We had a recent question about a series of YouTube videos. The question boiled down to "this line seemed to reference something that was said in a previous video, what is it referring to?"
The poster defended the question as follows:
I am hoping that in the broad definition of literature that our site is using, the series itself counts as literature, and questions about it will be on topic, at least if I ask about narrative elements rather than production techniques specific to videos. I know this might be controversial but I prefer that we find out the site scope together experimentally, rather than just refrain to post questions that may be found off topic.
To which another user rebutted:
... this question ... doesn't seem to be about literature as our site defines it. We tend to focus on written works. When we do entertain questions about performed works (movies, tv, opera, plays), they appear to be about the relationship between those shows and their written counterparts (novelizations/screenplay/original book/script/libretto).
Meanwhile, our help center currently reads as follows:
We interpret ‘literature’ in a broad sense, including written, spoken and sung works, in all genres, languages and forms: poetry, plays, stories, novels, lyrics, comic books, essays, belles-lettres, and so on.
Note that the list conspicuously excludes movies, TV shows and videos.
I can see objections to all three of these perspectives:
- Against the poster: this would broaden the scope of the site well beyond what the average person thinks of as "literature", and potentially open us up to a flood of lower-quality questions.
- Against the rebutter: the YouTube videos in question are clearly working from a script of some kind, as they are well-researched and tightly constructed. It seems restrictive to say that what we can learn about those scripts through the videos is outside the realm of analysis.
(As an additional thought experiment: suppose we had a video capturing an epic poem from some oral tradition, which had never been written down anywhere at all. Would we consider that to be "not literature" until somebody sat down and transcribed the whole thing?)
- Against the help center: it strikes me as arbitrary to categorize plays as "literature", while implying that movies and TV shows are not. They all have scripts, they all employ actors, and they all include visual elements as integral parts of the work.
What kinds of questions about movies/TV shows/videos should we allow, if any?