When Will Smith wound up and slapped Chris Rock in the face last night, my first thought was, “wow, that’s crazy.” My second thought was, “oh, it’s becoming a meme.” And my third was, “oh no, it’s becoming discourse.” And it seems I wasn’t alone in feeling this way. “The Discourse is going to be so bad,” podcaster Mike Duncan tweeted. “I will never forgive Will Smith for the think pieces we will have to endure for the next 2 weeks. NEVER,” Alexis Wilson tweeted. And then, Today In Tabs’ Rusty Foster got kind of meta, tweeting, “I keep seeing threats of takes but so far relatively few actual takes. Please send takes!” Well, here’s the “Will Smith doctrine” with regards to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And this morning, I woke up and “cuck” was trending on Twitter, so I’d say we are now adrift in a sea of takes. Though, it does seem like publishers haven’t quite powered up the nation’s content machine just yet.
The best headline about the slap is clearly Bossip’s, which wrote, “Boom! Shake The Room: Will Smith Leaves Fresh Prints On Chris Rock’s Face At The Oscars For Bringing The Pain To Jada Pinkett”. The best “breakdown” I’ve seen is probably from Jomboy, a YouTube creator who specializes in analyzing baseball clips, who I thought did a pretty good job of finding the middle-ground here. And here’s another remix I loved.
To understand why everyone was bemoaning the imminent Oscars takes last night, first, we have to define what Twitter is in 2022. It’s a fandom app for current events. The users on there don’t have anything in common other than an increasingly pathological need to consume either news as content or content as news. Which can get kind of dark, like when a pandemic starts or an actual war breaks out. But an awards show is the perfect kind thing to bring every pocket of Twitter user out of the woodwork. It’s essentially the school assembly that all the app’s different insane cliques have to attend. And then they use it to project whatever weird fixation they have on the rest of the platform’s users.
So, when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock for insulting Jada Pinkett Smith’s alopecia, it acted as a sort of take big bang. Ben Shapiro blamed it on leftism, Judd Apatow got ratioed for saying Chris Rock could have been killed (lol), and a whole bunch of Democrats tweeted and then deleted support for the slap. Business Insider reporter Grace Panetta put together a great thread on that. I’ve also seen comedians say that this will lead to a new dangerous step in cancel culture (also lol). And I’ve seen factchecks about whether or not Nicole Kidman’s shocked face was in reaction to the slap (it wasn’t).
But I don’t actually find all the absolutely garbage takes that interesting — even as something to hate read. Instead, what I find more interesting is the viral pre-exhaustion that users described feeling immediately after the slap. The dread and anticipatory boredom at the idea that this will dominate the national conversation for at least the next three days, the next week if Smith or Rock comment on it further, or the next month if some kind of governing body — either America’s or Hollywood’s — gets involved. I didn’t used to feel this way actually. I used to actually get restless online in between big cultural moments like this. I used to even watch award shows or televised live events hoping for this kind of thing to happen. But now, the very thought of having the same “have you seen X meme or Y take” conversation, which now happens both online and off, feels completely draining. Even if I still find the memes super funny.
I assume, like most parts of America, this viral fatigue is connected to the Trump administration. Sorry, we gotta go there. The interplay between viral content, celebrity, live television, and unscripted chaos really started in America with Kanye West’s 2009 “Imma let you finish” moment, but I’d argue went fully mainstream as a trope for American media to acknowledge and seize upon with Miley Cyrus’s 2013 twerking incident. By the next year, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were hosting the Golden Globes via a drinking game, and ever since, the only thing that has kept American award shows even barely relevant is their potential for memes, and, more recently, discourse. And this idea — a celebrity, a stage, a live feed, and Twitter — was central to Trump’s campaign and his whole time in office. I mean, what was the Trump administration if not a constant series of unscripted awards show moments?
Unfortunately, at least for me, I actually don’t see this general trend reversing actually. I think the “vibe shift,” in many ways, is actually just a full-on embrace of this stuff. America’s going full goblin mode and we’re all too fried out, burnt out, and traumatized to swerve away from the guard rail anymore. So, I guess, buckle up, people. As I always say, it’ll only get weirder from here.
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Gab Is Still Insanely Weird
Over the weekend, Elon Musk took a brief break from tweeting whatever he sees on Reddit’s r/all to mindless pontificate about free speech. “Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy. What should be done,” he asked his followers, before writing, “Is a new platform needed?”
Well, super Christian right-wing social network Gab decided to jump in the replies and shill themselves. A user named Bengals Ryan, who I swear isn’t me, then wrote “no sports on Gab. I can’t convert until that happens.” And then Gab, as usual for them, replied with an absolutely bananas tweet about “sports idolatry”.
