This year, the purest of heart were scheduled to ascend into heaven, and everyone else was supposed to be consumed in eternal fire. Twice. Christian radio host and holy number cruncher Harold Camping had solved God's greatest math problem by figuring out the date of the Rapture. God, Camping said, had tentatively penciled in humanity's reckoning for May 21 of 2011, and in case the date didn't work for everyone, then October 21 for sure. Both those dates came and went without any hint of an apocalypse, which was understandably embarrassing for Camping and his followers.
"I don't understand why no one's here. I even made tiny cakes."
What was most remarkable about the Rapture hype was not that Camping was wrong, it was the worldwide attention he received in the first place for predicting something so inherently ridiculous.
Leading up to May 21, the second leading search in Google was "end of the world may 21st." Hundreds of people quit their jobs and took to the streets preaching the word of the Lord before it was too late, and even internationally people gathered by the thousands to wait for Christ's arrival, and perhaps, if they were lucky, get an autograph.
His stuff was good, but his need to appeal to a wider audience really destroyed his career.
The word "rapture" became part of the everyday lexicon, even if it was almost exclusively used as a punch line. Still, everyone -- whether they believed it or not -- was keenly aware of the prediction of one Christian radio host, because each time we discussed it on the Internet, we inadvertently spread awareness. If the 2011 revolution in Egypt was a testament to the possibilities of social media to share information and mobilize people behind a cause, "the Rapture" was proof of how that power could be squandered on the asinine. We clumsily tried to wield the same weapon of uncensored and instant worldwide communication just months after the revolution, except we had nothing to say, and so instead we talked about the crazy old man in Texas who was predicting the end of the world.
If I know our audience, and I think that I do, everyone reading this is a stay-at-home, middle-aged mother who loves the shit out of Internet comedy and Oprah Winfrey. Unfortunately, for everyone else it may not be immediately apparent how profoundly The Oprah Winfrey Show controls our everyday lives, so here's some context: Of the 70 books in Oprah's book club, 59 of them went on to become best-sellers after her endorsement. During an episode of her show discussing mad cow disease, she said, "It has just stopped me cold from eating another burger." Cattle ranchers then sued Oprah for single-handedly driving beef prices down to the lowest they had been in a decade. And in case you're a vegetarian who doesn't read, she was also credited with netting Barack Obama over a million votes in his run for president, and we all know how that turned out.
Her approval or critique of any person, business or product on The Oprah Winfrey Show can be the difference between its success and failure. And now, after 25 years of teaching the world what to like and hate, the cancellation of The Oprah Winfrey Show is leaving a bigger vacancy than just a network TV time slot -- it is creating a cultural void. She is forcing her audience out of the studio and into the streets to decide for themselves what books to read, what charities to sponsor and what skin-cleanse systems to buy.
Damn. Anyone know what brand of crazy Camping uses?
With the advent of Pandora and personalized Internet radio, there's really no reason to listen to terrestrial radio anymore. My musical preferences are allowed to get so niche and esoteric that, if unchecked, it will result in me bobbing my head to the rhythm of sad, sustained flatulence in the hopes of uncovering what it means in the historical context of sound. So when a pop song fights its way into my consciousness and I don't immediately hate it, I'm willing to recognize that as a tremendous achievement.
"Super Bass" has become hugely successful because it managed to infiltrate demographics for which it was never intended. It has the rare power only a few songs share to obligate people at any function, from children's birthday parties to candle vigils, to stop in mid-conversation and lose themselves to three and a half minutes of pure ass-shaking. It also didn't hurt that Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez were both caught singing it on camera, indirectly letting their own fan bases know that listening to other genres is allowed. In addition, 8-year-old Sophie Grace and that other one blew up on the Internet for their rendition in princess costumes. It's easy to predict why kids love the song -- the video, after all, looks like a particularly sexy episode of LazyTown. But with all these young girls embracing Nicki Minaj at once, adults had to collectively decide it was too much trouble to point out how overtly sexual the lyrics were and agreed that just this once they could get behind a song about how good drug dealers with six packs are at making underwear fall off. The logic, it turned out, was sound.
Basically the same thing.
Considering it's just two and a half minutes of complete absurdity, making the Rick Perry Bad Lip-Reading video must have required an insanely specific skill. The creator had to learn to read lips, but not quite to proficiency; he had to be exactly mediocre for it to work.
In an interview with The Washington Post, he revealed that his mother had lost her hearing over a matter of months, and in an effort to understand what she was going through, he would mute the television and try to guess what people were saying. He didn't have any formal training, he was just curious about lip-reading. His inadequate ability made for some hilarious errors, and so he started sharing them on YouTube, through dubbed music videos first and then political commercials. Had he discovered his ability at any other point in time, it would have just been a novel trick that a few people would have appreciated before moving on, but by chance, he discovered it during the first stages of the Republican primary, and that made all the difference.
"... and that's the kind of liberal immigrant work policy we just won't tolerate in this party."
"Save a Pretzel for the Gas Jets" was the first of many political dubs that found the perfect way to poke fun at rambling politicians, regardless of party affiliation. There is no pointed agenda or attacks on the personal lives of the politicians -- they are just compilations of laughably senseless dialogue spilling out of the proud faces of each candidate. I don't know what kind of lasting power these videos will have, but "Save a Pretzel for the Gas Jets" was a perfect zeitgeist for 2011.