Be Simba-thetic to VHS

My childish homage to The Lion King. Note the Siamese language VHS.

This article first appeared in Farragrowl, Independent Media’s 2012 test edition.

My best friend had it all. His treasure chest contained everything from Snow White to the third direct-to-video instalment of Aladdin. As a materialistic primary schooler, I lusted after his Disney stash. I wished upon a star that I could own a collection like his.

In true Pinocchio fashion, my dream did come true. Eventually.

It all started two years ago, when I stumbled across a Siamese-language VHS copy of The Lion King. It was a kitsch accessory that offered me no practical benefits. But this was op-shop gold, a rarity I couldn’t resist. And, to my delight, it cost me a measly 50 cents.

Ever since then I’ve been endlessly suckered in by the price tags of second-hand videos, which consistently cost between a dime and a gold-coin. Today my VHS collection is in the hundreds and includes not just Disney classics, but Tarantino bloodbaths, and Hitchcock thrillers. And I have no intention of stopping.

An accurate depiction of my life (Image: Ella Dyson)

It goes without saying that videos don’t have the clarity of higher-evolutionary formats. Unlike LPs – which technically produce a purer sound than CDs and MP3s – videos undeniably sit at the bottom of the home-media food chain.

But a film is a film is a film; the medium is not the message. Good movies will never disappoint, regardless of whether they’re being streamed off Youtube or stretched onto IMAX.

The considerable monetary saving is just one advantage videos have over their more-esteemed neighbours.

DVDs, for instance, are sensitive grouches. Give them a little bit too much fingernail and they refuse to play with you. Videos might fade with each use, but are more accommodating to scratches. The audio might transpose itself up a few keys, while horizontal lines tend to interrupt the mis en scene. But at least VHSs aren’t stubborn enough to permanently freeze.

With VHS, there’s also no need to sit through short-term-memory menu screens, which echo the same five-second audio grab until the brink of insanity. Rather, the audience is launched straight back into the plot at the precise moment of departure. Every time. Regardless of the machine.

Another great asset of VHS is its re-usability. If one feels their purchase isn’t worthy of its petite price tag then they can easily erase their mistake. With the simple touch of the record button, one can convert The Godfather into The Shire, or replace Gigli with Wayne Swan’s budget speech.

The front layer of VHS collection. See the top left for the Disney collection.

Sometimes this anomaly produces unexpected results. Recently some friends and I gathered to watch long-forgotten classic The Aristocats. None of us could remember much of the film from our childhood. As such, we sat through the first half-dozen songs before realising somebody had replaced our singing-and-dancing feline friends with a late-90s episode of Rage top fifty. George Michael was the dead giveaway.

For the best part of three decades, videos were an ample cinematic option, sharing the same appeal as Tamigotchis or discmans. It thus seems ludicrous that today’s generation is so hasty in dismissing a once-loved technology. But I’m not the one complaining; the more videos you reject, the larger my collection becomes.