4 Awful Ways The Internet Is Tainting Everything Else
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 ...
Intentionally 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.
TV 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.
So you've trained your whole life to be an MMA superstar. You can kill eight men at once with your bare hands, and 27 children. Well guess what? You want to rise to the top of the UFC, you gots to know how to tweet.
Today the UFC actually offers bonuses to their fighters if they use Twitter. Not only that, but the bonuses are based on the number of followers and the creativity of their tweets.
We're seeing this more and more from "manly" shows like this, because dammit, geek's where the money's at. Pop culture is all video games and comic books now. The producers know this, and what better way to tap into a whole new market than to send out that invitation in the form of, "Hey, come sit with us jocks. We won't beat you up. You're one of us, bro."
Hey, look! Fox Sports has a robot as their mascot -- they must be geeks like us!
But, true to form, no one has been more shameless about this than pro wrestling, to hilarious result. I'm a huge wrestling fan -- I watch it because it makes no excuses about what it is: goofy, testosterone-fueled entertainment. But a couple of months ago, something happened that was so out of place, it was bordering on surreal. Even for wrestling.
They started promoting the living shit out of Twitter. Not just for their general WWE account, but for every performer in their organization. Every member of their staff was required to work Twitter into their promos, as well as having and updating their own Twitter accounts in real life. Oh, I am not talking about a graphic at the bottom of the screen or a reminder at the end of the show's credits -- they do it right on the air, as part of their show:
Yes, I know that every single business out there does social networking now. But this is the equivalent of actors on a TV sitcom stopping mid-scene and telling the viewers to follow them on Twitter. It eventually culminated in an event that had to have been incredibly embarrassing for everyone involved, even in a sport that is based entirely on being shameless: The "Trending Worldwide Match."
That was a match from the WWE's yearly award show called The Slammys, that's supposed to be like the Emmys, only with wrestlers. No, wait, that's not the stupid part, there's more. Every part of this match was exactly what you'd expect from a normal wrestling match, except for one stipulation: The first person to "trend worldwide" on Twitter during the match, would win the Slammy for "Trending Star of the Year."
This ties into another annoying Internet fad, the Snakes on a Plane style Internet Fan Campaign. In wrestling, it came in the form of an incredibly annoying wrestler named Zack Ryder. He was a nobody who had hung around the WWE for five years being completely unspectacular in every way. Until he found YouTube. Donning a bright orange and purple headband, he spiked his hair, sprayed on a fake tan, and adopted the personality of a Jersey Shore-style "bro." He then posted videos of himself, declaring that he was the WWE "Internet Champion" (complete with a toy championship belt covered in kids' stickers). Little by little, "Zack Ryder" signs started to pop up in the WWE crowds. He became a meme, to the point that his T-shirts started selling out without him ever appearing on the show.
Yep, this guy.
And again I have to ask: Were they genuine fans? Were they just liking him ironically? I don't know. I don't think they know.
But come on. I'm on the Internet all goddamned day, can I not watch a couple of hours of sweaty gladiator combat without having that shit shoved in my face? We might as well start fighting our damned wars with robots now.
Marketing Sexy Nerdy Gamer Chicks
I'm not mad at Felicia Day. No one can stay mad at Felicia Day. But I do think she inadvertently opened the door for "cute as a button" nerdy gaming girl archetype as a selling point. When the mainstream media saw how people embraced her, they lost their fucking minds. No, I'm not mad at her because I happen to think Felicia is honestly being her true self. I do not think the same can be said for Olivia Munn.
"Here's a photo of me just casually playing some Pitfall on my Atari 2600, tee hee!"
Munn is a model and actress who landed a spot on the G4 cable network, doing shows about video games, relationship advice, and oddly ... drift racing. On her own, she was just another attractive woman trying to make a career in the entertainment industry, and even landed a few hit-or-miss shitty movies. But her career didn't truly take off until she was presented to the public as a gaming chick.
If you type her name into Google Image Search, you'll find her dressed as Wonder Woman, Chun-Li from Street Fighter, Princess Leia (the gold bikini version) and in futuristic, sci-fi looking outfits made of latex. All spotted in a sea of Maxim covers, bikini modeling and wearing outfits that cost more than your car.
Compare that top row to the bottom.
No, she's not a nerdy gaming chick. She is a manufactured marketing strategy, designed to rope in drooling Internet geeks by making them think that gaming and Star Wars fandom can attract girls who look like supermodels. And it worked. She ended up with a spot on The Daily Show. She's been on the cover of Playboy. She's written books -- and here's a shocker: One of them is called Suck It, Wonder Woman: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek.
It's becoming a formula. Take a girl, dress her up in some superhero or video game character costume and send her out to a comic book convention, and watch their ratings explode. April O'Neil knows all about it.
No, not the reporter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I'm talking about the hardcore porn star who has made an entire career off of building a geek following. She does it by wearing half-shirts that say "NERDS" on the front and talking about her love of TMNT. And by going to Comic-Con, dressed as the cartoon reporter. The following video says everything you ever need to know about geek culture, and why I have grown to hate it so very, very much:
It's a segment from G4 where a guy interviews her and another woman who are dressed in their favorite comic stripper outfits as a crowd of about 50 guys and four women cheer him on while he makes awkward comments about them possibly kissing. The entire point of the interview was that he was talking to two "hot chicks" who are into comics. And get ready for another shocker: it's their first time at Comic-Con!
Now, we already know about April O'Neil, but that blonde is just a huge comics fan who happens to be attractive, right? Nope. That's Nikki Griffin, a struggling actress who's played bit parts in low-end movies for a few years and is currently trying to market herself as just another one of us laid back geeks by appearing in costume. To her, she might as well be standing outside a Mexican restaurant in a giant taco costume. It's just another one of those things she has to reluctantly do to advance her career.
And the greatest thing to me is that these women are incredibly easy to spot because since we all live within the geek community, we know our own. When someone tries to bullshit their way into the room, they stick out as clearly as if they were wearing one of those fake mustache/nose/glasses disguises. If we saw April O'Neil on the street, the first thing that pops into our heads isn't going to be, "Wow, there's a hot, nerdy gaming chick." It's going to be, "Now there's a woman who makes a living rubbing cocks on her face."
"I once blew four guys dressed as turtles! I'm such a nerd!"
And that is fine, I don't begrudge her that. But my video games are video games and my porn is porn. My brain is capable of handling more than one flavor of entertainment, I don't need you to put my steak and ice cream in a blender and I don't need you to dress my porn models up as Chun-Li.
For more Cheese, check out 8 Scenes That Prove Hollywood Doesn't Get Technology. Or answer Which Ninja Turtle Are You? Life's Most Important Question.