Saturday, May 24, 2008

Why I hate the new Weezer music video

I was shown this video yesterday. It was on the front page of youtube.
The video features 'internet memes', singing along to the song. There's nothing holding the video together more than that- it's just people who were famous on the internet for a while for various reasons, mostly to do with being ridiculed and laughed at, all in one video. There's the numa numa guy, Miss South Carolina, Tay Zonday, Chris Crocker, the 'Shoez' guy. They do pepsi/mentos and there's an 'homage' to star wars kid. You get the picture.

When I first saw it I had this revulsion to it. This instant reaction of queasy dislike. I couldn't put my finger on quite what it was that I hated so much about it. My brother said I only hated it because I wasn't in it, which I actually thought about for a moment (and discuss below). But I think it's something deeper than that, and more profound (and I know I am taking this too seriously, but I think this actually does warrant exploration).

The more I've thought about it, the more I feel like the video is kind of... racist? I don't know what the right language is really. But I guess... I see the internet as a place, a community of people who have put themselves there. It's made of millions of people interacting in some way, and youtube is the most up to date way (still) that they are doing this. We (people who post online video) are putting ourselves out there for anyone to see, to comment on, to judge. And that's fine.
TV and 'old media', and people even online generally don't know what to make of this so anything that's kind of amusing in a non-self referential way, that you can laugh AT, not with, becomes fair game and popular. I think that's long been one of the things humans like to do but it's generally not acceptable to laugh in people's faces like we do online. Laughing at the fat kid in his bedroom is ok on the internet, and it's always been something we've wanted to do, it's just society that's made us pretend like we don't want to. Or something. That's my best explanation for why these videos are so popular anyway.

Take the list above, of people in this video. Miss South Carolina, Tay Zonday, Chris Crocker- those people we have all seen online and laughed at. Laughed AT. People offline have heard of them because they've become so huge online that they've even made their way off of it. To news rooms and in parodies, and into terrible movies. They as people are put up as examples of what the internet-people are.

Well I am an internet person. I conduct a chunk of my life online, and I'm fine about that. I don't see that as negative or bad or laughable. And having these people held up as examples- the only examples- of what my life means, well wouldn't you be offended?

It's like the UK being represented solely by Mr Bean. And even then the analogy doesn't stand up because he's a character, and the enjoyment of him is just that- we aren't laughing at a real person, we're laughing at something invented by someone. (for the record I actually hate Mr Bean and refuse to watch it). No- it's like us being represented solely by a contestant on Pop Idol- one of the really really bad ones. Or Jade Goody.

So this community online is being literally laughed at. These people, weezer are saying- these people are youtube! Haha look at these losers.

So that's how I guess I see it as racist. About 2 years ago I made a video about 'the state of youtubia' about us being a community of people who have put ourselves out there and are a literal community, sharing ideas and bonding in a very real sense in a virtual place.

And I don't believe that Chris Crocker et al are representative of that. They are the black and white minstrels of the internet. I don't think my 'e-race' deserves to be laughed at. Sure, the laugh-at-them losers of youtube will always exist, but the thing is- they aren't the whole story. It's like holding up leiderhosen as the entirety of Germany. Paella as the entirety of Spain. It doesn't add up, it's simplistic and unrealistic, and more to the point, it's offensive.

And as for me wanting to be one of those people in the video- I think that actually goes deeper. These examples are successes, aren't they? Despite everything I've said, in a sense, they have succeeded- at the very least made money, and appeared in a real music video for a real band. And so... is that what I want? Is that what we all want? to hit on some formula for a perfect internet 'laugh-at-this-retard' meme that will get us on the Tonight Show and into Wayans Brothers movies? It's like the prize in a race you don't even want to be racing in. So you know... I think my gut reaction maybe was a pang of 'but what about me?!', and then a pang of revulsion at myself and my own first reaction. They ARE the winners of the internet, I guess. Atleast they are the winners in the short term. Who knows what will happen. I know I don't want to make a video for people to laugh at me. With me is fine, but I try my best to avoid them laughing at me. As I imagine most everyone does.

Ok... I have to dismount from this high horse. It's not as big a deal as I'm making it out to be, but I wanted to explore what it was that made me so uneasy about this video of weezer's. Not to mention their desperate (and I imagine somewhat sucessful) attempt to get popular online by piggy backing memes which everyone is surely bored of by now.


