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A behind-the-music style look at the people behind embarrassing internet video memes
February 19, 2007 6:05 PM   Subscribe

The Prisoners of YouTube is a pretty good longish article on all the reluctant internet video celebs, including Star Wars Kid, Afroninja, the Numa Numa Kid, and more. It's an interesting look at the downside of unwarranted attention and how a few people have turned these embarrassing moments in the sun to their advantage.
posted by mathowie (51 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nice. I'm glad Radar's back in action, for a shit rag I think their output is surprisingly high quality.
posted by The Straightener at 6:15 PM on February 19, 2007


Wow, I hadn't heard about a few of these people, like the beach singer. Interesting article, thanks!
posted by amyms at 6:21 PM on February 19, 2007


By chance there'a a soundtrack and video too.
posted by jfuller at 6:24 PM on February 19, 2007


The new Bare Naked Ladies video is a nice companion piece for this article. I've really been liking Radar lately.
posted by Staggering Jack at 6:24 PM on February 19, 2007


I had not seen any of these.
I tried afroninja.
Schadenfreude is not my thing.
posted by jouke at 6:28 PM on February 19, 2007


Yeah, not a bad article. I wish they hadn't gone to Baumann as the expert, however.
posted by dobbs at 6:42 PM on February 19, 2007


The new Bare Naked Ladies video

Cool. Hadn't seen that before.
posted by dobbs at 6:47 PM on February 19, 2007


OH MY GOD, IT'S A LUXURY CAR!! THANK YOU!!
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:49 PM on February 19, 2007


Not a bad article... What would be really nice is if they would've left out the Rolling Stone-like descriptions, specifically "Patient Zero of the phenomenon is an overweight 19-year-old Canadian...", "...as if the life of a doughy teenager...", "bouncing his heavyset frame to the beat" and "...eager to mock a heavy white woman...". Hey, I'm not saying there's an ulterior motive here, I just don't like the singling-out of the body types. Bugs me, like unnecessary, look-at-the-dorks! finger-pointing. Apart from that, a good look at an interesting phenomena. First it's those really odd websites, like Sweater Lady, Tron guy, and that Peter Pan fan, and now it's the genuinely odd people on YouTube... I wonder what's next?
posted by Zack_Replica at 7:02 PM on February 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


No Libby Hoeller?
posted by keswick at 7:02 PM on February 19, 2007 [2 favorites]


Yeah, pretty good article. The only parts that turned me off were the unnecessary quoting of dumbass youtube comments and the mention of that scumfucker, Baumann.
posted by bob sarabia at 7:05 PM on February 19, 2007


Seems to me that Radar is not just reporting the phenomena, but perpetuating it. They are dog piling on the rabbit. Posting it here too is just giving wider distribution to videos that weren't meant to be seen. (Except for the first one whose son posted it.)

I love schadenfraude, but this is simply mean spirited. It is one thing to be secretly happy your obnoxious neighbor didn't get the job, but to post a video of his hideous interview on the net is wrong.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:06 PM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'd never seen the Afroninja clip, but it seems like it might work out for the guy.

I love schadenfraude, but this is simply mean spirited. It is one thing to be secretly happy your obnoxious neighbor didn't get the job, but to post a video of his hideous interview on the net is wrong.

I disagree. The few more people who would see the videos is counterbalanced by the fact that people actually get to hear these people's "sides of the story". The reporter went out of his way to actually find out how people felt about their fame, and get "their side of the story".
posted by delmoi at 7:12 PM on February 19, 2007


Sweater Lady. Genius.
posted by phaedon at 7:16 PM on February 19, 2007


but to post a video of his hideous interview on the net is wrong.

Anyone got a link?
posted by dhammond at 7:17 PM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]


I disagree. The few more people who would see the videos is counterbalanced by the fact that people actually get to hear these people's "sides of the story". The reporter went out of his way to actually find out how people felt about their fame, and get "their side of the story".

Some of these folks are willing to talk and are trying to leverage their YouTube fame into something good. Others refuse to be contacted, yet their story was mentioned in the article. Why include the ones who won't talk if you are trying to be balanced and get their side of the story out? I do not think asking these folks, "So how does it feel being a schmuck?" is helping them out.

