionalize the magazine's treatment of its celebrity subjects. By placing Chastain at the center of an invented scene and asking her to play a minimally fictionalized version of herself, the clip renders her more vivid and human than she can be on the printed page. An unusual approach for a publication in which every sidebar is engineered within an inch of its life? Perhaps.

And yet it works perfectly. "Scripted Content" has a lightness and self-awareness that eludes Vogue, and certainly its less esteemed competitors, in print. Whereas the magazine can come across as oppressive and bone-dull, the video breathes life into a staple - the "revealing" celebrity profile - that sorely needs it. Really, when was the last time anyone learned anything about anybody already famous in one of these things? Stories in which the writer hangs around George Clooney's house and waxes philosophical about the subject's easy relationship with global mega-fame aren't the little miracles of illumination they purport to be.

A sly counterweight, then, can come in the form of videos like "Scripted Content." The central conceit is simple: Relaxing on a park bench with coffee and newspaper, Chastain slowly becomes aware that the interloper next to her is OMG I SEE FAMOUS CELEBRITY PERSON texting with his significant other. At first, she ignores this distinctly circa-2013 form of invasion. Slowly, a look of bemusement creeps onto her face. Finally, as the guy attempts to stealth-snap a camera-phone photo of her, she turns to him and yells "boo!" As the credits roll, Chastain dissolves in laughter and the guy mumbles an embarrassed apology.

That's all. The camera doesn't linger on Chastain's clothing or her demurely made-up face. Instead, it happens upon a recognizable moment and milks the inherent tension for humor. The video also has a wonderful ear for the rhythm and shorthand of text "conversation"; I share a bed with somebody who similarly recoils at casually being called "dude."

Fashion brands, within the media and otherwise, often inadvertently parody themselves in their brand content. They go large and loud in a way that even Brüno might find over the top. That's why a clip like this, which confines itself to a single small encounter, feels borderline revolutionary.

Does "Scripted Content" reinvent the Vogue brand, or invest it with some quality it previously lacked? Of course not - and besides, it's not like Vogue needs the lift. But the clip marks the first time in recent memory that an A-list fashion brand acknowledges that maybe, just maybe, its mission isn't morally and intellectually tantamount to matters of national security. On the basis of that self-recognition alone, "Scripted Content" soars.

***

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