THE MEMING OF LIFE SÉA­MAS O’REILLY

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - THE MEMING OF LIFE -

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.

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