new internet parables

yesterday's bad jpeg content is today's bad video content

There’s a tweet I still think about, that I’ve definitely brought up in here before, about the Problems Clown. Need a refresher on what the Problems Clown is?

“This speaks VOLUME to me.” Perfect. We’ve all been there. Husband is sad on the edge of a cliff. An axe-wielding Problem Clown is throw projectiles at Husband from his perch. Suddenly, thankfully, Wife comes along to shield Husband from Problem Clown and blast the clown to smithereens.

Everything about this makes sense to me. If I had one quibble, I am wondering why the physics on the Problem Clown’s weapons are animated so realistically? Like, I would’ve understood the message (Wives = powerful) without seeing a knife realistically badoink off the psychic bubble she’s projecting. Other than that, everything about this video makes sense.

I was reminded of Problem Clown because I spent some amount of time (3 or 400 minutes) this afternoon looking at the TikTok account of, I think, a nice Russian couple — Вова & Аня — who post under the username @twiceofnice. This is the first video I came across. A description:

A man and woman stand on docks, facing each other. Lying in-between them is a stack of rocks with a sideways 6 character. Or maybe it’s a sideways 9 character. From each of their perspective’s, it’s a 6 or a 9. They argue about it, tempers flare. Then they both transform into wolves, Animorphs-style, and switch places with each other, before morphing back into human form. They each see the 6/9 from a new angle, and the docks move closer together.

I am not married, but thanks to many years of watching the FOX network’s animated sitcoms about working class family dynamics, I understand that this is what marriage is like. Sometimes it’s a 6, sometimes it’s a 9, sometimes you unleash the Dock Wolf. It happens to the best of us.

I saw this powerful story and immediately thought of the Problem Clown. In life, there are ups and downs, Problems Clowns, and 6/9s. Sometimes things are going well, sometimes your wife is so demanding that the weight of all her demands causes a pulley rig to snap and you plummet to your death. That’s the roller coaster of life.

The laws of physics play a suspiciously large role in these interactions, almost as if to imply that marital strife is as natural as gravity, or a stack of rocks with a numeral on top, or Problem Clowns. A recurring theme of these videos is that the man is constantly digging for diamonds, and wealth is represented as precious gems or old-timey bags of money.

For instance, a woman uses a jackhammer to dig for diamonds while men on either side of her use pickaxes. I’m not sure what the moral is here. I was trying to figure out why the videos about digging for diamonds struck a nerve with me and then I remembered that this is just “barrel-scraping Facebook Boomer motivational content” reengineered in the “TikTok gen z hustle porn” style.

In addition to repurposing the evergreen themes of inspirational Facebook content, the other genre that @twiceofnice cribs from is… mobile gaming? Consider the ads for crappy games like Hero Wars and Homescapes, which depict sidescrolling views of protagonists solving nonsensical puzzles to free themselves or their companions. (Weirdly, these ads don’t reflect what the actual game looks like at all.)

A lot of the dilemmas the @twiceofnice couple finds themselves dealing with are usually solved by some odd, physics-puzzle-ass solution. Consider: in another pit-based conundrum, the husband and wife are trapped in a deep hole, divided by a large vessel of water. It’s like if you crossed Saw with the default Windows XP wallpaper.

The water starts filling up and, for some reason, the man assumes that there is only enoguh water to carry one of them to the top. So he grabs a diamond embedded in the dirt wall and uses that to plug the faucet on his side, giving his wife enough water to rise to safety. Meanwhile he is trapped in a hole.

This TikTok account is very popular. It has more than 10 million followers, and every single one of its most recent videos has a high view count, so I assume there’s a consistent demand for this kind of stuff, and it’s not just a For You page fluke. I see a lot of insidious, cynical stuff online but this feels particularly insidious and cynical: combining the clickbait-curiosity-gap genre of mobile game advertisement with the Motivational Husband/Wife genre of social media post. Grabby videos whose message nobody can really disagree. It makes my skin crawl?

That being said, it is also very smart and canny and appears to be working, so who am I to judge? I guess I’m the Problem Clown now.


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Thank you for reading BNet. I’m not going to listen to the Obama/Springsteen podcast. There’s no reason someone who has spent their life fighting for the dignity of every American needs to debase themselves by hanging out with a useless celebrity. Bruce is usually smarter than that.