There’s a fun thing happening, online. Here’s what happens: someone, usually a TikTok user, creates a video of themselves reacting to something. They are not actually reacting to anything in particular, they are simply providing the reaction. Other users then fill in the blank of what the first user might be reacting to.
Here’s my favorite one so far:
The man on the left is showing off the limited edition Gamecube controller that is also a full-size QWERTY keyboard. The women on the right are friends of Teresa Jack, who posted the initial clip. As of now, more than 13,000 videos have been made using Jack’s clip, “Female Hype Squad” as the foundation.
This is not the first video of its kind. A few weeks ago, there was a deluge of videos using this clip of two girls laughing at people.
People are using the clips for a few different reasons, though primarily it’s to brag about themselves or make fun of themselves (or both). It feels nice and relatively more honest in part because these clips don’t ask for any particular action or complement — unlike other TikTok trends and Prompt Tweets, where the action to be performed (often a dance or pose) along with the nuclear piece of media, or topic being discussed are predetermined. It’s more flexible in that regard, as good memes often are — agnostic about everything except for the emotional component on display.
In a society that has spent the past year getting a crash course in online video chat, it makes sense that this sort of meme would find a foothold. A good prank some have done is use the clip of the girls laughing to make others believe they are being made fun of on a video call.
The line down the middle of the screen in each clip also gives off the feeling of an encounter on a random pairing service like Chatroulette or Omegle. We immediately get the sense that these parties don’t know each other and they only just met, which makes the exaggerated reactions even funnier. I’m reminded of the immortal GIFs that continue to float around, showcasing the classic Chatroulette dishwashing prank.
The Female Hype Squad reaction also calls to mind another bygone meme, the Reaction Guys, a pair of photos that show the staff of the website IGN going nuts (or not). The first picture shows the men seated in anticipation, the second shows them cheering enthusiastically. It differs slightly from a meme like “Drake saying no, Drake saying yes” in that the Reaction Guys pictures are not opposites of each other, but instead, the first one progresses directly into the the second. (Sometimes the order of these two photos is reversed to depict a buzzkill rather than hype.)
We’d usually see a setup in the form of an image or text, and the punchline in the form of a meme image. They function linearly, almost like comic strips, moving from one panel to the next with little need to backtrack. Video memes (a different category than “viral video”) are relatively new, because the tools to create them easily and without friction are also relatively new. These mess with our sense of linear time, because we can see the interaction not as a call-and-response but as a single type of interaction in which both sides are moving, and making noise, and talking, and reacting throughout the entire thing.
There are small details within these clips that give them more depth. Take, for instance, the clip at the top of this post. You might miss it the first time, but, when the women erupt in cheers and continue to cheer, Russell says “Thank you, queens.” It’s a small, mostly unimportant touch but it really elevates the whole interaction by, uh, making clear that it is, in fact, an interaction.
Anyway, it’s fun. And it’s neat to watch old meme forms evolve and grow more complex as they transition to video.
let’s talk briefly about Slamilton
It’s now mostly dormant, but there used to be a mashup trend where people combined the Quad City DJ’s song “Space Jam” with… well, just about anything. A lot of the mashups involved video game music because meme culture and gaming culture often overlap, and because it’s easy to mix a song with game music, because it has no lyrics and loops endlessly.
At its height, this was one of my favorite memes, just because it kept me on my toes. Sometimes, you’d get a remix that contains a bit more effort, like the video for “Let It Slam.” Sometimes, searching the remixes would yield extremely stupid results, like Death Cab For Cutie’s “Transatslamticism.” A lot of the remixes are also junk — basic beatmatching and that’s about it.
Anyway, this week, a user named Psynwav posted “Slamilton,” which mashes up not just the title song, but the full movie soundtrack with Hamilton, a musical I’d never heard all the way through until I left it on while I flipped through my phone one evening last summer. (It was fine.) Anyway, I really appreciate the detail and balance here — you really get the sense you are listening to something constructed with care. I am one prone to admire sheer commitment to a bit, and this one is very committed.
I confess I haven’t actually listened to this thing all the way through. I kinda clicked around to sample what was going on — and I don’t care enough about Hamilton to be able to recognize the possible nuance throughout. However, I’m not afraid to admit I found the title of the final track, “Who Slams, Who Jams, Who Tells Your Story” very amusing, so I clicked on it, and was really thrown for a loop: the track turns into a parody. “Slamilton” could get away with being a feature-length mashup album and already have aced the assignment, and yet Psynwav has hired someone to impersonate Eliza Schuyler, and sing Quad City DJ’s lyrics over Hamilton instrumentals in order to achieve full coherence. It is the first time I’ve encountered a hybrid mashup/parody and it really keeps the listener on their toes.
On a more general note, Space Jam 2 comes out later this year, and I feel like that, plus the recent emergence of TikTok as a non-stop mashup/audio humor assembly line creates a perfect environment to bring these stupid, stupid remixes back. So maybe that’ll happen!
admittedly I did not bookmark any social media garbage to post in here this week but here’s some links I enjoyed
the Big Dogs instagram was weird for a bit and then it kinda stopped, and this explains why. (it does not explain why I thought it would be smart to wear my Big Dogs parody t-shirt Men In Bark to picture day in elementary school)