#11) Learning from Freakouts

Call me crazy, but I find Stephen Quire to be much more entertaining than Charlie Sheen, or just about any tantrum-throwing celebrity for that matter.

Stephen Quire is the kid who was caught on camera freaking out when his mom cancelled his World of Warcraft account.  The video has, in Internet jargon, gone viral, with over 45 million views as of this writing.  There has been much speculation in cyberspace on whether this video–and several other filmed meltdowns that follow it–are real.  Whether or not it is, the video says a lot about what makes a video go viral.

Many more videos, sad to say, go viral for bad reasons than good.  (Think Miss Teen South Carolina or Alexandra Wallace of “Asians in the Library” fame).  I read somewhere that for many, the appeal of reality TV is being able to point at the characters and laugh at them, or to feel superior (how else can you explain Springer being on the air for 20 years?)  We all have that gene that loves to ogle disaster, be it a crash on the freeway or tattooed rednecks duking it out on stage.  Viral videos often have that same appeal.  Sure, cleverly written sit-coms can be funny, but as the old saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction.  The best screenwriters and directors in the world couldn’t manufacture what came out of Miss Teen South Carolina’s mouth, or Stephen Quire’s tirade.

It’s been also said, especially in difficult times, consumers seek escape in their entertainment.  After a long, stressful day at work, not everyone wants to watch “Masterpiece Theater.”  In the case of Quire, it seems entirely possible that many of his viewers vicariously live out their revenge fantasies against idiot bosses, annoying co-workers and maybe even difficult spouses through him.

One more element of pull that all this stuff has: “There but for the grace of God, go I.”  For my part, I didn’t exactly have the greatest temper on the planet growing up, and I was into both video games and Dungeons & Dragons.  Had World of Warcraft been around in the ’80s, you can bet that it would have had a loyal subscriber in me – and had my mom cancelled the account, which she probably would have to stop me from playing it 24/7, the result might have been eerily similar to the famous video (especially had my brother decided to plant a camera in my room, also a definite possibility).  They say that in psychology, if you spot it, you got it, and it’s a good bet that many of Stephen Quire’s viewers see themselves in the video.  Real or fake, it’s addictive.

Besides giving us the opportunity to laugh at others and feel better about ourselves, viral videos can have positive effects on those involved.  When she appeared on Tosh.O, Miss Teen South Carolina said that the whole experience was the best thing that could have happened to her.   “Wafflepwn”, the force behind the World of Warcraft freakout video, has started an online business, advertising T-shirts, iTunes downloads and more.  Just as Jerry Springer has kept his crew employed for 20 years (he even got Steve his own show!), one could make an argument that these Internet celebrities are doing their part to stimulate the American economy.  Temper tantrums can not only be a great release, but they can also be patriotic.  However you look at it, I’m sure that….WHAT!?  HOW THE F@*K DID I LOSE MY INTERNET CONNECTION?  I LOST ALL THIS F*$#ING WORK THAT I SPENT A F*#KING HOUR ON!  “UNABLE TO OPEN PAGE” MY ASS.  SUCK MY #*@, GOOGLE CHROME!  F*#KING CHARTER, I’M GOING TO CALL THOSE A$$HOLES UP AND GIVE THEM A F*#KING PIECE OF MY MIND!  MOTHER F*#@ER!  ASFOXOFDSAWDNSVC!!

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