Media/Culture

BuzzFeed; VICE; the Figurative Hammers you can use to Pulverize your Brains

Have you contemplated lately, “Why Not Just Pull Your Luggage With Your Butt?” Or, perhaps read a piece called, “These Boxer-Briefs Look Like A Wolf And It’s Making Me Feel Weird”? Or even wondered what an article titled “We Asked a Sex Therapist About the Thrills of Left-Handed Wanking” would reveal?

Today, BuzzFeed and VICE are two leading New Media companies — and incredibly popular with Millennials. However, the articles, quizzes, and “entertainment” passed off by them are so (hyperbole alert) incredibly stupid, vapid, and utterly pointless, it worries me that there are millions of people who swallow up their garbage.

To make my point, I’m going to sprinkle in the titles of articles I’ve found on BuzzFeed and VICE throughout this piece.

40 Quirky Styles For The Cat Lover’s Wardrobe (BuzzFeed)

To say there is an anti-intellectual resurgance in America right now is perhaps a bit of an understatement:

We have the Republican presidential nominee openly claiming that Barack Obama founded ISIS (Quran literalists who hurl gay men off the roofs of buildings and systematically rape and enslave women they capture), anti-science mindsets can be found on both sides of the political spectrum, and one only needs to turn on MTV to see what utter garbage the TV station has devolved into e.g. MTV’s Decoded, Are You The One, Teen Mom etc.

Which is where these New Media entities tie in. It seems BuzzFeed only exists by scraping the lowest levels of our cultural memes — the YAAASSS’s, tbh’s, and for lack of a better term, “basicness” of our society — and then propagating them to their millions of subscribers who slurp up their slop (very willingly, and often with a plethora of “OMG’s, and unawareness about the psuedo-profundity of their postings).

If BuzzFeed articles are the PG, Pg-13 versions, then VICE articles are their MA15+ or R rated counterparts. In fact, I’m sure there’s groups of hipsters in Williamsburg, L.A., or Austin somewhere, huddled up with their heads underneath a blanket with a huge bong serving as their ouija board, brainstorming article ideas.

Hipster 1: How about, “I put chili pepper flakes up my anus everyday for a month to see how much it burned!”

Hipster 2: Dude!I love it, that’s great! How about —

Hipster 3: Wait, I know, “I didn’t shave my armpits for a year to defy the patriarchy!”

Hipster 1 & 2: *Snap fingers in acknowledgment of amazing idea*

Could You Sexercise Your Way to Olympic Gold? (VICE, Broadly)

Connect that with BuzzFeed’s almost race-baiting “24 Questions Black People Have for White People,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuVMJmC0V98

and the gender biased “36 Questions Women have for Men,

(All of which have a dubious ratio of likes to dislikes on YouTube — the latter video being down-voted by a majority margin and starts with the question, “How does it feel to be the same gender as Donald Trump?”) and you have the perfect storm of asininity and righteousness.

In literary criticism, New Historicism is the school of thought which posits that literature (and now New Media — the likes of BuzzFeed, VICE, etc.) “is a product of the historic moment that created it. This school, influenced by structuralist and post-structuralist theories, seeks to reconnect a work with the time period in which it was produced and identify it with the cultural and political movements of the time (Michel Foucault’s concept of épistème).”

If we are to believe the New Historicists then this is a troubling era. Surely, in a 100 years somebody somehwere will look back and maybe say, “Oh, this is quite a pointless article. Was ’21 Foods That Forgot How To Food’ an indicator of what was on the minds of people at those times? Their cultural milieu? Or how about ‘People Discovered Tim Kaine Was Really Hot And Are Thirsting Hard’ and what’s this? it had 438,296 Views?”

I am not saying that shoddy reporting, writing, and fringe, cringeworthy articles are only a representation of the era we live in. Tabloids, for example, had their hay day in the last three decades with their sensationalist reporting.

The key difference to note is just how popular sites like BuzzFeed and Vice are. While the rags of yesteryear where at best side pieces in the ongoing conversation of our culture, BuzzFeed and VICE have proliferated their way into its core.

Kylie Jenner Posted Some Incredibly Cute Photos Of Her Freckles(BuzzFeed)

Whether Buzzfeed is a representation of the epoch we live in, or it is a manifestation of how our values have changed is point to ponder.

I know that these are money making entities; the higher their click-through rates, the more likely they’ll stay afloat — which is perhaps why their pieces have the most incendiary, baffling headlines. Their articles, however, are equally as dumb — intellectually corrupting this generation with vapidity, and insipid bullshit.

I do want to add a side note here though — the little VICE TV programming I have seen has been fairly excellent. With great reporting, and honesty about some tough topics. I’ve been entertained and informed in those documentaries. I also understand that once in a while BuzzFeed does publish some great journalists.

But — if you want to find everything that can be considered “wrong” with our generation, you can find it in those publications. How sad it is in the day of unlimited information we are choosing to spend it contemplating the perplexities of “What is your inner potato?

I propose a new drinking game: gather some friends and make it someone’s turn to say the most pointless, absurd, and idiotic statements which could be VICE or BuzzFeed articles. Then, do a google search. If an article with a similar subject or premise exists, take a shot. I imagine you’ll be drunk quite quickly.

While I was researching this article, I saw Jerry Coyne post this piece about Journalism in America. I know it’s not completely related — but it does illustrate an interesting picture.

 

 

 

The Social/Political Subtext of Disney’s Zootopia

Spoiler Free

Usually long plane rides blur by in a haze of CGI, firefights, actions scenes, and unrealistic car chases on the tiny screen in front of my eyes. If you ask me after the flight what films I watched, I’m only able to recall maybe one or two.

However, every so often one of these movies leaves an impression. Disney’s “Zootopia” (known as Zootropolis in different parts of the world) is one such memorable story. Witty, clever, and surprisingly relative to us today, “Zootopia” is jam packed with so much subtext that it leaves you pondering at least a few hours after you finish viewing it — an impressive feat when you’ve been operating on two hours of sleep and are half delirious.

Judy Hopps & Nick Wilde

The story follows Judy Hopps, a bunny from a small town, as she fullfills her dreams of joining the Zootopia Police Force. Not only entertaining and engaging, the film invites the viewer (at least it did for me) to reflect on the current debate about gender and race relations/dynamics in the western world.

Judy struggles to deal with her inherent prejudices against “predators,” in particular foxes, while being simultaneously judged for her own perceived lack of capabilities as the first bunny to ever make the Zootopia Police Force. The tale is chock full of tiny insights and messages that invite the viewer to pause for a moment and consider their relation to our world and the conversations we’re currently having with one another.

The tale is nuanced and doesn’t fit exactly into one political point if view; it subtly pokes at the idea of diversity quotas (which is how Judy gets her job) while also proving equality of opportunity is vital for the underprivileged or those under social and economic strain. Often when it comes to the far left and the far right, they make judgements based on, simply put, idiotic measures: the far left groups people by their gender and race through the lenses of oppression and power, while the far right groups people by their gender and race through the lenses of how they should be treated and their worth to their society. Perhaps French Philosopher Jean-Pierre Faye’s Horsehoe Theory applies here.

Faye theorized the far left and the far right are actually very similar in their views and methods

Zootopia’s ultimate message? Look at individuals for the way they behave, their capabilities, beliefs, and the principles they hold — not for inherent characteristics which they have no control over. The classic case for individualism vs. collectivism.

Imo.

Definitely forcing my kids in 20 years to watch this movie.

Follow me on twitter: @malharmali