The Top 5 Most Overrated Internet Phenomenons...Ever!
I hate the Internet.
I hate how it's degraded social interaction, I hate how easy it's made it to accept the first answer one lands upon to be the right one, I hate how you're supposed to capitalize "Internet," and I hate how it's made people who the public would have otherwise never afforded a second glance essentially famous. But, of course, what I hate most is that I'm not one of those people.
The traffic for this website, Listen to Me, is the lowest it's been in years. We almost never get e-mails, our fan base (if you can call it one) is constantly on the verge of crumbling, and you get less than 2,500 hits if you search for our URL on Google. We've been at this Internet racket for, I shit you not, going on eight years now and we're only just clinging to the fringe, forget being heralded as the next big thing in online comedy. So what better way to go than to strike while the irony is hot and put together a list of some of the greatest Internet success stories and then pretend as though, somehow, I'm someone whose opinion of these creations should be respected or even listened to at all? No better way, that's how. Take it from me. I'm some guy.
Well then, here's the Top 5 Most Overrated Internet Phenomenons...Ever! I consider these phenomenons because, unlike most things on the Internet that stay there like they're supposed to, these are things that I find real life people in the real life world actually horrifyingly bringing up in real life. Something you might notice if you're super crazy smart is that these are all creations that are serieses of sorts. The reason I've got no overrated fads on here, e.g. All Your Base or Chocolate Rain, is that I'm generally pretty amused by stupid fads crossing over into the real world (although admittedly I don't think Chocolate Rain is all that great) and, additionally, fads show up and then die out really fast, thus not being given enough time to continue to be overrated for any sustained period of time. All of the creations on this list, however, are still going and still continue to have fan followings, though the size of these followings surely fluctuate over time.
I tried to rank these by way of a completely subjective system that came out of my mind in which each item is judged by way of a balance between how uncreative I think it is with how popular it is. Generally speaking, the latter aspect is given more precedence so, in other words, the number one phenomenon on this list is up there more because of how incredibly popular it is and less because it's total garbage. Or, in other words, the more jealous I am, the higher up it goes.
LET'S DO DIS THING LIKE RODNEY KING!!!
5. Foamy the Squirrel (Neurotically Yours)
You can buy Foamy crap at Hot Topic! So you know it's awesome!!!
Remember that last paragraph you skipped over about how I intended to rank these? Well, it was bullshit because I feel pretty positive that Foamy is a lot more popular than the number four on my list, but, I hate the number four entry more so here we go.
Foamy the Squirrel stars in a flash series that nobody ever remembers the real name of, Neurotically Yours, drawn, written, and mostly voiced by a guy who wants to be Jhonen Vasquez. This squirrel for some reason lives with a goth chick named Germaine who has big, toony hooters and serves little more purpose than to stare at Foamy quizzically and wear barely-there underpants. The crux of pretty much every episode of Foamy is that something in everyday society annoys Foamy so he decides to rant and rave about it for a good couple of minutes. What irritates me is that the topics chosen to rant upon are always incredibly uncreative and the insights that Foamy shares about them are nothing you haven't already heard at some point from your angry co-worker who hates his wife and kids and therefore everything else as well.
For example, a dumb person I once knew thought that Foamy's rant about Starbucks was just genius and so true, man. The entire rant in question centers on Foamy complaining about how stupid it is that Starbucks has to give their coffee cup sizes names other than Small, Medium, and Large. I remember getting angry about this very same issue back when I was a teenager. Then, one day, I realized, hey, hang on a tick, this doesn't actually affect my life. Plus, no matter what Starbucks calls their cup sizes if I go in there and order from them I still get to drink coffee, which makes it a win-win situation overall. Plus, if you actually do ask for a small coffee, generally speaking, the people who work at Starbucks aren't going to deny you your order until you break down and adhere to their rhetoric.
I know this is only one example, but it should suffice as Foamy has been going on for exactly five-thousand billion years now and the format hasn't changed in the least. The content of your average Foamy cartoon is equivalent to what most schlubs who think they can - but really, really can't - do stand-up comedy do, which is simply to complain at great length about average things and assume that just doing so is somehow funny. Usually, the public shockingly does not share this sentiment. However, apparently if you take this same content, record it and apply an amateurish high voice pitch effect to it, then funnel it through a simplistically animated talking squirrel propped up in front of a near-nude, big-titted Goth girl, you've got yourself a fan following to reckon with.
4. Salad Fingers
I fucking hate Salad Fingers because it isn't good and I don't get why anybody thinks it is. It's about a gentleman with fingers made out of salad, I suppose, with an annoying voice (that of the creator's with some crapadoody effects slapped onto it) who farts about doing things that don't really make any great amount of sense, but, ooh, it's a bit dark, isn't it?
