Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I Hate Viral Videos

This obsession with transforming a Youtube video into a worldwide sensation is definitively the glorification of human stupidity. We have transformed the banal and insignificant into cult objects to such a point that it is a rule of proportionality: the stupider and more absurd the video, the more popular it is—to the extent that we have to wonder why some of these have become global hits.

I understand, for example the humor behind the monkey with smelly finger (1 million), even the brief drama (5 seconds) of this prairie dog (7 million) and maybe I could understand some people’s obsession with cats (37 million) or for their adorably ordinary children (17 million). After that it’s easy to realize of the little it takes for us to be cruel, to make fun of the discomfort of the puberty of a child who publically imagined being his favorite movie star (21 million), or laugh at a kid who sings his own song (67 million), without really knowing why we’re laughing. However, the worst part is that suddenly we have hundreds of videos of people who are prepared to humiliate themselves just to stand out for a moment, a few weeks, of the terrible anonymity of a civilization of billions of unremarkable beings. Suddenly there are viral hits that were obviously made with the intention of being stupid, like Rebecca Black’s song (84 million) and the chain reaction that it has produced. And we watch them, again and again, just to say to ourselves, “How stupid; what asininity.” And it’s just terrible that that gives us satisfaction.

The stories of men and women who transcend their ordinary lives to have their 15 minutes of fame have become repetitive and empty. Why does the masterful voice of Susan Boyle (63 million) surprise us? Because it seems inconceivable that an old and pathetic-looking woman gets more than a glimpse, and we end up idolizing her, because it’s inconceivable that an poor ugly woman doesn’t fail. It’s clear that others have taken advantage of this success, as in every reality show some clandestine figure appears that leaves us with our mouths hanging open. We’ve choked ourselves on the big spoon with the idea that these people are real and common and came out of our neighborhoods because, that way, for 30 seconds, our lives seem just a touch less pathetic.