The axiom goes that comedy is tragedy that happens to other people. For the most part, it’s true but I’m wondering if I’ve become a little…stodgy lately since I haven’t found the last couple of YouTube hilarities all that hilarious.
The danger (if that’s the right word) in talking about this lies in whether or not to link to what you’re talking about. In the case of the epic “A woman missed her flight at the boarding gate HKIA”, the Huffington Post linked to it and, in what I assume was supposed to be some attempt at journalism, updated the the post to inform readers that since posting the video the YouTube traffic had tripled. Gosh! How did THAT happen? Are they honestly suggesting that having one of the more popular websites linking to a video has any effect on that amount of people that watch said video? Well, DAY-AM. Who knew?
The difficulty lies in whether or not to link to it and increase its popularity. In this case, my low-traffic, sporadic piece of cyberspace would have little or no effect on its popularity so it’s not much of an issue but I’m not going to link anyway.
Briefly – it’s three minutes of a Chinese woman freaking out (in Chinese) about missing her plane. Three minutes. How is this hilarious? If somehow you happened to be there when it happened, I doubt you’d be ROTFL. In fact, no one’s laughing on the audio. She’s just pissed off. Not even the person with the camera is laug-
Wait. Person with the camera? At the risk of getting too deconstructionist, let’s walkthrough what had to happen to get this to YouTube.
1) Woman freaks out
2) People watch her
3) Someone starts filming
4) Someone take video and transfers it to a computer
5) Edits the video
6) Crunches the video
7) Uploads the video to YouTube
8) “Hilarity” ensues
Think about it – a probable stranger posted a video of someone’s bad day and three million people watched it. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s fucked up. Is distress in a foreign language funnier than distress in your own? I’m not going to lie – Chinese is really easy to laugh at. I’m not proud of saying that, but as a white, middle-class America I’m pretty much programmed for it…kinda like Miley Cyrus.
But even that doesn’t explain why a parent would post a video of their kid whacked out of anesthetics for the amusument of strangers. Or why ten million people, rather than forming a lynch mob and tracking said parent down, chose to foward the video onto their friends and laugh at this poor kid. What have you got to be thinking to do that? “Wow! My kid is SOOO fucked up right now! I’m gonna have to get this on tape rather than comforting him. Hey! This is some funny shit! Let’s put this on YouTube!”
Thirty years agao, Paddy Chayefsky wrote a movie called Network which envisioned a world where the concepts of news and entertainment ceased to be delineated. It was all entertainment. Violent, revloutionary terrorists were given their own prime-time TV show, filming themselves committing terrorist acts. The nightly news broadcast included an astrology report. Anchors did not present the news but rather presented their commentary on the news. Not to spoil the ending if you haven’t seen it, but the closing narration of the movie informs us that Howard Beale was the first anchorman to be killed because of bad ratings.
Much of what Chayefsky predicted has come to pass. But he could have never dreamed up the odd, cruel entertainments of YouTube. He would have been laughed out of Hollywood.