Your reactions to seeing another "Shit ______ Say" video may vary. My own responses have run the gamut from "Oh, dear God, when will this end?" to "Oh, dear God, when will this -- wait actually, this one's kind of funny," and then sending the video to a friend begrudgingly, vowing never to do it again.
There have been so many iterations of this meme in the past few weeks you would almost think it's the only thing the Internet does anymore. Cats and dogs, babies and adorable elderly people -- ah, the Internet elite! -- even they have been put on the back burner as the country is overrun by these videos. Perhaps even you, whoever you might be, have considered your own entry into this meme franchise. You might have even asked yourself, What can I add to this dialogue? How can I contribute to this massive communications chain?
That's a remarkable thing about the "Shit _____ Say" videos, whether you love them or hate them. The products have crossed bridges that many artists and cultural movements can only dream of. Their makers are black, white, Hispanic, Chinese, gay, straight, red state, blue state, old, young, talented and amateur. They speak different languages. Their reach is far and wide because everyone is already in on the joke. We know the setup, the exposition: Now all that's left is the punch line.
It's so universal at this point that even less than stellar entries can score upwards of 200,000 views on YouTube.
Somehow the success of this meme, the ubiquity of it, brings to mind the state of the Hollywood remake. Is the meme the Hollywood remake of the Internet? After all, we're tired of them. We deride them for lack of originality, their obviousness. Yet these YouTube videos, like the remakes and reboots that have permeated cinema in far greater numbers in the past few years, continue to proliferate.
Similarly, while there have been some very funny "Shit ____ Say" videos, 99 percent of them are just really -- for lack of better word -- crappy. Yet they get views, just like Hollywood remakes get put into production because producers know they're comfortable, familiar. Their branding work is already done.
For a YouTube video to break the 100,000 mark, it used to require that coveted viral mashup of ingredients including, but not limited to, humor, aching honesty, cuteness and the "fail" quotient (when somebody fails at something humorously). In this case, however, the wannabes rack up views for their pieces because the original "Shit ____ Says" video makers did all the initial planning; they set up the franchise. And just when we think the idea has run its course, that it's dried up, that it's really over, out comes another one.
When that fantastic "Shit New Yorkers Say" video came out last week, most of the Facebook shares were prefaced with "Ugh, I'm so sick of these, but this one is kind of funny" or "I HATE THESE, but I like this one." Or another popular one: "You win, Internet. I'll repost this." As if they had no choice.
The appeal is inherent because similar ideas have already struck gold. Like Mike Fleming of Deadline said in September, speaking of Hollywood remakes: "Studios are fixated on the idea of pre-sold or recognizable brands … and sometimes they rely too much on those brands. But it's still much easier to make a buck on."
Sometimes, whether we like it or not, the brand is more powerful than our discretion.
Watch the original "Shit Girls Say" below. Its creators recently went on "Rock Center" to discuss the phenomenon -- and share an awkward date -- with Brian Williams.
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