Well, no, not really. This is my problem with Salad Fingers. You can kind of tell what the creator's influences are (he obviously digs him some Tim Burton), but he's just not copied them properly. The show's got this constant supposedly creepy music going and this odd drawing style that I guess is meant to make you feel a bit disturbed (while you laugh?? I'm not sure if it's supposed to be a comedy). I guess it works on some people and the first real world run-in I had with the series was when I was working an extremely low-level job for a VH1 show and witnessed one of the important members on the production team excitedly introducing an episode of Salad Fingers to the lead director, raving about how "twisted" and such it was. Personally, I don't agree. I think Salad Fingers fails because it doesn't do anything but try to be "twisted." It just presents you with something that seems a bit fucked-up and makes no effort to be engaging in any way in terms of narrative content. It's like poking a decomposing body with a stick: it's a bit gross and unsettling, but eventually you're going to realize that not much else is going to happen, so you call the cops and then go home and watch Arrested Development on DVD.
I hate the creator of this series, David Firth, whose last name sounds like something you'd scrape off the bottom of your shoe, because he seems to have actually garnered a legitimate career out of his work. Some of his non-Salad Fingers shorts even turned up on a favorite television program of mine, Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe. I respect Charlie Brooker, but I can't for the life of me understand his admiration for this guy's stuff as it all seems to stick quite closely to the Salad Fingers formula of characters and settings who are slightly askew, events that seem to have some semblance of coherency but ultimately probably don't make any real sense to anyone except David Firth, and David Firth's grating voice with amateurish effects applied to it. No thanks!
3. Red Vs. Blue
I retain a special loathing for Red Vs. Blue and I think I've earned it as I do believe I watched the whole first "season" of it. Red Vs. Blue is birthed from the school of modern "humor" which believes that characters simply standing around being awkward, um-ing and er-ing and leaving massive gaps of silence in-between lines of dialogue, is good enough to entertain the audience. The thing is I love the idea of finding humor in awkwardness, but I think there's a right way to do it (the British version of The Office) and a way to do it that makes it feel uncreative and like you're just trying to fill time any way you possibly can (much of Adult Swim, Red Vs. Blue).
Another irritating aspect of Red Vs. Blue is that it is a machinima production, meaning that it isn't animation per se, it's just a copy of Halo that the creators booted up, then moved the characters around to make it look like they were talking and then voiced over it. I'll acknowledge that this process takes quite a bit of dedication; for example, there's "blooper" footage in which one character tries over and over and over again to land a grenade in the exact right spot to make a vehicle go flying. However, I can't really respect this dedication because, well, the ultimate result is not all that attractive. I mean, I'm just watching 3D models move their heads up and down for hours (there's a lot of this stuff available) on end. Additionally, there always has to be one person controlling a character to act as the "camera" so you actually also see the game's targeting reticule onscreen the entire time.
Something about this bugs me. I guess it's because it'd be one thing if this was just some silly nonsense on the Internet, but you can, and people, people I know in fact, actually buy DVDs of this crap. It somehow feels unjust to me. I also recall that these guys were enlisted to make a bunch of shorts for MTV at one point so, yeah, they've pretty much hit the big time. I dunno, I guess you can't get cutting-edge humor like a running gag about a guy with pink armor anywhere else. Oh, your armor's pink! No it's not! It's light red! LOL! OMG!!! Fuck off.
2. Happy Tree Friends
This might be the most uncreative one on the list, the only possible rival being Foamy, but this is certainly the most uncreative and popular one. Happy Tree Friends, like an undercover polygamist businessman, seems to have multiple homes all over the place. It appears the people behind it will sell it off to anyone so you can catch it all over the net, as well as on TV on G4 (though I recognize this is hardly prime real estate when it comes to television networks, it's still actually got a TV series, which is nothing to sneeze at).
The show is awful. It's got one idea which wasn't funny to start with and, as the formula is really never altered, it's unlikely to ever be funny. Basically, a bunch of adorable woodland creatures have little adventures in the woods, but then horrible, extremely violent things happen to them and by violent, I mean like over-the-top, rated R, Story of Ricky violent. It's a bit like the Itchy & Scratchy Show except the Itchy & Scratchy Show was more of a satire on the violence of cartoons like Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry. The difference is that Happy Tree Friends doesn't seem to be trying to comment on anything else; it really is just based on the concept of taking cute things and doing terrible stuff to them. In effect, it's Looney Toons all over again, but this time with less creativity and devoid of any whiff of tact. So, if you're the type of person who finds the same gag being run repeatedly into the ground over and over forever until armageddon funny, you'll enjoy it. If you prefer things that aren't shit, you won't.
Happy Tree Friends, like Foamy, began and is comfortable in remaining well outside of the realm of cleverness. Therefore, it has the potential to go on eternally, as it's simply not all that difficult to come up with new acts of violence to inflict on the characters from episode to episode. When you don't have to be funny and you don't really have to get any deeper with your characters beyond "when the rabbit gets squashed it makes this kind of splat sound," you don't exactly have to worry about your show jumping the shark; the shark already graphically maimed it in the very first episode. I would also like to add that apparently there's a Fall Out Boy music video, which is simply an episode of the show. I think that speaks for itself.
