The Daily Mash has really grown a beard in recent years. Once, it was merely an embarrassingly sub-standard attempt to do a British version of The Onion. Now, The Onion has disappeared behind a paywall and no-one’s reading it any more, and it’s The Daily Mash which gets shared virally around social media. Not only that, but the quality of its articles has vastly improved: its choice of satirical targets is spot on, its insights into the absurdity of contemporary politics and society are razor sharp.
For example, there’s this little gem: “Friends enthralled by gig filmed on phone”. Gig-filming is one of those phenomena which are especially bewildering, because everyone agrees it’s shit and people should stop doing it, and yet lots of people still do it.
The Mash’s take on it is hilarious because it skewers the absurdity of imagining that your phone-recorded gig video is going to be of interest to anybody, or even watchable at all.
But it raises the question again: since, self-evidently, nobody is watching these videos, why does anyone record them? The idea that it’s for anyone, including the person recording it, to watch later, simply doesn’t function as an explanation, because it’s so patently false. So why bother?
I wrote about a related phenomenon while in India: that of videoing or taking excessive numbers of photographs of museum and gallery exhibits. My theory is that the creation and possession of the videos and photos functions as a proxy, for the person who took them, of the educational experience they had at the museum. Of course, they never really had the experience, because they didn’t pay attention to the exhibits – they were too busy taking the photos. But the experience would have taken some mental effort, and that’s no good. Much better to go to the museum, whizz around with the camera, learn nothing, but come away with the satisfied feeling that one’s achieved something – and with a few MB of data which prove it just by existing, even though they’ll never be examined again.
Filming gigs on a phone or tablet is exactly the same. The person doing the filming isn’t fully experiencing the gig, letting go and feeling a connection with the music. The very notion of such a direct, earnest, profound experience is actually quite scary. On the other hand, if he stays at home and doesn’t attend any gigs at all, he’s forced to confront the fact that he’s a dullard.
The compromise solution is to go to some gigs, but brandishing the amulet of cameraphone. With his attention devoted mostly to the business of holding a little screen aloft and pointed in the right direction, it’s a lot easier to protect himself from the risk of emotional engagement. And afterwards, there’ll always be the video, filed away unwatched, but nevertheless proving, to the satisfaction of his own self-image, the cultural experience he once had.