THE worldwide popularity of viral videos of people hurting themselves could have been predicted by anyone who witnessed the mass adoration of You’ve Been Framed when it first aired in 1990.
Back then, the show had a lot of things going for it. The internet didn’t exist; there were only four TV channels to choose from, a suave and handsome host could not be found so Jeremy Beadle stepped into the breach.
Most of all, however, what You’ve Been Framed had was a condensed vision of the integral element of a viral video hit — comeuppance. Or as my father used to put it, “That f**king eejit deserved that.”
When the laughter had subsided the entire family agreed. The man attempting to do a back flip off a flimsy plastic garden chair just like the teenager teasing the monkey who would eventually punch him in the face, had it coming.
The nation’s appetite for seeing people get what is coming to them is so great that today’s entertainment revolves around the idea in itself. It is as much fun watching the eejit get booted up the arse as it is to watch the moments before the arrival of the kick in the arse.
We watch Cops, Police Camera Action and Border Control to see criminals try to run from their kick in the arse. We watch Judge Judy, X Factor (the early rounds) and Grand Designs to see the truly deluded being told once and for all that they need a good kick in the arse.
We watch The Kardashians, The Valleys and The Only Way Is Essex in disbelief and hope that someday these people will get at least one kick in the arse.
The news, the weather, soap storylines and even kids TV usually revolve around the notion that justice will be served to those that deserve it. But there’s something not quite right about it at the moment.
It feels like a tipping point has been reached where people don’t want to prevent terrible things from happening; they would prefer to enjoy the footage and retrospectively justify the behaviour.
Maybe it’s the parent in me talking but at this stage of my life I’d prefer to watch viral videos of dads catching their toddlers before they fall down the stairs.
A recently uploaded YouTube video of a teenager being surprised by a kick in the head from a passing train caused a storm online because viewers simply could not decide if the youngster deserved the boot in the face or not. As is always the case with online clips, the details behind it are slightly sketchy.
The teenager appears to be taking an innocent video of himself standing with his back to a train line while a slow moving cargo train trundles by in the background. The driver of the train’s steal toed boot appears from nowhere and strikes/clobbers the teenager quite slowly but forcefully in the jaw.
A normal person would assume from this description that the train driver made a reckless decision and took an even more reckless action but much of the online reaction to the video has hailed him as some kind of hero.
Many have said that the boy was standing too close to the train and the driver was forced into the evasive action in a bid to save his life. Even a cursory view of the clip will tell you that this is plainly ridiculous.
The public’s attitude to see kicks in the arse doled out is so veracious that many would prefer them to have a more devastating impact.
The hunger is so insatiable, perhaps as a result of most of us taking kicks in the arse on a daily basis from our wives, employers, colleagues and the Government that many of us will clutch at straws to justify taking enjoyment from seeing someone else suffer.
It would seem that the main reason this kid had it coming was because he was posing for a ‘selfie’ and most us are sick to the teeth of selfies and the vanity that comes with them.
Even 25 years ago, when I watched You’ve Been Framed with my family there was a limit. It was the clip where someone suffered some actual physical harm.
It was the moment my Dad would say, “Ah here, now that’s not even funny. They shouldn’t be showing that.”
At the moment there is only a ‘like’ and ‘dislike’ button under YouTube videos. Maybe 25 years from now there will be an “Ah here, now that’s not even funny” button too.
Jarlath Regan is the man behind the acclaimed An Irishman Abroad podcast. Download it from iTunes now