#2. Weird Foreign Stuff
If you haven't seen "What Does the Fox Say?" you somehow stumbled across this article while trying to find the AARP's website. I'm responsible for several of its 344 million views, and every time someone sent me the link, the accompanying message emphasized how weird it was.
It's funny, sure, but it's being weird and wacky on purpose. They're Norwegian comedians making a joke that in their words was "a stupid thing," but people seemed to think they were playing it completely straight. It would be like a Norwegian watching Lonely Island videos and coming away thinking, "Oh, that crazy American music industry, always obsessing over boats and putting their penises in boxes."
It's not like we haven't seen this before. 2011's Caps Lock-tastic "PONPONPON" was a Japanese music video that became a minor hit stateside after nearly 60 million people watched what looks like every stereotype about Japan being a weird country rolled up into four hallucinatory minutes.
If you can't watch the video, I hate you. But I can't stay mad -- here's a screenshot to help you sample the insanity.
Warner Music Japan
Every frame is like this.
To our Western sensibilities, it looks like Lovecraft went anime, but most Japanese viewers probably reacted with a shrug before flipping back to their tentacle porn. All that crap in the background? They're references to a fashion movement the singer modeled and wrote about before she became a pop star. The average Japanese person would be at least vaguely familiar with it, but most of them don't dress like they were in a Toys "R" Us when it exploded. Even all the bread flying around has a logical explanation. In Japanese, the word for clapping (which she does in the song) and the word for bread sound similar. It's just a silly pun. Assuming that Japan looks like that all the time is like assuming Ohio looks like a Lady Gaga video.
But we're happy to keep writing stories about vending machines that sell used panties as if you could find them on every street corner in Tokyo, and Japan is happy to keep cashing in on our cultural ignorance. It's one of those bits of subtle surprise-racism. We have this weird disconnect where we're capable of recognizing and calling out Western viral videos and marketing stunts that are trying too hard to be wacky, but as soon as another country does it, we take it at face value, because to us, foreigners are just a bunch of crazy people.
I love cats, and I think any intelligent person reading this will agree that we're superior to all those filthy, unwashed dog people. But even I have my limit, and that limit was reached when Grumpy Cat got a New York Times best-selling book and a film option, officially making her a more powerful force in pop culture than you or I will ever be. My best shot at fame would now be to film a sex tape with her.
When Grumpy Cat appeared at SXSW in 2013, she drew a bigger crowd than Al Gore and Neil Gaiman. In previous years, there were reports on SXSW bringing us new music, movies, and technology, like this thing called Twitter. Now the biggest news out of SXSW is how people waited in line for three hours to get their picture taken with a cat that's probably been traumatized by the experience of hundreds of fawning fans groping her.
It's been said that this is a problem for SXSW, but I think it's a problem for society in general. Cat videos are one of the biggest time wasters out there: 78 percent of Americans say they watch videos online, and 58 percent say they prefer "humorous videos, especially those involving cats and babies." The survey didn't calculate precisely how much collective time was wasted, possibly because the results would be too terrifying.
We could spend that time working. Or watching non-cat videos. A step up either way.
Ten thousand of those fans went to the now annual Internet Cat Video Festival in Minneapolis to take part in an "experiment that tests the social boundaries of the online community with a live, off-line event," because saying "come out and pay 10 bucks to watch videos you could enjoy from the comfort of your own home for free" doesn't sounds as artistic.
If you need further proof that cats aren't just idle distractions, Kia built an entire marketing campaign around them. A British milk ad featuring cats got 7.3 million views and caused an 8 percent jump in sales. Why did they use cats to sell milk? Because they tried it with cows and barely cracked 200,000 hits. From pizza to information services, advertising with cats works.
The perfect pizza for your cat to sleep on in your terrifying white void of a home.
It's not hard to see why. Cute cats make us feel warm and fuzzy. Positive emotions connect people with a brand, and that connection makes people spend money. And that's how otherwise rational people get suckered into buying whatever crap has a cat slapped on it.
So the next time you watch a cat video, remember that the line between someone posting it for your amusement and someone posting it because they want your money is vanishing. Cat videos are taking over the Internet, and we need to do something before we're overwhelmed by them. Here's a cat getting stuck in a box. Buy Cracked's zombie book.
You can read more from Mark, including his erotic zombie cat fiction, at his website.