Arts, On Campus, Column

Why Boston College Doesn’t Need Another “Happy” Video

“If I can have your attention for 15 seconds, we’re filming another ‘Happy’ video,” yelled a voice from the entrance of Gargan Hall. After few moments of explanation, however, it was clear they weren’t actually filming another “Happy” video—these were the good folks from Agape Latte, a popular lecture series on spirituality hosted by Church in the 21st Century, and it was a “Shake It Off” promo video they were working on. The entirety of Gargan Hall was instructed accordingly to dance on top of chairs, revisiting the mystique of Taylor Swift’s recent video. It was good and all, and I’m looking forward to the final product, yet I wonder why describing it as another “Happy” video was so critical in getting the studiers to respond.

Recreating “Happy” is an elusive task here at Boston College, and evidently, a lot of organizations are trying to do it. The on-campus re-creation of Pharrell William’s music video, filmed by the Office of News and Public Affairs last semester, was a viral sensation. The YouTube video has well over 340 thousands views at this point, making it the single most viewed video of BC on the Internet. So who wouldn’t want another “Happy?”

On Wednesday, Sean Casey—BC ’12 and the filmmaker behind the original “Happy”—wowed us again with “The First Two Weeks,” a promotional video for the University, impressively filmed with video drones that soar around the Chestnut Hill campus. The video also features new angles of Gasson—some of the only original ones I’ve seen in a long time.

Inevitably, there will be more. I anticipate an explosion of these videos, showing off all the best Boston College has to offer: sprawling Gothic architecture, “Happy” students, and active organizations. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of this, but at some point, we need to ask what we’re really getting at here.

These videos are quick portraits of what the University has to offer. They’re great for connecting with alumni, and reaching out to prospective students. They’re something we can be proud of, but at the same time, what angles of BC do they enable us to ignore?

BC has a history of protest. The Chestnut Hill campus was a hub for activism during the Vietnam War, and as recently as 1995, it was common for riots to break out, staged by students concerned with issues like rising tuition.

Today, it seems that most causes on campus are well contained, and for as much as the University spends restoring old architecture, there’s remarkably little emphasis on the history of the school—much of which is a little less savory than a sweeping flight through Middle Campus.

There is no redoing “Happy,” but so long as we have the resources in place to make these professional quality videos like it, there’s tremendous potential to use this technology to reconnect with a past that, frankly, often gets overlooked.

Film also can be a platform for addressing issues of race, financial inequality, and gender that have been identified on campus over the past couple years, and could certainly benefit from increased exposure.

We can’t have another “Happy,” nor do we need one. The success of the video was a welcome, albeit isolated incident, and the trouble with trying to make another is that undoubtedly, it will fall short of the original if it tries to succeed in the same ways. Fortunately, BC has 151 years of traditions to revisit, over 200 clubs to look into, and 9,000 stories to tell.

There will never be a new “Happy,” but almost surely, there will be something better.

Because at the end of the day, BC isn’t always the scenic place depicted in these videos. It’s not necessarily happier.

Everyday isn’t sunny. Spontaneous song and dance—well, it happens, but then again, not all the time. And remarkably, I feel quite okay about that.

September 17, 2014