Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Video Version of Valdemort

She's Out of Sync - Devo (mp3)
Two Times - The Blakes (mp3)*

Didja ever do those "What's Grosser than Gross" jokes as a kid? Just wonderin'.

I first heard of "The Video That Shall Not Be Named" last fall. A number of young alumni were back in town, and I stopped by early into their evening, before their mental state was in any way altered. During the conversation, someone brought up TVTSNBN. Immediately, the rest of the young guys reacted viscerally, with beloved fake-retch sounds and other such reactions of discomfort or disgust.

Now, this caught my attention because 19-year-old males are, in general, disgusted by very few things in the 21st Century. They've seen everything. Terrorists beheading hostages. Dogs having sex with cats. Laguna Beach. Trying to disgust or shock a present-day male in the 16-22 demographic is like trying to make Dick Cheney cry. It's virtually impossible.

So, I can't deny being a little curious when they reacted with such collective and universal disgust about TVTSNBN. They then started talking about videos on YouTube where people recorded their friends or relatives watching this. One dude recorded his grandmother watching it, they explained, and it's the funniest thing they've ever seen.

As with many conversations where one is the outsider on an insider joke and one doesn't much care, I quickly tuned out and forgot about it.

Then, a few weeks ago, TVTSNBN reemerged in my conscience. One of my favorite female rockers has her own blog, and I visit it every month or two to catch up on her -- I'm kind of like a stalker who can't afford to actually stalk -- and her latest entry was about her experience watching TVTSNBN with two of her friends. The entry was only a couple of sentences, but she basically said watching it made her feel alive. (Picture at left stolen from Steven via Kay's blog.)

Well hell, I thought, if this supercool badass chick can handle it, what's the big deal?? This, my friends, is what's known as faulty logic. Yes, I watched TVTSNBN. I hunted it down, and I watched it.*

Several years ago, I got so far as to click PLAY on one of those terrorist beheading videos but stopped it and closed it before ever getting anywhere near the actual beheading part. That I allowed myself the curiosity to click PLAY in the first place left me with a hollow feeling in my gut for several days, and I still squirm a little when I recall that I even went as far as I did. (NOTE: To those who've seen it, bully for you. I ain't judging. I'm just sayin' that my physical and emotional innards objected powerfully to my curiosity.)

Because there was no death or mutilation involved in TVTSNBN, I never reached that level of self-revulsion. I mostly looked at the subjects involved as I imagine Ming the Merciless looks at the stupid Earthlings at the beginning of the Gawd-awful guilty pleasure of the 80s known as Flash Gordon. I'm pretty sure if Ming had seen TVTSNBN, he would have destroyed Earth quickly rather than screwing around with it for the better part of two hours while Timothy Dalton wondered how the f*#k he got himself into green leotards for what had to be a career low even in the infancy of his career. (And yes, I watch that movie every time I see it playing on TV, 'cuz it's one of the world's penultimate guilty pleasures.)

The morning after my TVTSNBN viewing, I was still bothered. Not haunted; nothing quite so serious. Just bothered. Bothered that people did this. Bothered that people filmed it. Bothered that millions have watched it. Bothered that I jumped on board. Bothered that I have witnessed something that could not have ever conceivably reached my eyes at any time in any other decade prior to the 21st Century.

We're not talking Susan Boyle singing Les Miz here. We're talking a video of Susan Boyle degrading herself in ways that, if I told you the readers to "Think of the most horrific and disgusting non-violence-related act you could film Susan Boyle doing," you'd fall shy of TVTSNBN more often than not.

We are in a virulent age. Everything hits us sooner, faster, harder, and with less mercy, and what used to require men on ponies or Morse Code now requires a

Less than 48 hours after witnessing TVTSNBN, I found out about some heavy rumors involving some folks I know. Rumors of an extreme and sexual nature. Rumors involving kids and police and arrests. Ugly stuff. So naturally the rumors spread like wildfire around me. Along with the talk of what did or might have occurred between two kids whose lives will never again be normal came conclusions we yearn to draw. The #1 comment with a bullet: Surely the alleged predator was at one point also a victim of similar acts. Otherwise, how would he know how to engage in such skin-crawling acts? 

I thought this. Others thought this. It's the natural conclusion of people born before 1980.

But I have crossed to the other side. I've seen TVTSNBN.

It is now possible for a kid to watch stuff on an unsupervised computer that would make even deviant adults shudder. What used to be described simply as "pornography" now needs to be separated into categories like a record store, and any kid with some alone time and an Internet connection can basically witness pornography's version of death metal.

Or, put another way, I'm pretty sure teens don't engage in "rainbow parties" because they witnessed their parents do it.

Is TVTSNBN a sign of the end-times? Will it corrupt even the incorruptible? Part of me hopes so. I'd like to think this is about as low as our species can go, taste-wise. But then I remember that scene in Braveheart where bloodthirsty parents are holding their children on their shoulders so the kids can get a better view as that mean old rebel Scotsman gets disemboweled. Best I can tell, in previous eras and centuries, kids witnessed executions of all kinds, from crucifixions to disembowelments to lynchings to firing squads. If our species can survive all that, then surely TVTSNBN ain't the end of the world.

When I made an equally-obscure reference to TVTSNBN on Facebook, I got a personal record of 13 comments. Seems lots of folks have decided to bring the apocalypse one step closer by witnessing this for themselves. And nothing brings people together like a shared experience of extreme disgust.

And, as best I can tell, none of the people I know who have seen TVTSNBN have done things terribly deviant after the fact. Well, not anymore deviant than the shit they were doing prior to watching. So even something as off the charts as TVTSNBN can't seem to shake my belief that all our hand-wringing over the Evils of Technology is 95% misguided.

* -- I've since been informed that the version I watched isn't the "original." The original is supposedly even worse than the version I watched. That this is possible boggles my feeble mind.

P.S. If you're reading this and find yourself seeking TVTSNBN, and if you end up watching it, please just leave a comment to that nature as a reminder that when someone tells you not to look at something, it's only human nature to want desperately to do so.

P.P.S. Those of you who knew what I was talking about and have seen it, please feel free to tally your experience. Those who know but avoided watching, kudos to you!

The original choice for second song was "Nobody Drinks Alone" by Keith Urban, but I bought it on iTunes before we could convert them, so I went with the backup. All of these songs can be found and purchased through or iTunes.


Jason said...


I think you cut off the end of the 12th paragraph by accident.

BTW, perhaps because I am on this side of the world, I have absolutely no clue what 'video' you are referring to. Now I have to decide if my natural curiousity will cause me to look it and see if I can find it, or if I should continue to revel in ignorance, which seems like it might not be such a bad thing in this case.

I will update my comments later when I make a decision.

Daisy said...

Curiousity usually kills me, but I have resisted watching TVTSNBN. I did have to look up "rainbow parties" after reading today's post. Kids are definitely not learning that from their parents! Some say the reason brides look so happy walking down the aisle is they know they never have to perform "that" again!

troutking said...

About a year ago, I watched about 5 seconds before turning it off before it was permanently burned into my brain. Too late.

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Abbie said...

I'd like to think that TVTSNBN is a product of the video equivalent of Photoshop, but I'm not going to look close enough to form an opinion!

Good post.