Perhaps by now you have seen the latest viral video craze to sweep through the Internet. It can be tough to keep track with these videos given their frantic pace and speed by which the ascend to stardom and then burn out. But I have to admit that this last one by You Tube sensation Steve Kardynal really caught my eye.
Now, it's my job to spend a lot of time online and it is important for me to be in decent touch with what Internet culture is doing at any point in time. So I see a lot of these sorts of videos. But I have to admit to you that I have watched this video no less than 15 times since I became aware of it on Friday.
I'm not alone on that front. The video received one million views just 12 hours after it was posted. Yes, that's right, 1,000,000 views in 12 hours. And at the time of writing this, Kardynal's video is at more than 14 million views and climbing.
Something is going on here.
Now you might be inclined to slyly note that, "Yes, Scott. Something is going on. There's a video of a man dancing around to Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe in a bikini." And while it might be true that everyone loves the site of men in women's clothing (I give you both Monty Python and Kids in the Hall), a guy in a bikini does not 14 million views get.
So let me tell you why this video has and continues to entranced me after my voluminous viewings. To begin with, yes, there is a guy in a bikini dancing around to Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe. But honestly, after the first viewing, if not part way my first viewing, I stopped paying attention to Steve Kardynal in a bikini almost entirely.
What really takes over is the reactions of the folks on Chatroulette who are seeing Kardynal do his thing. Some of them are horrified; granted, but most of them are amused. And so what I find myself reacting to is the nature of those reactions. There is pure and unadulterated humour and amusement on the faces of those people who are watching Kardynal. And that's what gets me -- every time.
Each time I watch this video, I'm left feeling good. And the good that I feel is not the campyness of Kardynal dancing around in a bikini and people getting freaked out by that. Rather, the good I feel is from watching a whole bunch of different people break out of the doldrum that can be every day life and have a real moment of unbridled joy.
Those smiles are real. That laughter is sincere (especially the guy who literally throws his head and entire body back shaking with laughter). It feels good to see human beings feeling that... good.
And after a while, the horrified reactions are just boring. Guys on fucking Chatroulette who think they're too cool to laugh at some dude in a bikini. Give me a break.
No, then I start loving not just the folks who genuinely give in and start playing along with the whole thing. Because you know, life is too short, so why not be silly and have some fun.
The girl who throws down the exaggerated, Celine Dion-esque singing moves. The big feller with his shirt off who makes the phone hand-gesture and lip syncs, "So call me maybe." And my personal favourite, the guy who points and makes the serious face, lip syncing, "I missed you so bad!"
Before long, Kardynal is really leading a group effort; a viral parody of the seriousness we often bring to life, like the sort of seriousness that Jepsen inserts into this catchy but vapid pop song. And it makes perfect sense that humour is our vehicle in that exercise.
Laughter can be a powerful practice in life, it's a sort of existential release valve. It is near impossible to remain hung up on the particulars in life and our obsessive relationship to them when we are laughing. The physical act itself demands release, real laughter can't be done any other way.
Kardynal himself says on his You Tube channel, "Hello internet world, my name is Steve Kardynal. Today you need to smile. You need to smile so big it hurts your cheeks."
The absurdity of the whole project strikes me as a tool for letting go and gaining a bit of perspective. And if you'll let yourself to take a bit of a jump with me, allow me to suggest that the absurdity of Kardynal's videos is not altogether removed from the philosophical movement of Absurdism.
From the wiki on Absurdism,
In philosophy, "the Absurd" refers to the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any. In this context absurd does not mean "logically impossible," but rather "humanly impossible." The universe and the human mind do not each separately cause the Absurd, but rather, the Absurd arises by the contradictory nature of the two existing simultaneously.
Seem too deep for a video with a guy in a bikini dancing to a pop song and a popular chat service? Perhaps. But the very theme that Kardynal is lampooning in this video strikes me as precisely our, "tendency to seek value and meaning in life." The whole view of life that Jepsen's song represents: you go out and against all odds you find love and you get married and you start a family and you live happily ever after and that's what life is all about.
How many of us experience life so perfectly? Hell, I fell in love, got married, have started a family and this narrative doesn't ring true to me. Yet this myth underlies so much of what our modern life is based upon. As an orienting story, that telling is so strong that it continues to exert a dominating force in our understanding of the world, despite ample evidence to the contrary.
Kardynal takes the whole thing and turns it on its head by simply putting a bikini on. Suddenly, the effect of that myth is compromised by the ridiculousness of its presentation. And Kardynal is then successful in recruiting a number of people into his upending. The effects are mesmerizing.
Perhaps I'm reading too much into a silly internet video. It could be, I suppose. But I can't help thinking that the very basis of what Kardynal and most other viral videos do is a sort of mainstreamed offshoot of Absurdism and its cousin Surrealism. As offshoots, they are most certainly watered down. But then, most mainstream byproducts of original movements are watered down by the necessity of their new reach.
I mean, I just saw Kardynal's video and this could be crazy. But I think Andre Breton, would like this video, maybe.