These folks, but for the Yalie who lied on his resume, are ordinary folk that could easily be you or me next. We have all done things that taken out of context without our permission would rather embarrass us. I see these and I think of another of my fellow soldiers in the fight of everyday life haven taken a fatal wound. I feel badly for them as I step over them trying to keep moving forward or get hit myself.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:22 PM on February 19, 2007


The Numa Numa kid has nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone else, not so much.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:29 PM on February 19, 2007


Uh, the sweater lady is a deliberate joke, so I'm not sure it exactly fits in the category of internet people being made fun of. Wasn't Libby Hoeller the anonymous person in another article I just read?
posted by MegoSteve at 7:31 PM on February 19, 2007


I don't think Radar is complicit, and at first I too thought the youtube comment quotes were really lame, but then I thought back to my day in the sun, being the #3 or 4 most popular video for a day (my stupid star wars kid parody with my macbook). I made the movie for friends that got the joke, but obviously when it got wider exposure people didn't know it was a parody and took it on face value.

I deleted at least a 100 dumbass comments, most likely from angry bored 12 year olds posting stuff like "u r 2 fat old man haha total faggot with his mac!" In the years of running MeFi, I got used to people insulting me for no reason but I deleted the comments that weren't asking me a question or saying anything of substance. It was fine, but I uploaded it and had that kind of control.

I hate to imagine what it's like for someone to suddenly see a video of themselves with 10,000 kids mocking them. It's an invasion of their privacy and completely unwanted. There's no way to stop it either. It's like you wake up the next morning and the whole world is mocking your grandmother. It's a tough spot to be in.

The article does a good job catching up with people a year or more after their "success" and seeing how it affected them. Sounds like being the butt of jokes doesn't end anytime soon, which is a shame.
posted by mathowie at 7:32 PM on February 19, 2007


That Numa kid's performance is still one of the finest things the internet has ever produced.
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:36 PM on February 19, 2007


Sorry, but Vayner got what he deserved. If only Youtube would expose more liars like him, we'd all be better off.
posted by clockworkjoe at 8:33 PM on February 19, 2007


That article made me angry. IANAL but It seems like tort law should cover this stuff. It isn't okay to record someone without permission. The Star Wars Kid settled, so at least where he lives, there's a remedy for this. On the other hand, it also seems like content sites have some moral responsibility to provide the subjects of amateur videos a means of removing embarrassing material, even if they don't have a legal one.
posted by owhydididoit at 8:43 PM on February 19, 2007


But owhydididoit, "embarassing" is pretty hard to define. I mean, the guy who worked for the DEA--yes, embarassing what happened. However, the man should not be teaching gun safety to children. He fired a loaded gun in a full classroom! Yeah, he only shot himself. He should consider himself lucky. And he should never have the opportunity to fuck up like that again. The video's popularity ensures that. That's a good thing. It's unfortunate that it also seems to be fucking up other aspects of his life but, well, better safe than sorry.

Also, it seems like some people need to have a better sense of humor. Star Wars Kid kind of annoys me. When that video broke, I remember Waxy had a fund where people could donate money to buy him an iPod because, it was assumed, he was taking it in stride. Many people donated (I think I dropped in $40 or something) and it appeared that he'd have enough for a new Powerbook and an iPod. Then, he starting suing and, I remember specifically, his lawyer made a point of saying that the donations were bullshit and the kid hadn't seen his gadgets yet. I mean, seriously, wtf? Andy posted about the lawsuit and asked if anyone wanted their money back. Many did, I think--I certainly did, and Andy returned it. The kid could have gotten some sweet gadgets that he coulda flaunted at school with a "Laugh all you want, bitches! Check out my new laptop!" Instead, he and his family sued.

Yeah, maybe I'm simplifying the embarassment he felt, but I truly think that if his parents encouraged him to see the humor in what happened and that good was going to come of it, he wouldn't be having the problems he is today.

Further, no one video'd SWK without him knowing it. He filmed it himself and then left it in the camera when he returned it to the school he bought it from. The next students who got the camera put it online. I assume they did it for the humor value, not to be malicious.
posted by dobbs at 8:56 PM on February 19, 2007


I suspect Libby Hoeller wasn't mentioned because it wasn't youtube or a similar site that embarassed her. It was the ex-boyfriend sending private quicktimes of her striptease to everyone she knew well before it hit the internet. It's not quite the same phenomenon.

I'm just speculating, though.
posted by shmegegge at 8:59 PM on February 19, 2007


I assume they did it for the humor value, not to be malicious.