The one positive I can give Happy Tree Friends is that unlike, well, pretty much everything else on this list, it actually comes off as pretty professionally animated and put together, but then that's likely because it's got enough money to have a full-fledged team behind it, which, if there was any justice in the world, it wouldn't have in the first place, so then it wouldn't exist as it is now, which is, like, a paradox and stuff, broham.
1. Homestar Runner
Except me, apparently.
Okay, let me clarify, I don't hate Homestar Runner. In fact, out of everything on this list, I like it the best. However, considering I find everything else on this list totally devoid of entertainment value, this isn't the most shining compliment. Homestar Runner's popularity is, for an invention of the Internet, so fucking rampant it makes my testicles ache in anguish to muse upon it. If you haven't heard of it, and you have, it's about a bunch of easily marketable characters that live in some place and do a bunch of nothing which is supposed to be funny. I suppose the main character was originally meant to be Homestar, but watching one of the other characters, Strong Bad, answer e-mails proved to be so popular that he was given center stage.
My issue with most of the entries on this list is I feel like I don't get what about them has proved so endearing to so many people (except I feel like I do get it with Foamy and Happy Tree Friends, I just think the people who like those are really stupid). This is my main problem with Homestar Runner. It's not terrible, but it's usually not very funny and there's very little in it that, to me anyway, qualifies as real comedy. It's just...stuff...happening that is somehow supposed to be charming or hilarious and to me it's just not. I just don't get it. I don't get why Homsar's nonsensical talking is supposed to make me laugh, I don't get why Strong Bad using the word "crap" all the time is meant to be funny, and I don't get why Homestar has no arms and a voice that makes me angry. I really just don't get why I've met multiple people (even people whose senses of humor I really respect) who rave about it, why I've seen Homestar bumper stickers on cars, why I saw an episode of Strong Bad's E-mails played on a massive stadium screen during the intermission at a concert, and why I can buy (or even rent on Netflix) DVDs of a flash cartoon - every episode of which I can watch FOR FREE ONLINE - of an imaginary lucha wrestler sitting in front of his computer grumbling supposedly clever musings. It's like The Howard Stern Show. Or comic books. I just. Don't. Fucking. Get it. And it pisses me off.
Most of the time, I feel like this series relies on its own brand of supposed comedy that you either buy into or you don't and since I don't, it comes off as lazy and unimaginative to me. I mean, honestly, just as one example, is it really necessary for there to be THREE characters (Homsar, the Drive-Thru Whale, Senor Cardgage) who only talk in a "haha, everything they say is completely inane gibberish" style? Still, I'll admit, I've seen some Homestar Runner I've actually enjoyed. I think Lil' Brudder is funny and I like that one e-mail where Strong Bad explains how to make a techno song. I even played through every episode of Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People because a friend owned them all and because I'm a point-and-click adventure game junkie (arguably far less destructive than being a smack junkie, but also far less likely to get you girls). But the games were like the flash animations: mostly sub-par, maybe chuckleworthy here and there, very, very rarely laugh out loud funny. So this is exactly what I'm saying. Just like Saturday Night Live, I feel like Homestar Runner is funny about maybe once every decade, so, just like Saturday Night Live, I'm not going to watch it just so that I can laugh once every decade, when I can just pop in a DVD of Arrested Development and find something funny in every episode.
Or as I like to call him "Trogdor - The Only A Little Bit Funny Thing"
Something else that bugs me about Homestar Runner is that, like the majority of that which is Internet-birthed, it has a distinctly unprofessional feel to it. Believe me, I'm not always a stickler for professionalism (everything on this website can attest to this). I mean, I like South Park, after all. There's just something about this that, to me at least, always makes it feel like it has no business progressing anywhere outside of the Internet. I think the voice acting has a lot to do with it considering that literally every single character is voiced by the same guy with the exception of the one female character who, compared against legitimate voice actors, is a total joke herself. I mean, just listen to Strong Mad. He sounds like your friend doing a stupid gargly voice while drunk at a bar. With South Park, even though voiced almost entirely by three people, at least all of the main characters (of which there are many) still manage to sound unique and rarely like the same person, but this time talking out of the back of his throat.
I'm getting a bit petty here (but why stop now?) but I also find the "charm" of these characters irritating. The bright colors, the silly voices, the simplistic drawings - it all has an air of being deliberately engineered to be a profitable success. It just feels like something that you're supposed to like because of the vibe of the thing with the content itself being of little relevance, which is perhaps getting to the root of the popularity, but still doesn't fully explain why it's so goddamned popular.
I'll admit I think the guys behind Homestar Runner are actually really clever on rare occasions and I clearly share with them a love for old-school adventure gaming, but, I'm sorry, I can't truly enjoy their creation. I've tried, I really have, but I just don't get it. Or maybe there's nothing to get. And you're all wrong. And I'm right. Yes, that sounds accurate.
See you next time, Internet. Nah, just kidding. I know you got better websites to visit.