THE MEMING OF LIFE SÉAMAS O’REILLY
It’s fun to look back on the highlights of a year well spent, to cast an eye over all the things that made you laugh, cry or hum with quiet rage. So, year-end recaps are as much a function of this innate pleasure as they are a way of getting December material by cobbling together bits of old bobbins you’ve already filed. YouTube’s yearly recap, YouTube Rewind, began in this spirit in 2010 and was widely loved for its spirited collection of the year’s best video moments.
As the years progressed, the videos became more tongue-in-cheek and, perhaps sadly, more self-referential. As the site grew to be the many-headed media titan it is today, so too did Rewind’s production values, leading to ever more complicated and cameo-heavy compilations that became a bit less fun to watch and, well, difficult to digest.
So it was that the web reacted with collective horror to this year’s offering, which has become, after a single week, the most-disliked YouTube video of all time. Titled ‘Everyone Controls Rewind’, it has more than 120 million views and 10 million downward thumbs. How had the tide turned for the streaming giant? Well, while it probably doesn’t deserve to be the most-disliked video of all time, it does have a few things going against it right off the bat. For one thing, at more than eight minutes long, it has the baggy bloat of a beached hippo, quite possibly five minutes longer than it need be, even if it were a zesty cocktail of pith and zing. Unfortunately, it isn’t that either.
Border line mortified
Everyone Controls Rewind is not just overlong but overstuffed, with dozens – hundreds? – of cameos from decreasingly recognisable YouTubers and personalities, almost all of whom seem borderline mortified to be there. The video opens with Will Smith, who brings the same zippy charm he does to those videos in which he tells young people not to worry about money and status from inside his $42 million dollar mansion. In truth Smith is probably the best thing about the video, which quickly – and simultaneously slowly – descends into a near-unwatchable Where’s Wally? mural of forgettable cultural references and blink-and-you- miss-it appearances. These aren’t merely crowbarred but very nearly unintelligible and, one fears, cobbled together by YouTube ad men who don’t get their own audience. Utterly inscrutable to anyone over 16, it’s also proved majorly off-putting to YouTube’s core user base.
“It’s just become a big ad,” lamented popular YouTuber Marquess Brownlee, and he should know, because he’s in it. Perhaps prophetically, his single line is to turn to camera and say “Is this what you want?” One week and 10 million downvotes later, one thinks not.