What? Try to remember what being a teenager is like.
posted by mobunited at 9:01 PM on February 19, 2007


Back when RadarMag was last in print, I subscribed to it because it seemed pretty good in a Spy kind of way. Take no prisoners. After a couple issues it stopped coming. I called the publisher and they said it had folded or something, and I believe I got a refund. So it was a pleasant surprise when a new issue arrived in our mailbox last week. I'm just about done with it (read the YouTube piece earlier this evening) and it's good enough for me to look forward to the next issue. I could do without the Us-Weekly-style glamour stuff (even if it is derisive) but that can be skimmed fast enough.
posted by intermod at 9:06 PM on February 19, 2007


After a search, it appears the kid did get his iPod and a gift certificate for $2600. He sued anyway.

mobunited, fair enough.
posted by dobbs at 9:07 PM on February 19, 2007


I assume they did it for the humor value, not to be malicious.

Yeah, because that's what high school kids are known for, not being cruel.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:13 PM on February 19, 2007


Guys, we should all be as lucky as the Star Wars kid.

To be remembered on this planet for something, anything, beyond our little lonely circles is nothing but a Good Thing.

Just think: Decades from now, the obituary for the Star Wars Kid will be longer and more read than yours. Alas, poor Ghyslain. I knew him, Horatio.

Besides, let's be adults here. This is not the first time someone has suffered widespread, or even global, embarrassment. Go read about Roy "Wrong Way" Riegels or Ryan "I missed the kick, sir" Bucchianeri.

It's all in how you deal with it.

"For many years I've had to go along and laugh whenever my wrong-way run was brought up, even though I've grown tired listening and reading about it. But it certainly wasn't the most serious thing in the world. I regretted doing it, even as you do, but you'll get over it."—Letter from Riegels to Paramount High School's Jan Bandringa in 1957. Bandringa had intercepted a pass only to run it 55 yards into his own end zone, resulting in a safety for Centennial High, who won the game 9-7.
posted by frogan at 9:24 PM on February 19, 2007


I really do need a webcam then. I can become famous and turn it to my advantage. Who wants to be the first to link to Live Davy Pr0n?
posted by davy at 9:53 PM on February 19, 2007


Wow, shmegg-whatever... You're right. Sharing QuickTime videos over TCP/IP is completely different than sharing flash videos over TCP/IP. My bad!
posted by keswick at 10:10 PM on February 19, 2007


I felt bad for the couple of people who were doing something they were supposed to be doing, got their videos released without their consent, got taken out of context, and suffered for it. Especially the afroninja guy, though I was happy to see that he was taking it in stride and turning it to his advantage by the end of the article.

I don't really recognize most of the people in the article, and I'm sure that's because I quickly soured on the whole phenomenon, really early on, given that the idea is essentially to laugh at someone else's expense. I won't get into the semantics of right and wrong for this new twist on the rage of public humiliation. I'll just say that the popularity of this form of entertainment is a sad indictment on our culture.

And please, throw your bullshit rationalizations away. These types of videos are posted for one reason, and one reason only. To laugh and point at another's humiliation for self gratification. What you do with that is up to you. But don't try to pretend it's something that it's not.
posted by Brak at 10:53 PM on February 19, 2007


To be remembered on this planet for something, anything, beyond our little lonely circles is nothing but a Good Thing.

The only thing worse than being talked about...? That is fair enough, but I think it's nice if one can be remembered somewhat on one's own terms. Perhaps not likely, but still nice. Hence, we should all try to make sure that that happens for each other, to the extent that we can, no?
posted by owhydididoit at 11:05 PM on February 19, 2007


There are a number of excellent movies portraying the impact of ridicule, including the brilliant French movie, Ridicule. Dangerous Liasons is another one.

Legal definition of malice . A continuum of intent.

Ridiculing and shaming are attempts to control others.

There is a place for ridicule in life, laughter used against gross conceit or evil but when it's used against being gently human, it's usually a sign of narcissism.

It's one thing to endure the pain of being ridiculed momentarily by one's peers or in the limited space of an event seen by a handful of people, because one has been arrogant, clumsy or behaved badly in others' eyes. It's quite another to enjoy life innocently, savoring it with peace of mind in what one thought was a private moment, such as the woman singing on the beach or the boy playing at Star Wars and have that become the object of shaming by tens of thousands - or even millions- of people, over not just a minute but weeks, months, years. I think that's wrong. It hurts the people being shamed and has caused a number of them to lose work, suffer from a long stretch of depression, be socially alienated.

It's also a betrayal of trust. It's an invasion of privacy. It wasn't just an accidental filming, it was filming or passing on film to the public with the intention of ridiculing.