Lara said...

I think you made a very good point!

BadAlbert said...

The fact that Crocker et al are laughed at, that this is the price of their success, makes them failures in actual fact. They represent a common and commonly propagated misconception about the internet and people who use it. Geeks, attention seekers, who have nothing to offer, and offer nothing, but who seek and get 'fame', or infamy. They have come to represent the internet whether we like it or not. For the moment at least, and you have to think too that some of this is on purpose because traditional media is threatened by new media like youtube. Not that I think youtube etc are the revolution innitially heralded but it does represent a shift.
In the wider sense though these people represent a shallowness which is very prevalent and tied to the internet. The worst of 21st century global capitalism, 'me' culture. Plus the media generally deals in charicature anyway so that's nothing new.

Dave said...

As the Queen you should know that the people of the State of Youtubia are not a monolith. When outsiders look at your kingdom, they will quickly realize that some of your subjects are more worthy than others. It's good to see you empathizing with Queen Elizabeth. This experience will clearly bring you girls closer together.

Sonance said...

People doing silly things = entertainment? Yeah, that's been going on long before the internet existed. The only thing that's changed is the size of the audience.

I can't say I blame Weezer for their choice of video. Their record label exists to make money and jumping on the internet meme bandwagon is a surefire way of doing it. (South Park did something similar a couple of months ago.)

Your racism comparison is a bit silly, although I can see where you're coming from though. Perhaps it would be a little more accurate to compare the likes of Star Wars Kid and Chris Crocker to the so-called "circus freaks" of Victorian times who existed purely for people to gawp and laugh at, although even that analogy falls apart when you consider that most of the memelebrities have a choice whether or not to continue parading themselves around YouTube. In the case of Weezer's video, these individuals are willing participants.

As for how these memes affect the public perception of YouTube and those who post videos there -- again, this sort of thing isn't unique to YouTube. Pretty much any group of individuals with a shared passion are judged by the actions of the lowest common denominator within those groups. Ie, sci-fi fans are pale-skinned nerds still clinging to their virginity. NASCAR fans are racist, wife-beating, baccy-spitting rednecks, etc.

The only thing different about YouTube is the scale on which it operates. Yeah, there's a general public perception that it's basically just an elaborate retard generator, but deep down most sensible people know that this element is just a drop in a very big ocean. Even the most popular internet memes only account for a small percentage of YouTube's total videos served within a year (we're talking less than 1%). As we all know, popularity has very little to do with artistic merit (we live in a world where the likes of Mr. Blobby can have a number one single). Your videos are infinitely more creative, informative and witty than every internet meme put together, even if they only account for between 0.003-0.13% of all videos served on YouTube within a 12 month period.

To summarise: I wouldn't worry about a shitty Weezer video. Its impact on you and the people who enjoy your videos is a big fat zero.

JJC1138 said...

I didn't see it like that.

You're right, of course, that Chris and Tay and the rest are being laughed at. But in the Weezer video they're parodying themselves. Yes, it would be nice if we didn't laugh at people, but given that we do, I think it's a positive thing that they're able to join in and laugh at themselves too. No one forced them to take part, and the video doesn't mock or deride them. It's merely a tribute to viral videos and I think it was done with good humour and warmth (like giving Chris Crocker a hug, and the nunchuck dude beating the crap out of some ninjas). So, I thought it was a great video, but perhaps I'm influenced by the fact that Weezer were my most favouritest band eva for most of my adolesence.

I guess the problem is that for the vast majority of people, YouTube is viral videos, even though we know that there's much more to it than that. I actually don't think that it's a bad thing that the YouTube community happens to share a web host with the viral videos. For every thousand people who come to YouTube to watch a music video or a cute cat, maybe ten of those people stay and click around and eventually discover a vlogger they like, and maybe one of those people goes on to fire up the webcam and join in. That's certainly how I found my way onto YouTube. So the world at large doesn't get to appreciate the really good stuff: isn't that the same situation as with every other artistic medium there is? I mainly like non-mainstream music, I mainly like non-mainstream TV, and I mainly like non-mainstream YouTube videos.

Leon Westbrook said...

Racism? I don't think it is.

I think it was a well done parody.

