Peak Content is an entropic force
Read to the end for a good comic about a wizard’s tower
There’s an Eventbite page for the Garbage Day meetup later this month! Please use it so I don’t spend the next three weeks sweating with anxiety that no one will show up. Also, big news! There will be Garbage Day stickers (finally) available at the meetup.
Oh, and one more announcement: Garbage Day will be reporting live from Miami next week for Bitcoin 2022. And even better, my dad will be in town with me. Paying Garbage Day subs next week will be getting bonus mini-columns about Miami and crypto written by us lol.
Can Superwholock Happen Again?
Me: I can’t do another column on Our Flag Means Death. I already did one, and I am so far into becoming a parody of myself, and—
Ryan: But what if you did?
Me: YEP OK!!!
As of Wednesday, Our Flag Means Death was the number-one most in-demand new show in the US, dethroning The Book Of Boba Fett after a three-month run. When I wrote about the show just two weeks ago, observing what I called “the birth of a fandom,” it had under 100 fics and a small, slowly simmering fandom core on Twitter and Tumblr, but I could tell something big was coming. Fast forward to the finale airing on the 24th. The two (male) leads smooched, the internet exploded, and I was personally and massively vindicated. Since then the show has been trending pretty much nonstop on Twitter, accompanied by incredible and incredulous press coverage, and renewal seems like a fait accompli at this point.
A meme has been going around which calls the combination of What We Do In The Shadows, Our Flag Means Death, and Good Omens the new “Superwholock.” I’m not entirely sure about that. First of all, nothing will ever have that exact same unhinged energy again. Second of all, I don’t think anything ever should. Fandom is so dispersed across platforms, and there’s also just so much more stuff to be a fan of than there was 10 years ago. Thhe explosion in Korean and Chinese entertainment has diverted a lot of “Western” entertainment’s audience-energy towards a variety of international channels, to say nothing of Minecraft and Twitch. Peak Content is an entropic force, dispersing us further away from anything resembling a monoculture even amongst the (far from all-encompassing) portion of fandom qua fandom that Superwholock once wholly represented.
However, I suppose that meme is correct in an affective sense. The only thing that could possibly break through the barriers of late 2010s Trump-era nihilist irony that poisoned platforms and bring us at least partially back to the enthusiastic earnestness of Superwholock is the “Shipping, But It’s Canon This Time” approach which OFMD specializes in, and which WWDITS and GO have heavily dallied with. Fans who were teenagers during Superwholock’s dominance are exhausted adults now, and today’s teens are, well, today’s teens. Neither group is currently disposed to approve of anything less than massive improvements on diversity and queer representation in their preferred media. When both (and more!) are given freely, this is what you end up with: an outpouring of entirely organic enthusiasm and devotion.
It has been said that works that are “lacking” in some way are the ones which draw in cult followings (see: Umberto Eco on cult media). In the history of transformative fandom, in particular, the driver of engagement has always been the “as-yet-undone.” Nothing stirs up the urge to engage creatively like the desire to fix something that’s broken, or finish something that’s incomplete — you see this in non-transformative fandom too, such as the Game Of Thrones “Redo The Ending” campaigns. And the term “shipping” itself derived, after all, from The X-Files and the intensity of will-they-or-won’t-they activity around Mulder/Scully. But OFMD and its ilk present a new paradigm. Can a show where the central relationship is a foregone conclusion still generate high levels of insanity amongst the susceptible populace?
All signs point to yes. I’ve been receiving anecdotal reports all week that feeds and timelines have been “totally overtaken” with OFMD content. Can I just say, I love the idea of a bunch of high-level HBO executives being presented with these bonkers numbers and having to contemplate the fact that a goofy show they probably greenlit at gunpoint due to Taika Waititi’s clout and gave a minimal budget and an abridged shooting schedule to is now outperforming everything else on their network. Suck it, Zendaya! Gay pirates!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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What Is April Fools Anymore?