What I see happening in the shaming comments is that the person having a private moment, making a mistake or performing unexceptionally is being ripped apart. It's not just the momentary act that is made fun of, as a blooper, Funniest Home Video but put in the YouTube stockade, derided as "lame", "fat", "a loser", "an idiot", "a faggot", *devalued as a person*.

Everybody makes mistakes, it's part of the learning process, part of life. I think ridicule is committed by those who are the most cowardly, afraid themselves of being shamed, so they project it onto others in an attempt to avoid their own sense of inadequacy.

Most human beings -including professional actors who choose to be in the public spotlight- aren't able to rise above being publicly humiliated by tens of thousands of people, much less millions. I really feel for those people whose privacy was violated by those they thought they could trust.
posted by nickyskye at 11:12 PM on February 19, 2007 [4 favorites]


It's one thing to endure the pain of being ridiculed momentarily by one's peers or in the limited space of an event seen by a handful of people, because one has been arrogant, clumsy or behaved badly in others' eyes. It's quite another to enjoy life innocently, savoring it with peace of mind in what one thought was a private moment, such as the woman singing on the beach or the boy playing at Star Wars and have that become the object of shaming by tens of thousands - or even millions- of people, over not just a minute but weeks, months, years.

Well said, nickyskye.
posted by amyms at 11:21 PM on February 19, 2007


Wow, shmegg-whatever... You're right. Sharing QuickTime videos over TCP/IP is completely different than sharing flash videos over TCP/IP. My bad!


Look, I'm not trying to be a dick or anything. I'm just saying that the article seems to be about public video sharing sites being the medium through which a person endures the embarassment. I think Libby Hoeler may have been missing from the article because she endured the majority of her horrendous embarassment through private communication. That's all I'm saying. I'm not saying one is ok and one is not, I'm just speculating about why it might not have been mentioned in the article. christ.
posted by shmegegge at 11:35 PM on February 19, 2007


When I saw afroninja, I thought it was fake--acted, and I was amused by it as a comedy clip.

I don't like seeing serious injury, but people hitting flaming gourds with golf clubs, attempting to do a burnout and running their Ferrari into the track wall, or pouring 100 gallons of gas on a bonfire only to have it rain flaming debris on their cars...well, yeah, bring those on. I enjoy watching, having been in equally stupid situations myself. Generally these people are showing off for the camera and it backfires, which is the funny part.

People doing earnest things and being made fun of? Not amusing. I've never been able to watch any of the clips (aside from the one I thought was being acted) in the article all the way through. It's too uncomfortable.
posted by maxwelton at 1:19 AM on February 20, 2007


The 'shaming' says more about the shamers than the shamee.
posted by asok at 2:28 AM on February 20, 2007


The 'shaming' says more about the shamers than the shamee.

Exactly: the success of these videos tells much more about us.
The Radar article covers the context of the making of these videos and the effect they have on their unwanting stars, but doesn't analyze the success itself. The shaming of the subjects of these videos is regrettable but it is only a byproduct of the videos' success

The success is the real story.
And I can see one million admen frantically brainstorming to fake a blunder that would fit a product. Which is very funny because advertisers generally seek to associate their image with positive feelings, not embarassment. Pwned!

These public blunders are in the same realm as reality TV or the public blog life of teenagers as told, for example, by Emily Nussbaum in New York magazine in Say Everything.

Note that all these videos show people performing = we are all performing. And their performance is (or looks) terrible = we are all afraid of humiliating ourselves publicly.

Nussbaum notes that the kids who had been blogging for years have "thicker skins than you". Maybe that's the lesson we all have to learn while living in a more and more transparent world: grow a thicker skin.
posted by bru at 5:53 AM on February 20, 2007


To be remembered on this planet for something, anything, beyond our little lonely circles is nothing but a Good Thing.

Maybe for you. Lots of us don't have any desire for any kind of fame whatsoever and are just trying to make the best of our lonely little circles that don't feel particularly lonely to us.
posted by mckenney at 7:44 AM on February 20, 2007


Afroninja:Destiny is on my all time top gotta-see movie list.

I'm happy that Hicks is using the notoriety, but the biggest reason I get a kick out of Afroninja, DEA guy, or Vayner and their ilk is the smug arrogance right before they fall flat on their face, shoot themselves in the leg, or start loading on the bullshit with a backhoe. The lip-curl, the "I'm the only one professional enough" and 495 lb bench press claims deserve to be ridiculed. I've injured myself very badly right after making claims of superiority before (I seriously thought I was going to die) and comeuppance is a bitch. You just learn to temper your desire to inflate your ego with the reality that no one is perfect.