If you can't laugh at yourself (and cash out while doing so), you don't belong on the internets. (and i'm speaking in general).

Only problem I have with the video, is that it showed up on my sub list mysteriously...and I never subscribed to the weezer channel!

I think youtube is secretly trying to push them on everyone. We know it.

Chris Dianity said...

I understand what your saying but think your overthinking it and giving to much credit to the citizens of Youtubia. A whole lot of YouTube is nobodies posting stupid, ridiculous or absurd videos in the vain hope of some attention. They don't care whether people are laughing with them or at them as long as they are being noticed. I think Weezer in their video are just reflecting the current YouTube.

Mike said...

my guess about your reaction to the video: the video is about famous people acting like they don't care about what others think of them, and yet they are doing a video that will get them the attention of many people. they're saying they don't care about being famous in a medium that makes them more famous. their actions seem fame-seeking while their words seem against fame. they seems hypocritical.

i imagine there are these strong impulses in you, paperlilies, and in maybe just about everybody, for fame or attention on the one hand, and a desire to just be yourself and not feel inhibited by the expectations and attention of others.

anywho--total guess! i could be completely wrong! :)

Chris in the Studio said...

I've felt for a long time that major media has it out for you tube because they see it as competition for themselves so they exploit the worst of us to try and belittle it to the mainstream.
as for Weezer, they were at my old studio 2 years ago and without telling the whole story the one guy I had a little drama with was extremely lacking in character and completely stuck on himself. I was like, yo, this NYC buddy. I don't give a fuck who you are so take your mandalin and shove it up your ass. ha ha. (slightly exagerated)

Mongrel Salt said...

Hey Bryony

You make some good points, I don't really like the video, I think it's a bit tacky. Not sure if you've seen Rivers' youtube page but he's creating a song with the help of his subscribers (only about 2000 of them), so I think at least Rivers' understands that there's more to youtube. If the new video was meant to be a tribute to youtube, well, they could really only use the most popular people if they were going to connect with people outside youtube. I guess it's a bit like tourism commercials, you don't show some oddball cafe that serves good cake and coffee, you show the big things, popular things so when people see it that know instantly what it's about, like the Sydney Opera House or the Big Ben Clock Tower.

babyporridge. said...

that was such a well-reasoned, cohesive argument.

i applaud you, miss lilies.

Eshniner Forest said...

Corporate collaborations stink.

Anonymous said...

you make a good point, but it's not racism against the youtube community, it's a form of bigotry that still has to be named. how about anti-tubism.

Thomayus said...

I agree!


Carlos said...

I just watched the video, and I liked it! I saw it more as a celebration of how far YouTube and other user-posted/created content has come.

H. Brown said...

Well much like the real world the youtube community will always have people who don't really represent a cause but still go up to represent it. This video only had the (excuse me) "sell-out" youtubers, or atleast very mainstreame youtubers (by mainstreame I mean like was on the news ect.) It didn't not really feature the "real" stars of youtube, it featured the "one-hit-wonders" of the internet.

organicprankster said...

While accepting that you had a failure of vocabulary, I think you should be careful about using terms such as "racism" so wildly out of context. In so doing, you trivialise the word.

cheekychen said...

I thought they made it really well. I think i may have even faved it.

Reading this made me el oh el and all that :]

Anonymous said...

Racism? That's sounds like you're trying to make it personal, when it's really not.

It's called "commercialism".

David said...

Hi Bryony,

You have an interesting perspective. I understand your use of the word "racism," although it's not surprising you were criticized for using it to describe a grouping unrelated to skin color.

You've joined a community, i.e. Youtube, and you're happy to be a member and see many benefits to membership. You also have met many other community members, have developed personal friendships within, and probably also have a positive feeling about Youtubers in general.

Then, these outsiders show up and ridicule the entire group! They don't even understand what it's like to be a member of this wonderful community, and they horribly misrepresent it to other outsiders.

I imagine that's probably how a lot of Scientologists have felt in the past year!

For what it's worth, many of the cool or funny memes are being enjoyed as were originally intended: the one man band, Blendtec, the Shoez guy, Coke/Mentos, etc. Also, I'd say that the fact that many of the people who were being laughed AT were willing to participate shows that Youtubers are good-humored and tolerant.