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The Silent Pain Of America's Funniest Home Videos

Posted by: Jon Fine on August 24, 2006

I’ve had YouTube on the brain this week, so I’m especially receptive to Josh Levin’s smart Slate piece on the impact of viral video on America’s Funniest Home Videos—that long-running, bizarrely wholesome cultural touchstone that (still!) finds endless yuks in people getting hit in the crotch.

How long, O Lord, can such a show last in an increasingly YouTubed world? As Levin puts it

YouTube is faster, more personalized, and less censored than TV, and there are fewer commercials. But it’s also lonelier, less welcoming, and more pathetically voyeuristic. Since the rise of Internet video, blooper watching has transformed from a family activity undertaken in the living room to a solitary practice embarked upon while bored at work. Sure, YouTube videos are e-mailed from friend to friend, but we watch them alone . . .

The punch line:

Not long ago, we were hitting each other’s groins at family picnics. Now, we are Groin Punching Alone.

I get the feeling he wrote the entire piece around those last two sentences—if not those last three words, even—but it’s the sort of article where the whole thing is so sharply-observed that I don’t care.

Anyway, read it yourself.

Reader Comments


August 25, 2006 8:02 AM

I agree that there will always be an audience for America's Funniest Home Videos. For one thing, the audience that sort of 'grew up' with that show, is getting older and may not be attuned to YouTube. I also think that watching something alone vs. watching something in the company of others are two vastly different experiences. It is why, for instance, movie theaters are still in business long after VCRs and DVD players have come into common use.


August 25, 2006 10:01 AM

In the 1990s someone (why do I think Heather Havrilesky?) wrote a piece on adults, often men, who are huge fans of The Little Mermaid. Apparently they chose not to interview John Mark Karr. Either way, she asked the people if they got together to watch the movie and they stared, stunned, and said of course not, they watched it alone.

And despite the teenager's love for going to DJ nights, I have always found watching certain kinds of television, particularly the collector's tv that populates YouTube to be entirely solitary. Does my wife care that someone has a tape of a 1978 Washington, DC newscast. No. Do I care that someone uncovered a rare Officer Joe Bolton interview? No. Our nostalgic memories have a really limited lifespan outside of our navel. And I'm hardly being critical, but the mass-market appeal of something closely related to what your parents let you watch or whether you find Ghost Riding Da Whip funny or the most obvious white teenagers-in-blackface imitation isn't all there quite yet. YouTube is the first step toward a system of collector video on your crackberry. Highly personal, low-tech, low-budget, and high on content. Everyone has 15 minutes worth of ideas, let them be famous.

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The media world continues to shapeshift as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. On this blog, Bloomberg Businessweek will provide sharp analysis and timely reports on the transformation of this constantly changing terrain.



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