The other night at the gym, I stumbled across a recent episode of South Park entitled “Canada On Strike.” While there’s plenty of fodder to talk about Canada’s influence on American film (and business in general) and the irreverent look at the WGA strike, something else about the show caught my eye.
In order to save Kyle Broflovski’s little brother Ike, the South Park kids needed to make money fast. Their plan was to make a viral video on the internet and capitalize on the downloads and popularity. In the process, they run into (and ultimately cause the death of) the most famous Internet stars, including Tron Guy, Chocolate Rain, Numa Numa kid, Sneezing Panda and Dramatic Chipmunk.
While I pretty much live on the Internet, I hadn’t watched a whole lot of these videos (although Numa Numa and the rotoscoped Star Wars Kid do make me laugh every time I see them). So I spent the other night watching these memes on YouTube until the wee hours of the morning. And I was left with only one thing to say…
What the fuck?
I understand how these things become popular, but what I marvel about is how people really think they’re going to break into a lucrative entertainment career with this stuff. Sure, all the studios are using viral online marketing to promote everything from Cloverfield to The Dark Knight (much of which is pretty clever), but they are using it as one of many marketing tools instead of hinging an entire career on it.
I have heard people brag about how many downloads their short films get, that they have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people watching their movies. And they don’t even have the freak flavor of “What What (In the Butt).”
I know that there is some royalty money to be made with internet downloads and cell phone viewing, but does anyone really think these wacky little displays on YouTube are going to make someone famous? Are you telling me that Afro Ninja is going to star opposite Chuck Norris in an upcoming action flick or Laughing Baby is going to get its own TV show?
Sure, these memes have seen some success. Numa Numa kid has done a more professional follow-up video. Chris Crocker has (at least according to Wikipedia) a reality-TV show in the works. And Tay Zonday from Chocolate Rain fame has done a video for Dr. Pepper’s new Cherry Chocolate flavor. But does anyone think this is anything more than William Huang releasing an album for the freak factor alone?
I’m all for making an ass out of yourself and putting it on the internet. Heck, I make a living doing just that, and I respect anyone who has no fear and has no shame. But don’t think that you’re breaking in just because you have a couple million downloads from a goofy video with the picture quality of a rejected clip from America’s Funniest Home Videos.
Whenever I hear someone tout their download stats, I remind them that 2girls1cup literally featured people eating shit, and it was one of the most downloaded videos of all time.