The internet is a wild frontier.
It has its founders, its architects, its leaders, and its supporters and critics. The internet is filled with predators and prey alike, hoaxers and debunkers, and it boasts heroes and jesters and unwitting celebrities — not unlike the physical realm.
And because of the very nature of the internet, the line between heroes and jesters is often so blurred that one is given to wonder if they’re not one and the same thing in this beta version of the final frontier.
Rewind back to 9/11 after which a certain photo of a tourist supposedly taken on top of one of the WTC towers moments before the first plane’s impact surfaced in everyone’s in-boxes. I also received the pic, forwarded by an otherwise astute and intelligent friend who fell for the hoax, hook, line and sinker — and for quite some time thereafter, the WTC-guy turned up as an accidental witness to numerous historic disasters. It’s an incident where a jester became an unlikely “hero”, finally falling from grace as his own efforts were photoshopped by other jesters and appeared all over the web.
Everyone stands the chance of becoming the next global village idiot.
Fame and success in the internet world can be measured by the number of imitations and parodies and fan sites and pop culture cross-references a simple picture, phrase, act, video (or a combination thereof) spawns — especially when these escape into the real world or traditional media. Surely, if people “get” the joke and run with it, then it must be really funny or entertaining or relevant or… “priceless”. Right?
The masses have LOL’d!
Internet folklore has re-ignited the dying fame of David Hasselhoff and Chuck Norris, and it has created furore around one Vernon Koekemoer. It has given birth to such dubious luminaries as Gary Brolsma (the “Numa-Numa fat guy”), Ghyslain Raza (the “Star Wars Kid”), Dancing Matt, fruitcake Chris Crocker, Brian Peppers, and the Tron Guy. The internet has spawned monstrosities like goatse, Crazy Frog, Moshzilla, and a host of other memes.
Nor does it doesn’t end with people: Internet stardom extends into the animal kingdom, too — with dancing hamsters, hypnotic badgers, No Hands the kitten, a certain “dramatic chipmunk”, the breathtaking “Battle at Kruger” video, or any cat that looks like Adolf Hitler in the spotlight.
But it’s cats, curiously, that are particularly popular targets of online ridicule.
“If you spend any time at all observing net culture, then you’ll have been unable to miss the recent explosion in popularity of lolcats. This relatively recent phenomenon is the convention of taking pictures of cute animals, most frequently cats, and overlaying absurdist captions on the images,” writes Anil Dash.
The humorous and idiosyncratic caption is usually (as a general and fixed rule, in fact) in broken English — a dialect known as “Kitty Pidgin”, “lolspeak”, or Lolcat (a compound word of “LOL” and “cat”).
More appropriately titled “kitteh pidgin” actually, it has invaded many niches of popular culture and does little to improve the online community’s diminishing linguistic skills, let alone help eradicate Engrish or Chinglish. Worse still is that the joke survives on the intertubes by feeding on itself and propagates to the extent that the legendary “Monorail Cat” now even has music videos appearing on YouTube! T-shirts and pet apparel will probably be next…
Fine. Let’s play along then. Here be my current favourite lolcats.
Images via icanhascheezburger.com and elsewhere