I don’t mean to come off as a Debbie Downer, but my initial thoughts around the "Harlem Shake" are that it’s kind of, well, stupid. Of course, I’m referring to the latest viral meme, not the actual dance which has become harder to find anything about since this strange video trend began a few weeks ago.
I’m not saying this new "Harlem Shake" is uninteresting. Like most memes, it's simultaneously fascinating and incredibly silly. I imagine if aliens were currently watching us, this would be one of those things (along with UFC and Rebecca Black) that would make them scratch their little grey heads and say to each other, “Silly humans.” As a silly human, what I really want to know is: what in the hell is it that people find so delightful about this weird little video trend?
First, let’s break them down shall we?
1. In most of the videos, some kind of general conversation is taking place: could be in an office setting, a dorm room, a news station… basically anywhere where “regular’ people are hanging out.
2. There's also another person somewhere in the “scene,” usually wearing a mask or full costume. This person awkwardly thrusts his/her hips to the music—seemingly unseen by the other people. It’s like this person has caught some kind of strange dancing disease.
3. The music accelerates and suddenly the scene changes. It seems that the virus has well gone viral as there are a bunch of people in the same space (wearing various masks or in full costumes, often carrying nonsensical props) all with the same crazy dancing disease.
But who cares?!?
Lots of people care. The viral meme went from non-existent to frigging crazy in a matter of days. In fact, around 4,000 versions of the video are being uploaded each day and millions of eyeballs have been rabidly following this trend. One of the best versions takes the “dance” to a whole other level by remixing another meme featuring a washing machine with a brick thrown into it.
Like “Gangham Style” before it, “Harlem Style” is unique in that it's as much about the music and dance as it are about absurdity. And I think therein lies the key to its mass appeal. Maybe the simple thing this trend is actually revealing is our deep-seeded desire to throw off our daily suits, put on a costume, and dance like idiots. If that’s all we need in order to create collective delight, that’s actually quite fantastic. To echo the wise words of Kevin Bacon from the 1984 classic, Footloose, “Let’s DAAANNNCE!”