Is the ‘Harlem Shake’ the worst viral trend to date?
By Keating Smith, Staff Writer
Let’s go back to this time last year and revisit the viral trend that everyone was sharing. Before “Gangnam Style” and Kony 2012, it was the Shit ____ Say fad. Remember this? Thousands of videos teasing anyone and anything for their words and actions flooded the Internet in short two to three-minute videos. Some of them were done extremely well, and others not so much. It’s fair to judge these now ancient videos as being quite humorous, despite the production and editing—or lack thereof—because the trend was so diverse in the ways in which it was presented to us, the viewers.
Here we are, 12 months later, and the same sort of viral trend has arisen on the Internet—only this time it’s known as the Harlem Shake. In case you live under a rock, several teenagers in Australia under the YouTube user name TheSunnyCoastSkate originally uploaded the video on February 2; their video has received nearly 15 million views to date. This sparked a worldwide phenomenon, with over 12 thousand videos uploaded and 44 million views to date, each re-enacting the 30-second video using the same sound clip from DJ and Producer Baauer’s track, “Harlem Shake.”
But the characteristics of the Harlem Shake videos that place them on a lesser scale when compared to others is the lack of creativity: two cuts of video are divided by a change in the beat of the song halfway through, with people going from lethargy or normality to crazy pumping, humping, and dancing nonsense. If I wanted to see this, I would go to a frat house party, instead. When comparing the Harlem Shake to, say, “Gangnam Style,” I would give Psy the credit of creating a catchy song anyone could have fun with—including your grandparents and the thousands who re-enacted the video, and who spent time planning out a video lasting more than 30 seconds.
Filmmaker Chris McGuire traveled to Harlem to ask residents of the Manhattan neighborhood their thoughts of the video. Most of them had never seen the video until it was played for them while being interviewed. The majority agreed that it’s not the actual Harlem Shake, and found associating the name of the original dance move with the video to be disgraceful.
“This would be another vehicle for America to take off on and make money on, and I’m sure there will be some corporate person somewhere that’s gonna capitalize on this by putting money into it, and it’s going to take off,” said one man who was interviewed.
While the Harlem Shake that residents performed for McGuire’s camera doesn’t look entirely different from what is being repeated across the world, one thing residents advocated against was associating pseudo actions of homosexuality with the name Harlem Shake. Finally, judging by the thousands of comments on YouTube and other message boards, the overall reaction to our latest and greatest viral trend is negative.
Have we become so overwhelmed with videos on the Internet that we can now only stand to watch something less than a minute in duration? Have our attention spans shortened to the point where investing our time in watching something that took time and planning has no more value than a bunch of people acting out their innermost ADHD feelings for the world to see? If this is the case, then the future of viral videos might just be an embarrassing portrayal of humanity and our creative side.