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Are Videos The Satirical Medium
For The Digital Age?

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As More And More Amateur Satire Videos Fill Up YouTube And Facebook, Viewers May Lose The Context And Run The Risk Of Fooling Too Many People Because They Miss The Message


By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine

Jan. 13, 2016 — We have all been there. We have all fallen for it, even if we don’t want to admit it. Somebody on Facebook, Twitter or what-have-you shares an offensive, ridiculous or just plain uncomfortable satirical video that we thought was totally real, even if only for a brief moment.

The problem with the digital age is it leaves a lot of gray area and videos often lack the context to allow viewers to properly interpret or understand satire completely. That can be problematic.

Satire is a fixture in entertainment and has been for a very long time, having been around for centuries. For almost as long as people have been interested in what other people were doing, there has been people there to satirize that obsession. It even existed dating back to the mid-to-late-1800’s when the British Punch magazine represented for that generation what something like Cracked did for the generation prior to our current digital age.

Aside from news outlets like The Onion that have been posting satire news to the web for years (that people still occasionally think is real), YouTube seems to be the primary breeding ground for misleading satire.

Many young people who want to make a name for themselves, be it to leverage that notoriety for money and fame or just for the fun of it, turn to making YouTube videos as a way to make that happen. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but with such a crowded marketplace for satire content, aspiring YouTubers have to do what they can to stand out.

Enter misleading satire.

One of the chief examples of this came in June when a girl who identifies as Cassidy Boon unleashed a video on Facebook and later on YouTube that staggeringly few people understood as satire.

“It’s really hard for me to talk about this and I’ve only told a few people, but I feel like it's my responsibility to spread awareness because this sort of thing happens everyday,” Boon said in the video.

In the video, and the accompanying article that was first featured on her blog The Portly Gazelle (which was shared more than 27,000 times, for what it’s worth), Boon recounts a fictitious event in which she nearly drowned but a man in his 40s saved her, which she claims she will sue him for.

"The man who had revived me told me that I had been underwater for almost two minutes. He said that he had been lucky to get a hold of me down there. A small part of me was happy to be alive, but the rest of me was screaming inside,” Boon said. "I can't believe that he just felt that he had the right to just grab me under the water while I was knocked unconscious. I wasn't able to consent! He grabbed my waist and pulled me around down there like it was his right. Like he wanted to fucking have sex with me down there in the water. Fucking aquatic sex."

As ridiculous as it may sound, the content was presented in such a way that it was very difficult to tell Boon clearly meant it as a form of very hardcore satire. It certainly didn’t help that Boon wore a very revealing top in the video. One look at the video’s YouTube comments will show that.

It is more than ten comments into the thread that someone finally points out that the video is satire, while everyone else was busy saying things like “If only your brain was as big as your tits” and “This is why I’m giving myself a vasectomy.”

Visiting Boon’s Facebook page is no more helpful, as she has adopted an entire public persona where she claims “I am feminism” and clearly refuses to drop the act for anyone. This type of satirical persona has of course been accomplished many times before, but unlike something like Stephen Colbert’s run on The Colbert Report, Boon’s persona and persona lacks context and nuance, leading to confused outrage.

There are other YouTube satirists out there who take a less brash approach to their work, but they are often no less confusing without proper context. ThioJoe’s YouTube channel is a perfect example.

The man simply known as Joe who runs the channel does what he calls “technology humor videos,” in his YouTube bio. But the problem is that most people just see individual videos and rarely bother to read the aforementioned bio, thus losing that critical context. So when someone reads a headline like How To Instantly Charge Your Phone, and it is presented in a deadpan manner devoid of obvious sarcasm or humor, people are likely to miss the joke.

Because his videos seem genuinely helpful, ThioJoe has garnered more than 62 million pageviews on his channel. Between his YouTube advertising share and his various sponsors, he has absolutely profited off of what could be called a satirization of amateur tech reviewers, but what many would call deception.

This type of content won’t stop filling YouTube and other social media sites anytime soon so long as there is money to be made or fun to be had at the expense of gullible viewers. That being the case, a chunk of the responsibility to not be fooled lies with the viewer. Next time a seemingly ridiculous video pops up on your screen, do some critical thinking and don’t be fooled by these satire videos. If something seems questionable, do a tiny bit of research before sounding off and feeding the machine with comments and instant outrage.
Screen cap of Cassidy Boon from her YouTube video, A man saved me from drowning, but now I am suing him for rape because he touched me.
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