Sunday, December 02, 2007

Toxic Waste

This is an item that I am hoping will soon disappear down the scrollbar and lie in obscurity in the archive as quickly as possible. Nonetheless, I feel that I should say something about the latest Internet meme, the repulsive 2girls1cup. I generally don't write about pornography because I am a) a public employee who uses publicly-owned computers and networks, b) a feminist who feels that it frequently drives a wedge between feminist factions in the academy, and c) an Internet scholar working in a totally different field. There are self-identified "netporn" academics, like Katrien Jacobs, who provided several references at the bottom of a post for the Institute for Distributed Creativity on the subject, but porn isn't really my brown paper bag, so I tend to stay out of these discussions.

Yet the current meme of posting videos of a range of typical people watching this horrifically pornographic video, in which two women apparently mutually consume both feces and vomit, is worthy of comment for a few reasons, as these reaction videos display the responses of roommates, grandmothers, young women of color, and many others who would not normally watch such a degrading hardcore film.

First, it points to a strange relationship between spectatorship and participatory culture in online video-sharing sites. Some say that the experience of shared visual culture is lost in the Internet era, since we don't watch movies or even television shows together in the same room at the same time, but this phenomenon points to a kind of user-generated distributed spectatorship that is different from what critics of the single viewer/single screen imagine. Second, young female viewers being viewed in these reaction videos -- who like audience members at horror movies often react with laughter rather than disgust -- have in turn become objects of voyeurism themselves who are subject to abusive comments that remark lasciviously about their bodies. Third, the number of reaction videos that are made by children indicate that the film's harmless title easily gets around most content filters. Fourth, like the infamous goatse meme, it indicates a cultural fascination and displacement when it comes to scatological content. Fifth, on several online encyclopedias hoaxsters have inserted descriptions and images that misrepresent the pornographic content of the film and depict it as a sentimental tale. Finally, by being a widely distributed viral video its distribution obviously tests the policing powers of the Attorney General's office. In fact, court documents about an ownership dispute among the film's producers that appeared on the document dump-site Smoking Gun show that the creator of these fetish videos claims a therapeutic and/or DIY interest in producing these films, a professed ignorance of U.S. obscenity laws, and a coyness about the representational techniques that suggests that some of the coprophagic content may be simulated with chocolate.

Note to readers: I would advise you not to search for this film because security experts caution that it has become a vehicle for malware as well. Like Alice Robison, I plan not to watch it myself.

Update: Ian Bogost pointed me to the best of the parody videos here.

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