Both Jimmy Kimmel and TV news are coming under fire after Kimmel revealed on his ABC late-night show that a recent viral video about a failed twerking attempt was a prank he had orchestrated.
The prank, featuring an attractive stuntwoman pretending to catch fire during a twerk attempt, has been wildly successful as a viral video, racking up well in excess of 10 million online views. Countless TV news outlets picked up the clip and reported it as news.
In the aftermath, the incident has also generated a ton of publicity for Kimmel.
But now the backlash has begun. In a piece on Slate headlined "Why We Should Be Mad at Jimmy Kimmel," Daniel Engber writes that the incident "illustrates everything that’s wrong with viral marketing. Kimmel’s prank is not a biting satire, nor is it a mirror to our stupid culture. It’s a hostile, self-promoting act — a covert ad for ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ — rendered as ironic acid that corrodes our sense of wonder. If the Web provides a cabinet of curiosities, full of freakish baubles of humanity, the hoaxer smashes it to bits, then counts his money while he preens atop the rubble."
Writing on New York Magazine’s Vulture blog, Josh Wolk aims his criticism at TV news. "Here, in this one hyperconcentrated minute of tape, can be found just about everything wrong with TV news today," Volk writes, adding: "The twerking video … was clearly a gag. (Why else was the camera shut off so abruptly?) But in presenting it, the anchors have to act like it’s a real thing to rationalize it being on a news broadcast (traditionally the home of factual information); they add an obligatory disclaimer of ‘some are saying it’s fake’ to show their skeptical bona fides. As if the verifiability of this dumb but funny viral video really matters at all."
Wolk goes on to cite a string of complaints about TV news illustrated by the incident, including:
— "The awkward attempts to use modern vernacular: ‘This is a major twerking fail.’"
— "That awful newsman cadence, the rushed words followed by the drawn-out emphasized word. ‘Now the internet is on FIRE …’"
— "the sheer breathlessness of the introductions, every word imbued with a ‘Do you have a bag pulled over your head to protect your upholstery from the shards of your imminently blown mind?’ intensity."
Wolk adds: "The biggest criticism about today’s TV news is that they just put up facts as they come in without taking the time to verify them or look for context, in the interest of speed. This segment reveals that ‘the public’s right to know immediately’ can also just be a euphemism for ‘eh, just get it up so we can go to lunch, I’m sure it’s fine.’"
He closes his Vulture piece with this: "There are so many more ridiculous aspects to be found in this footage; like a crossword puzzle, once you put it away and come back to it, more is revealed. Ironically, now this new Kimmel video will likely go viral, and these news segments will get passed around where major fails! are meant to go: the Internet."
Engber’s piece on Slate saves its harshest words for Kimmel: "Seriously, what’s the point of Kimmel’s joke? If he really wants to ‘put an end to twerking,’ then we can agree he’s just a jerk. (Who wants to squash a trend of people dancing in their bedrooms?) If he’s teaching us to be wary of what we find online, then his lesson comes 20 years too late, and it’s also self-defeating: A hoax like this doesn’t point to lapses in transparency, it clouds our view of everything."
Engber adds: "YouTube shows the world in all its weirdness, and gives a window on the geek sublime. When liars spread their hoggish propaganda, they mist the landscape with distrust. Think of all the other twerk fails — real ones, I mean — that have been strip-mined of their life and humor by Kimmel’s toxic hoax. Why ruin those for personal gain? Why make all online videos seem a little suspect, just to advertise a late-night talk show?"