(Fig. 1) The Decemberists – “16 Military Wives”
(Fig. 2) Vampire Weekend – “Oxford Comma”
(Fig. 3) Jose Vanders – “Mother Theresa Can’t Dive”
I recently stumbled across the song “Mother Theresa Can’t Dive” by Jose Vanders. It’s a cute little indie-pop song with a cute little indie-pop video, which happens to be a very obvious ripoff of Wes Anderson’s 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. There is some truth to the clichéd relationship between Anderson’s work and the independent music community–his style has undeniably influenced other prominent music videos of the past few years, albeit in different ways.
With its private school setting, the Decemberists’ “16 Military Wives” is visibly informed by Rushmore. (Colin Meloy’s plastic-framed glasses don’t hurt either, shared with Max Fischer’s distinctive look.) However, the crested blazers and Model U.N. are merely used as a jumping-off point for an original story about international relations, and the strict Anderson aesthetic is not thoroughly adhered to. In the subtitles used to describe the action, Anderson’s standard font Futura is noticeably absent, although it is a crucial component in his trademark look.
While Futura titles are used to distinguish “chapters” in Vampire Weekend’s “Oxford Comma” video, it is a technique that Anderson would be expected to use, rather than something he actually has done. (Rushmore is divided into acts of a play; The Royal Tenenbaums literally shows chapters of a book; time is denoted in The Life Aquatic with documentary footage.) However, the combination of the recognizable font with the literary influence still serves as an effective visual link. There are other subtle references to his style, such as the uniformed background characters and the lack of modern technology, but “Oxford Comma” shares more with Wes Anderson’s American Express commercial than any of his films, with its use of a single tracking shot.
“16 Military Wives” and “Oxford Comma” were clearly realized with Wes Anderson in mind, but that aesthetic was used as a starting point to flesh out original content. “Mother Theresa Can’t Dive” takes directly from the Anderson playbook, following The Life Aquatic‘s blue/yellow/red color palette with a pedantry almost worthy of the source of its inspiration. Red knit caps abound, and the video is an intern’s Glock away from being a perfect match. Sure, I love The Life Aquatic, but if I wanted to watch The Life Aquatic, I’d watch The Life Aquatic. Granted, Anderson’s own style is largely an amalgam of influences drawn from 60s directors, but he also clearly has a unique vision, rather than purely borrowing. While we are the product of that which we consume, it seems a bit lazy to regurgitate something whole like this.