Masha Gessen writes about a series of recent recent Russian parody videos, started by air-transport cadets as a spoof of the music video for “Satisfaction,” by Benny Benassi, from 2002.
A few weeks ago, fourteen Russian first-year air-transport cadets made a parody of a fifteen-year-old music clip, and now it’s all a lot of Russians can talk about. This is a story of spontaneous solidarity, self-organization, and, ultimately, just possibly, the triumph of freedom over bureaucracy.
The original clip, set to the 2002 track “Satisfaction,” by the Italian d.j. Benny Benassi, is itself a parody: of music videos, erotica, and advertising. It features a series of scantily clad young women working with tools, starting with a hammer and graduating to a masonry drill, a belt sander, and an angle grinder. The screen features names and technical descriptions of the tools while the women pose with their bodies contorted and their mouths open, as though they were in a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. In their parody, the air-transport cadets used an all-male cast, the interior of a well-worn student dorm, and the kinds of tools that are found there: a broom, a clothes iron, a spray jar of glass cleaner. Mostly, though, they used their own very young bodies, dressed in underwear, with belts, neckties, and military caps arranged in apparent homage to Tom of Finland.
Official Post from Rob Sheridan: That goober you see above is me as a nerdy high school kid in my bedroom in 1998, being interviewed on TV for a dumb website I made. Allow me to explain.20 years ago this month, an episode of the TV show Ally McBeal featured a strange animated baby dancing the cha-cha in a vision experienced by the
That goober you see above is me as a nerdy high school kid in my bedroom in 1998, being interviewed on TV for a dumb website I made. Allow me to explain.
20 years ago this month, an episode of the TV show Ally McBeal featured a strange animated baby dancing the cha-cha in a vision experienced by the show’s titular character. It immediately became an unlikely pop culture sensation, and by the tail end of the 90s you couldn’t pass a mall t-shirt kiosk or a Spencer’s Gifts without seeing corny merchandise for The Dancing Baby, or “Oogachaka Baby” as it was sometimes known. This child of the Uncanny Valley was an offensively banal phenomenon: It had no depth, no meaning, no commentary, no narrative. It was just a dumb video loop from the internet, something your nerdiest co-worker would have emailed you for a ten-second chuckle. We know these frivolous bite-sized jokes as memes now, and they’re wildly pervasive in popular culture. You can get every type of Grumpy Cat merchandise imaginable, for example, despite the property being nothing more than a photo of a cranky-looking feline with some added text. We know what memes are in 2018 but in 1997, we didn’t. The breathtaking stupidity of The Dancing Baby’s popularity was a strange development with online origins that had no cultural precedent. It’s a cringe-worthy thing to look back on, appropriately relegated to the dumpster of regrettable 90s fads. But I have a confession to make: The Dancing Baby was kinda my fault.
Internet memes of the 1990s were a very different beast to those you see today. A combination of the slow connection speeds, lower population of “netizens” (can you believe we used to call ourselves that), and the fact that many of the things we take for granted today were then cutting-edge or experimental technologies like animated GIFs or web pages with music means that memes spread more-slowly and lived for longer. Whereas today a meme can be born and die in the fraction of a heartbeat that it takes for you to discover them, the memes of 1990s grew gradually and truly organically: there was not yet any market for attempting to “manufacture” a meme. If if you were thoroughly plugged-in to Net culture, by the time you discovered a new meme it could be weeks or months old and still thriving, and spin-off memes (like the dozens of sites that followed the theme of the Hampster Dance) almost existed to pay homage to the originals, rather than in an effort to supplant them.
I’m aware that meme culture predates the dancing baby, and I had the privilege of seeing it foster on e.g. newsgroups beforehand. But the early Web provided a fascinating breeding ground for a new kind of meme: one that brushed up against mainstream culture and helped to put the Internet onto more people’s mental maps: consider the media reaction to the appearance of the Dancing Baby on Ally McBeal. So as much as you might want to wrap your hands around the throat of the greasy teenager in the picture, above, I think that in a way we should be thanking him for his admittedly-accidental work in helping bring geek culture into the sight of popular culture.
And I’m not just saying that because I, too, spent the latter half of the 1990s putting things online that I ought to by right have been embarassed by in hindsight. ;-)
There are those who would argue that this isn’t true eyebombing, because I ought to be sticking eyes to non-anthropomorphic, inanimate objects, and making them look alive by doing so. But the folks on /r/eyebombing don’t seem to mind: they’re far more-focused on the chaos and hilarity that ensues when you just put eyes on any damn thing that looks like it could benefit from them.
When I was on holiday in Jersey, for example, I found an unattended rack of tourist information leaflets that were just crying out for a ‘bombing.
And because I pretty-much carry googly eyes around with me all the time – in the pocket that generally contains my headphones, a pen, a hair tie, and other everyday essentials – I started sticking eyes onto things.
The game didn’t stop even when I touched back down on the mainland.
FULL NAME: Daniel Huntley
BIRTHDAY: 8th of January, 1981
HEIGHT: 178cm (about 5’10”)
WEIGHT: Not sure; probably about 80kg at the moment
HAIR COLOR: Light brown
EYE COLOR: Blue
PETS: Would love to have cats, but don’t really have space to keep any right now
SIBLINGS: Two younger sisters, Sarah (15) and Becky (14).
RELIGION PRACTICED: Devout atheist
RIGHT, LEFT, OR BOTH HANDED: Right
STRONGEST ATTRIBUTE: Stubbornness? Intelligence? Extrovertism?
WHAT YOU’RE KNOWN FOR: Being “the axe man” of Aberystwyth, Penbryn-Hall.co.uk, Scatman Dan, that thing with the goat, etc. etc. I’m a local …