The Evolution of Humiliation: Youtube and Ridicule.
For every year between the 7th and 11th grade, I spent every day skateboarding with my friends. On the weekdays I would go the skatepark, and on weekends go street skating with large crews of sweaty kids piling into the few cars available in between skating schools, downtown, and the other limited Maui spots. Because we were skateboarding we would also bring along cameras to film and take pictures of tricks. But skateboarding can be very frustrating, especially in the brutal Maui heat. People can have off or on days, injuries, or just be too out of it to skate. Often times a session involves two or three people skating at intervals while everyone else cracks jokes, smokes cigarettes and joints, or just waits for the weather to cool down. In this boredom, my friends and I always found ways to torment each other, especially the ones who were most susceptible and offended. For example, my friend Dio used to thrown tantrums when he couldn’t land tricks sometimes. He was very skinny and wore really tight pants and had a high voice back then, so it made the tantrums hilarious. We used to film and take pictures of him freaking out and put them on Myspace because we thought it was funny. I used to just assume that this was just the behavior of my friends and I, or skateboarders and assholes in general, but I have noticed with the advent of youtube, ridiculing others has become a kind of national pastime.
This can be evidenced by videos like “Best Cry Ever,” a video of an intervention where an African-American son and father both cry violently. It has almost 15 Million views on youtube, most of which are likely from people watching it over and over again and laughing. I have seen it probably a hundred times, and it sill makes me laugh to see their expression of sadness. I also feel slightly guilty that I still find it so funny
Tosh.O, one of Comedy Central’s most popular shows, centers around a comedian making fun of clips like this while standing in front of a green screen and a studio audience. A plot or basic structure is eschewed in favor of random clips of embarrasment and humiliation and sound bites of sarcastic jokes.
My mother used to always tell me not to make fun of others, and while I never listened to her, I did often feel guilty for doing so. However, I feel Youtube and Tosh.O are contributing to a society in which children are taught to feel that they individually are better than others and above who is being ridiculed. Now instead of a child being laughed at by five of his classmates, he can be laughed at by 5 million people across the world. Is this a technological achievement?