Innocent When You Meme: The Best Weird Internet Videos of 2016
Yeah, yeah, we get it. Beyoncé had a good year. But can we get on to the more important stuff now?
Pretty much every aspect of pop culture lives as a black swan for at least a little bit (think about how much TV programming has developed in the public eye, say, or music where they sing about stupid shit like holding hands), so it’s no surprise that Internet culture hasn’t completely found its spot yet in the amorphous blob that is our all-important critical community. I suspect that it’s just a matter of time, though, and when it happens, I would prefer to be on the right side of history (maybe I could be like the Lester Bangs of GIFs or something?). That’s why I’m formally adding a new category to our year-end coverage: weird Internet videos.
You’ll notice that I’m not exclusively calling these YouTube videos—a few of these were Vines (RIP Vine?) in their original form—and my criteria is admittedly pretty vague for what was in consideration and for what constituted as “best.” But at the same time, I would actually argue that this is criticism in its purest form: there were no outside reviews clouding my judgment, no screeners lobbying for my attention. Just a man and his computer, as God intended. These were the ten videos that made me laugh the most in 2016. End of story. Give that man the $10,000.
Hello Adele T-Rex
When the world sees a T-Rex, it doesn’t see talent, it doesn’t see grace. It sees violence and awkward little arms and such. But Adele is an artist of empowerment, and this, my friends, is an empowering video. One to show the kids to and say, “See! You can be whatever you want to be!” Unless, of course, they want to be homeowners. That’s pretty much out for this next generation.
We all know that cat videos are the cornerstone of our delicate meme economy, but as anyone with any market knowledge will tell you, venturing into riskier meme territory is an essential part of any investment portfolio. “Stayin’ Nine-Lives,” a masterpiece of the cat genre, is also toeing into the sleeper genre of “Stayin’ Alive” memes, so in this regard it’s kind of like a horror movie that’s also discreetly a political satire. Or something. In conclusion the Bee Gees are tight.
cat bank x
At first I was going to exclude this in an effort to avoid having multiple cat videos in the list, but then I realized that cat videos are a powerhouse genre for a reason. And if that sort of concern of repetition doesn’t get in the way of the Academy nominating Meryl Streep ten times a year, it shouldn’t stop me either. I also wanted an excuse to @ David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson.
So I don’t know what exactly is the deal with Angolan television (feels like I’m always the last to know with these things!), but I can say with 100 percent certainty that it is clearly superior to whatever it is that we have going on here. This goddamn dancing puppet is the greatest thing ever, and when we’re sitting on our couches in 2033 pissed off that we got Abrams’d again with Westworld’s drawn-out, seventeen-season–long storyline, this G is still gonna be tearing it up on TPA Directo. (Bonus shout out to the Flocka version of this groovy puppet, long may he thrust).
jeb bush x donald trump
At a certain point this year, Donald Trump wasn’t just the most unqualified person to win the presidency—he was also the most unqualified to win the meme presidency. The frontrunner for that title was really Jeb (!) Bush, as anyone who saw him struggle to put on a sweater (or take one off) knows all too well. But in typical Jeb (!) fashion, he blew it, and now we’re stuck with with an aging frat boy who scotch-tapes his tie together for the next four fucking years. Oh well. At least we’ll always have the memories. (Please clap.)
George Lucas Interview Gone Wrong
People are always quick to point out the billions of dollars and the ranch made of solid gold or whatever, but I do feel kinda bad for George Lucas. Like, even before he threw himself out of his own cinematic universe, he was still getting beat at his own game, with Irvin Kershner and Richard Marquand generally being viewed as having directed the superior installments of the original trilogy. (Even though New Hope is truly the best Star Wars movie. Don’t @ me.) Plus, I think he’s the only dude to have been killed on public television by Charlie Rose.
Besides the fact that no one knows if you’re a dog on it, the beautiful thing about the Internet is that no one knows if you’re being serious either. Come to think of it actually, it would probably be best to assume that any content creator online is both serious and a dog. At least, that’s how I view this masterpiece of Vine cinema: like two dogs in separate cars having an earnest conversation. “Dude, how’d you pull this off?!”
Kid sings- unwritten vine
Speaking of Vine masterpieces, this slice of cinéma vérité is one of the most moving moments ever captured on film—a stirring journey into life in The Other Car, a flash of the immensity of human existence. Or just like, a strangely impressive singing performance. That octave jump is no joke! Honestly, the biggest tragedy of 2016 is that this kid hasn’t made everyone realize just how much James Corden sucks by comparison. And I guess Bowie dying was pretty tragic, too, but ya know.
Residents Devastated After Dunkin’ Donuts Closed by Fire
In putting this list together, it became apparent to me that a theme of most of these videos is either candidness or creativity in editing (and probably also immaturity if I’m being honest). The only exception is this news report about a closed Dunkin’ Donuts out of Shamokin, Pennsylvania (yes, you read that town name correctly), and that’s because it’s truly hard to believe that this video wasn’t messed with by 4chan or something in any way. Everything about it—from the cop being named “Psycho” to the number of references to “donits” to the dire scene on the street (“It’s the only thing this town has”)—is just too good to be true. But check the channel, guys—this is being hosted on a gen-u-ine news organization’s YouTube page. Just goes to show that nothing on the Internet will ever be as weird as local television has consistently been forever anyway.
Squidward Hits a Dab
“Squidward Hits a Dab” was like the Blackstar of weird Internet: it arrived at the beginning of the year, a harbinger of impending death (RIP the dab), and then went on to serve as a benchmark against which everything else would be measured (and, indeed, a benchmark against which most everything would fail). One year on, and this is the video that most moved me in 2016—the one that continues to challenge me in unexpected, inspiring ways. And then I’m like “meh” and go back on the computer.