Years ago when the Internet was becoming a fixture in the average household rather than a toy for tech geeks, mainstream media was filled with stories promising that one day everything would run off the Internet pipeline. Holy shit were they right -- last year for Christmas, I got David Wong's dog a collar that allows it to post on its own Twitter account. He in turn got me the gift I had just given him, soaked in his urine.
But on a cultural level, we assumed this meant that the internet would stop being a geek thing. After all, if everyday life occurred on the Internet, then the Internet would no longer just be anime and superheroes and zombies. But the opposite happened -- the real, non-Internet world instead became infected by the obsessions and memes of Internet geeks ... only they've been twisted, spoiled and recycled until we're all ashamed to have ever been associated with them.
I'm talking about shit like ...
4Intentionally Unfunny Viral Meta Humor
I hope you're reading this in a place that allows the sound to be on because I really want you to watch this video. More than once if you have the time:
That's Leslie David Baker (aka "Stanley" from The Office), singing a horribly autotuned pop song about fucking as many women as possible before he dies. It's filled with barely dressed women fawning all over him while he sings about being a sex machine. At one point, a hand comes out of his fridge and grabs his crotch while he turns and smiles to the camera. Later, the music stops, and he tells one of the girls at his party that he loves her costume. She says, "What costume," as the camera pans down to show that she's pregnant and has three legs. Stanley then turns to the camera with the classic cheesy look that's usually accompanied with a BOING! sound effect, and the music continues. The whole video is filled with moments like this -- it's either unintentionally bad comedy, or intentionally bad comedy.
Whaaa, whaaaaaaa ...
Now, some people put a fair amount of time, effort and money into making this. They did it for one of two reasons, and neither one makes me feel very good about where our culture is headed.
The first is that this is designed as a viral marketing tool to drum up publicity for The Office or some other project of Baker's. If that's the case, then it was intentionally written to be a bad video with cheeseball comedy and horrible singing because the executives know that we in the geek circle are far more likely to share bad videos than good ones (see: Chocolate Rain, Numa Numa Guy, Star Wars Kid, Friday, etc.) -- it's a proven fact that we are horrible dickheads who love to just point and laugh at other people's failed attempts at creativity. We refuse to just let it slide when someone shows us something like Why Must I Cry, opting instead to laugh them out of existence.
Mainstream media has caught onto the fact that we prefer unintentional hilarity to intentional hilarity, and so now talented people are intentionally making things that appear to be unintentionally bad, in order to appeal to us. If you want your piece to go viral, it's smarter to make a cringe-worthy video rather than an awesome one, because they know our asshole nature will get us passing it around. And they're right.
HAHAHA! She broke several ribs and spent days in the hospital! That is HILARIOUS!
But then we have the second possible reason for the video's existence: It's a legitimate attempt by Leslie David Baker to make a fun song that people will buy and listen to, devoid of irony. I'm honestly not sure which category the song falls into, and that's the problem. It's like the first time some TV producer said, "Yeah, this Reality TV stuff is going to be big, but you know what would make it even better? If we fucking scripted it!" You've ruined the joy of finding and sharing those spontaneous bits of accidental comedy that make an Internet connection worth owning, by poisoning the well with carefully planned shit that is neither spontaneous or accidental.
It's for this reason that I refuse to enter the meta world of the My Little Pony fans. I see that entire culture as an endlessly repeated joke about, "I'm a 25-year-old man, and I watch My Little Pony. Can you believe that, guys? I'm crazy!" It may be more than that; those people may actually be watching the show because it's brilliant and cutting edge. I'll never know because the ironic humor phenomenon is so irritating to me that I avoid it altogether. It's like the Old Navy chain basing their entire image around the idea of, "Look how ridiculously awful this commercial is! Tell your friends so you can all laugh at how dorky we are!"
I'm going to suggest something shocking here to the people who make things like this: I think you made an intentionally bad video/commercial/etc. because you didn't know how to make a good one, and thought it was better to make a joke about how you didn't try. Well, that method didn't work for me in high school, it shouldn't work for your ass now.
3TV and Movies Cashing in on Memes (Years Too Late)
Everyone reading this article knows how fast memes are born and how quickly they die. We've seen Rebecca Black rack up 160 million views in a week, appear on the MTV Video Music Awards and then disappear into obscurity before we could even finish listening to the whole song. There are memes where I went from laughing to groaning within 48 hours.
Mainstream media moves much more slowly because they are much more cautious. They will not invest a single dime into anything that hasn't been proven to sell merchandise or advertisements, because if they do and it fails, motherfuckers lose their careers.
So they're in a position where they want to get in on the meme business because it's like telling geek culture, "We're just like you guys! Buy our shit because we're a part of your group!" However, in utilizing the "don't do a goddamn thing until we're convinced that this will sell" strategy, by the time they incorporate it into their commercials, the meme is not only dead, but has been beaten so thoroughly into the ground that mere mention of it just makes us tired.
You're just trying to piss us off now, aren't you, Hot Topic?
We've previously mentioned this example from way back in 2007, when the "Chuck Norris" meme finally reached your grandma's computer, via this political ad for Republican candidate for president Mike Huckabee:
In the commercial, Chuck spouts off praises about Mike, while Mike vomits an embarrassing slew of those retarded Chuck Norris "facts" that got old 17 seconds after we first heard them two years earlier.
But if you think that was beating a dead horse, four years after that, the makers of World of Warcraft decided to dig up the horse's fossilized bones and ride them around:
That's an ad that Blizzard put out in 2011. Six years after the jokes became so tired that we actually got angry when we heard them, World of Warcraft stepped up and said, "Hey, we know what the kids like: Chuck Norris jokes! Let's do a commercial full of those!"
And then you have zombies. Don't get me started on the zombies. Once upon a time it was just B-movies, a few video games and a couple of Max Brooks novels. But then the idea of a "zombie apocalypse" became an all-out meme (see: the "Zombie Fortress" meme and endless Demotivational posters). It was a running joke where in the middle of a Internet conversation somebody would throw in, "Well, it doesn't matter anyway because when the zombie apocalypse starts, we're all fucking dead! LOL!"
Yeah, we get it. You're a mindless corporate zombie, and- Know what? Just go fuck yourself.
A few years after everyone got tired of those references, the TV networks and movie studios said, "Zombies, you say? Good idea!" And so AMC has gotten in on the action by making The Walking Dead, the World War Z movie is coming out next year and they're turning Zombieland into a TV series etc.
Yes, assholes, let's weaponize the meme.
Nope, nothing can possibly go wrong with this idea.