If you aren’t super clued in on weird right-wing social network drama. Gab’s CEO is Andrew Torba and it’s likely he also runs the Gab Twitter. Torba is a hardcore Christian and everyone else in the extremely online right seems to absolutely hates him. All right-wing social networks that promise free speech are basically totally lying, but Gab definitely is. It has a ton of content restrictions, including pornography, spam, and even obscenity. But I did not know that Torba was also anti-sports, which is very funny. There are basically two kinds of conservative men on the internet — guys who want to talk about sports and guys who want to talk about how horny they are — and Gab can’t let either on their platform, I guess.
Obviously, after the tweets were ratio’d and deleted, Gab’s Twitter then tweeted that, actually, they just trolled everyone. “Elon posts about free speech alternatives. Jump in the replies. Make edgy tweet. Go viral on Twitter for free. Controversy is attention, attention is influence, and influence is power,” the account tweeted afterwards.
Hell yeah, dude. Great strategy. You should go pee your pants in an Applebee’s or something next and grab some more of that influential attention power.
Halo Fans, Big Mad
I have never played Halo because I only play extremely terrible JRPGs, but I am aware of how big of video game franchise it is. And, this weekend, both YouTube and Reddit (and 4chan) lit up with angry posts about Paramount+’s new live action show based on series. Apparently, the main issue is that Pablo Schreiber, who is playing Master Chief, keeps taking his helmet off and also has a weird voice when the helmet is on. But there are also a ton of gamers who seem pretty miffed about the usual culprits — like adding women and people of color to the cast and, also, just not making a one-to-one copy of whatever they liked about the video game.
Paramount+, however, announced that Halo’s premiere set a record for its most-watched series ever. But, just to put that in perspective, according to Deadline, the previous record that Halo broke was only 4.9 million viewers.
But to have a video game franchise this beloved completely lose its core audience this early on in the show, puts it in a weird territory. Before the release of the Snyder Cut, I’d say it’s best to just disregard hardcore fans and write off their bellyaching as random internet chatter, but I do think entitled fanbases have become more organized in the last few years. They have their own fan-approved critics and leakers and streaming entertainment is a lot easier to put pressure on. Not tuning in at all or canceling subscriptions are pretty immediate ways to get attention. I even came across a few users who were mad enough about it to try and spin up a gamegate-esque conspiracy about the team behind the production. Though, as I said, we’re still early in all of this.
The negative fan reaction to the Halo show could just stay as quiet grumblings. Or fans could also even come around to it. Unlike Netflix’s car crash Cowboy Bebop adaptation, Halo isn’t dropping as a bingeable season. Only one episode is out right now, so there’s a chance they could win some fans back. But it’s also possible that it spins out into another totally hateful fan movement that just stalks social media for the next couple years. Excited to find out what happens next!
The Garbage Day Discord Emoji Madness Tournament
As it gets closer to the finals, I have to talk about this. Garbage Day Discord user Sigafoos has been running a March Madness bracket for all of the wildly out of control emojis in my Discord and they’ve done such an incredible job with it. First, the emojis were all organized into divisions — zany, interesting, cute, and horny, obviously — and those divisions were grouped into two conferences, Twitter — zany and interesting — and Tumblr — cute and horny. I assume this is how all March Madness brackets work, as well.
It’s been an incredible amount of work that’s gone into this and I’m excited to see what wins. I would explain what any of these emojis are or mean, but, honestly, the amount of context needed would push me way over the Gmail cut off limit. I also can’t say what I’m, personally, rooting for, because it might skew the results. The Garbage Day Discord’s only for paying subs, so think about subbing if you haven’t already! And if you are subbed, but never go in the Discord, head on in this week and cast your vote.
The Dropkick Murphys Casually Threatened To Fight A Bunch Of Nazis In The Park
Happy belated St. Patrick’s Day! The Dropkick Murphys’ Twitter account recently threatened to “smash” a bunch of neo-Nazis who were trying to use the band’s music.
The white nationalist group, NSC-131, showed up to Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade earlier this month holding a sign that read “Keep Boston Irish.” “NSC” stands for “Nationalist Social Club”. Activist and author Rod Weber has a huge thread about NSC’s recent demonstrations and attacks that have been happening across New England. Weber shared an NSC promo video the group had made, which featured music from the Dropkick Murphys in it. Then the band’s Twitter noticed.
But it didn’t stop there. The band showed up on Saturday, along with a bunch of Massachusetts-based antifascists. NSC did not, however, show up, according to local reporter Phillip W.d. Martin.
One More Oscars Tweet
Some Stray Links
That smiling LinkedIn profile face might be a computer-generated fake
“Social media platforms must address Russia’s Spanish-language misinformation”
P.S. here’s a sick pogo video.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***
A pogo stick is not a trampoline
I'm not super invested in the Halo show, but I was struck by the oddness of Master Chief taking his helmet off so soon, especially when it's not a particularly famous actor playing him. Felt like the original Judge Dredd movie, but at least they had the excuse of having paid for Stallone.
Also, not trusting your audience to engage with a helmeted main character particularly weird given the success of The Mandalorian!!