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Features — 01 March 2013

By Joshua Van Laan

It was everywhere. The children were talking about it. The adolescents were talking about it. The teenagers were talking about it. The adults were talking about it.

What was this horrific sensation that was inescapable and plaguing every conversation from continent to continent?

It wasn’t Lindsay Lohan being caught with drugs again, or Taylor Swift getting a new boyfriend.

No, it was the Harlem Shake.

In less than two weeks, the Harlem Shake has spread across the Internet and to social life across the world, starting in Australia and touching down on every corner of the Earth.

The first appearance of the Harlem Shake was made by YouTube user “Filthy Frank” in a Vlog.

The Vlog, however, didn’t emphasize the dance heavily. Instead, five teenagers under the username “The Sunny Coast Skate” made the first Harlem Shake video that others would base their own videos on.

Since then, literally tens of thousands of videos have flooded the Internet in a tropical storm of dubstep, hot dog costumes and air humping.

What’s unique about the Harlem Shake, though, is just how fast it spread. The reasons for this are obvious.

First off, the Harlem Shake is easy to do. In a world dominated by instant news and connections, anything longer than a minute is considered unworthy to a lot of people. Fortunately, the Harlem Shake is typically only 30 seconds.

Secondly, the video doesn’t require a lot of work. Participants don’t have to act, remember lines or do much of anything. All they have to do is dance.

Thirdly, for those doing it, it’s enjoyable. Everyone who is involved gets to dress up in some ridiculous and outlandish costume and then go crazy for 15 seconds, just enough time before you lose your breath.

So, what about the Harlem Shake is annoying, bothersome and even loathsome?  Easy:  No one cares about it.

The popularity and enjoyment of the Harlem Shake comes less from watching it, but instead from doing it.

No one cares about strangers going crazy, but when it’s you, your fraternity brothers or just people you know from back home doing it, that’s where the humor begins. Watching people you know go absolutely berserk in a biker helmet is infinitely more enjoyable than some random teenager doing the same thing in Bosnia.

Fortunately, to some people the Harlem Shake seems to be considered “old” now. I have no idea how that works, but I’m not going to question it, as long as I don’t have to hear “con los terroristas” again.

 

Photo courtesy of WikiCommons

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About Author

Josh Van Laan is currently a sociology major from Clinton Township.

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