Okay, we all know what “Gangnam Style” is, right? Jordan Hass already did and article on it and he said he was late to the party then. That was almost a month ago, so I’m doing this only because I can make some broader point about Internet memes and YouTube content. “Gangnam Style” is already old hat for a lot of people but nevertheless it persists. I still see it posted on my Facebook feed every day, new parody videos, videos of various television broadcasters doing the dance on air because that’s what the people demand, all that shit.
In case you’ve not seen the original, here it is…
This has been the big thing to go out and parody this year, remember “Friday”? “Gangnam Style” is this year’s “Friday”, but magnified because I think “Friday” took a hell of a lot longer to start showing up on my TV and I sure as shit never heard it on my radio.
Now there are parody videos everywhere about every topic; Gundams, condoms, Mitt Romney, everything. Hell, there is even “Spartan Highschool Style” which is basically the best thing ever. I hope to see more high quality shit from Spartan Highschool.
Here is the problem with these parodies though; “Gangnam Style” is already a joke. I imagine people looked at the video, with the funny Asian man doing all these strange things and just assume it’s all just another weird artifact of Asian culture, like Japanese game shows and Anime, but those people are probably missing the point.
Gangnam is an actual place in South Korea with a reputation for being incredibly rich and high class. The reason the video is so silly and weird is because it’s supposed to be setting up a contrast between the low class, crude humor of the video and the high class lifestyle the song discusses. It’s already a joke guys, and it probably carries a bit more weight to it than most of parody videos it spawned (which isn’t much, but certainly more than any of the videos it spawned.)
I never miss an opportunity to rip on the works of directing duo Seltzer and Friedberg of Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans infamy. There are a lot of reasons to dislike their directorial work but I think the fatal flaw of any of their films is that they have an adolescent, baseline understanding of parody. Parody at its best reveals something about the original work, but the Seltzer and Friedberg school of parody seems to be as follows;
1. Select a popular film, or handful of popular films.
2. Have worse actors reenact scenes from those movies while injecting pop culture references in the place of jokes. (i.e. Having a Liam Neason stand-in save his daughter thanks to an app on his iPhone 5, with the Apple logo prominently featured.)
It’s a simple enough tactic and some people have made it work, but in the hands of Seltzer and Friedberg it falls flat. That’s what I see happening with a lot of the “Gangnam Style” parodies and Internet parodies in general for that matter (Suburban Knights anyone?) the joke isn’t some kind of statement on the work in question, it’s “hey, wouldn’t you get some sweet LOLs if we took something you know about and put it in this other, unrelated thing you know about?”
But like I said before, “Gangnam Style” is already a joke. So not only are the parodies lazily built around the joke that things exist in the same universe as “Gangnam Style”, but they get to coast on the humor already present in the original “Gangnam Style” video. The reason you are laughing at these parody videos is because the original video is funny, not the parody.
This brings me back to “Spartan High School Style” and why I think it is unironically brilliant. However unintentional it may be, “Spartan High School Style” is the dark reflection of every “Gangnam Style” parody ever made. The video shows exactly how stupid you look when you try to get famous with a shitty parody of whatever new viral video has hit big on the web; you look like “Spartan High School Style”.