The rest, like SWK and Mom, I enjoy because I relate. I've done both of those things. Well, it was moonwalking and Phil Collins, but I know. I know.
posted by dozo at 8:12 AM on February 20, 2007


an xkcd cartoon on people who comment on youtube
posted by Kattullus at 8:56 AM on February 20, 2007


good to see hicks is making out OK. I could see , being a stuntman, where that would hurt his career.

And the singing Mom, that is funny, but only because , well, who hasn't been singing along in a car, or singing in the shower, or soemething, and had someone catch them? Shame she has sufffered that embarrasment globaly.

But the douche that lied all over his resume? pppffftttt.
posted by das_2099 at 9:16 AM on February 20, 2007


It's too bad that the Afroninja lost work in the stuntman industry because of that video, but c'mon - that shit was hilarious.
posted by hypocritical ross at 10:07 AM on February 20, 2007


What I found was really disturbing were the people who were deliberately trying to provoke their teachers into having nervous breakdowns. As if being a high school teacher isn't tough enough. Eric Bauman sounds like a major asshole.
posted by witchstone at 10:16 AM on February 20, 2007


the biggest reason I get a kick out of Afroninja, DEA guy, or Vayner and their ilk is the smug arrogance right before they fall flat on their face

Afroninja - - that shit was hilarious

*nods in agreement*

I must admit, I did forward the link to my sensei, his response was - Weapons waza and gymnastics don't mix.
posted by asok at 10:37 AM on February 20, 2007


Of all of these sorts of things that have happened, the Star Wars Kid is the one I have the least sympathy for. I mean, he purposely recorded himself swing a broomstick around like a jackass. While he didn't mean for it to wind up on the Internet, he facilitated it. Same thing with Afroninja.

On the other hand, a lot of these other videos are just people being themselves in public. Like the overweight woman on the beach. Yes, she was making a spectacle of herself, and yes, I suppose it must have been rather funny to watch it. Ten years ago, though, it woud have ended with her being embarrassed when she realized what she was doing and that everyone was watching her. Now, because some mean-spirited jerkoff happened to have a digital camcorder with them (which is ever more common -- hell, even some cell phones have them now), she has the whole world laughing at her for letting go of her inhibitions for a minute.

I find it obscene.
posted by Target Practice at 1:47 PM on February 20, 2007


The SWK was just having some private, innocent fun in the basement. He was earnest and passionate in his playing. He could have been practicing anything, a sport, a dance, a game. His playing including all three. People practice for fun or routinely in front of a mirror or with a camcorder and without thinking about it left the tape in the machine, in his own home. Nobody had any right to take that without his permission and put it on the web.

That would be like saying it's ok to peer in somebody's home window, look through their drawers without their permission. what's wrong is what this guys so-called friends did to him.

The AfroNinja guy is a professional stuntman and was doing an audition for a job interview. It was part of his job to play at being a tough looking martial arts guy. In fact, as the article pointed out, he went on to complete the interview, in spite of being jet lagged and got the job. The untrustworthy betrayer was the person who took this guy's private audition tape and put it on the web.
posted by nickyskye at 2:34 PM on February 20, 2007


i really think it's too bad SWK reacted the way he did. I think most of the people that saw the video were laughing with him, not at him. I know I didn't have any mean-spirited feelings toward him, I just thought it was great that he was having such a good time.
posted by empath at 5:52 PM on February 20, 2007


I was just wondering the other day what became of Jennifer Ringley. She shut off her cam a few years ago - it was noted here on MeFi - and posed for some nudie photos in an obscure magazine; then, radio silence on the intertubes.

If she can disappear, I imagine all of these people will too.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:18 PM on February 21, 2007


On the other hand, a lot of these other videos are just people being themselves in public. Like the overweight woman on the beach. Yes, she was making a spectacle of herself, and yes, I suppose it must have been rather funny to watch it. Ten years ago, though, it woud have ended with her being embarrassed when she realized what she was doing and that everyone was watching her. Now, because some mean-spirited jerkoff happened to have a digital camcorder with them (which is ever more common -- hell, even some cell phones have them now), she has the whole world laughing at her for letting go of her inhibitions for a minute.

Target practice, That mean spirited jerk-off was her son. He was trying to get exposure for his hoped for video/movie career.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:57 AM on February 23, 2007


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