It’s beginning to feel like the online tradition of April Fools pranks is beginning to be impacted by the same culture-fracturing that’s affecting the rest of the internet. In the same way that there could be an incredibly viral song shared by millions of people on TikTok that you will simply never hear — or a mega-popular queer pirate show fandom that appears out of nowhere — it feels like April Fools internet is happening, for the most part, within its own filter bubble. Stunts like this year’s Hellman’s Butterfinger-flavored mayonnaise or Duolingo’s weird campaign about being kidnapped by their threatening bird mascot feel specifically made to be shared within different marketing teams’ Slack rooms. In fact, I only found those two examples because I went looking for them. Other ones include things like Omaha Steaks’ “Meat Sweats” perspirant and Guitar Center’s “air guitar” lessons. I assume there’s like one agency a lot of these brands hire to help generate these now.
The evolution of April Fools on the internet is interesting. The tradition — fun online stunts for April 1 — started back when a lot of the monopolies that now rule our lives were just little startups. And as tech companies have become more powerful and overbearing, their April Fools day content has changed into some more annoying and desperate. During the years immediately leading up into the pandemic, April Fools essentially felt like a 24-hour corporate retreat, with all the HR-approved structured fun of a silent brunch rave. Then the pandemic happened.
For the most part, over the last two years, April Fools has receded from view. Companies still do it, but it does feel like a vibe has shifted and a lot less people care about both participating in it or even talking about it. The pandemic accelerated a rise in what’s called “dark social,” or non-public social media use — Discord, group chats, DMs, email — and with that has come an internet made up of millions of smaller internets. Which makes an attempt at an online shared experience, like April Fools day, really tricky. The threshold needed to cross for something to break through everyone’s private internet is, well, the Oscars slap, right?
In fact, I don’t even really feel the same kind of uncontrolled April Fools rage that I typically feel? In fact, there were some April Fools campaigns today I thought were fun, like Tumblr’s button you can endlessly click to help them “improve clicks,” Substack’s dating app, the return of Reddit’s r/Place, and the Among Us horse. The kind of quiet bemusement about April Fools I’m feeling this year might be related to the fact that this is the first April Fools in a long time where I wasn’t immediately bombarded with corporate-sponsored misinformation the minute I woke up. And a lot of the pranks I have come across so far — like a fake ska concert line-up, weird Pokémon Twitter drama, and bad-on-purpose music production classes — are so niche that they don’t make any sense to anyone not following those communities.
The optimistic take on this is that as people continue carving out personalized and semi-private corners of the web to spend their time on, goofy web 2.0 traditions like April Fools will slowly disappear. But the more realistic take is that this will only make brands become more hungry for events like April Fools, where they can try to do something completely nuts to get our attention. Looking forward to Aprils Fools 2023, when, in an attempt to “go viral on Discord,” the Applebees Twitter gets canceled for posting western civ trad Catholic memes and Robinhood partners with Pornhub to make a pornography-based investing program called Line Goes Up.
One Last Slap Thing, I Swear
Tumblr Really Likes The Conveyer Belt TikTok Guy
The TikTok account @josephmachines went viral this week for a great video where a conveyor belt served a five-course meal. It’s a great video and the @josephmachines account is full of other extremely funny clips. I really like the one where he locks a clock to his head that brushes his teeth. The account is run by Joseph Herscher, a UK-based artist who has been kicking around the web for a while, but is now making a big splash on TikTok.
Well, part of that big splash on TikTok means there are now a bunch of comments on Tumblr calling Herscher the “throat goat” for swallowing an entire Eclair in one go at the end of the most recent video (pictured in the thumbnail above). I mean, I gotta say, it’s a pretty big eclair, but I thought the scene where he eats a salad in mid-salad with a hair dryer was just as impressive.
New Stong Bad Email!!!!
New Strong Bad email!!! I literally was just about to publish before I saw this. Ahh!! Also, it’s not just a goof. It’s like 10 minutes long. Enjoy!
I Lied, One More Oscars Thing
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s a good comic about a wizard’s tower.