Heard about the Mannequin Challenge? It’s the fad du jour that, we hope, will be permanently gone by the end of the month.
With the hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd (that’s Ear Drummers spelled backward) song “Black Beatles” playing in the background, people stand as still as possible while they’re filmed in various positions. It’s that simple. And the more people standing motionless, frozen in time like a paused DVD, the merrier.
Fad followers will someday recoil at their own enthusiasm for the inane.
Twitter indicates the idea started with a random video from Edward H. White High School in Jacksonville, Florida. The fad has since swept the country through social media, and the song has topped the hip-hop charts. “Black Beatles” has sold more than 120,000 downloads and been streamed more than 35 million times, according to Billboard.
Hillary Clinton, Jon Bon Jovi, and Huma Abedin were mannequins on a campaign plane. Kristen Wiig and the SNL cast also accepted the “challenge”— which actually isn’t one because it’s not a contest and nobody wins. The Chicago Bears froze during football practice, and Adele halted during rehearsal. A reunited Destiny’s Child gave it their best immobile effort. Tim Tebow was spotting doing it on the SEC Network. Actual Beatle Paul McCartney had his own unmoving rendition, too.
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A fad — a short-lived, senseless passion for something, no matter how dangerous or silly — often causes people to lose their minds as they rush to join the craze. Crazy it gets, too. Drinking hand sanitizer and setting oneself on fire were recent fads among teens, as mind-boggling as that seems. And though Mannequin Challenge itself isn’t physically dangerous, it’s still unsafe.
Why? Well, has anyone ever wondered why they’re doing what they’re doing?
Whether it’s standing still to “Black Beatles” or eating a large spoonful of cinnamon, has anyone really analyzed what it all means, besides momentary “fun”? Or how, five years from now, they’ll look back at the very same videos they’re applauding today and wince? Just as people cringe at leisure suits, fad followers will someday recoil at their own enthusiasm for the inane.
Beyond the fact no one really understands the Mannequin Challenge’s point — apart from numbing people’s minds in a fractured world that’s always looking for the next best drug-like hit of distraction — there’s the fact that the song “Black Beatles” is, in a word, vile. It’s treated as a backdrop, but its lyrics should cause scandal among the same people who (rightfully) called out President-Elect Trump for his decade-old talk about women.
But there is no outrage. No one even notices or cares. That’s because it’s a fine and positive thing to promote misogyny, filth, drugs, and sexually explicit and denigrating lyrics in rap and hip-hop. “Black Beatles” promotes cocaine, marijuana, alcohol, and damaging names for women and prostitutes as if this was all the norm. And perhaps it was for the Tupelo, Mississippi, hip-hop group and the rap industry in general. Jay Z and Beyoncé have never shied away from filth and inappropriateness, either.
Rapper Bubba Sparxxx once said rap and hip-hop serve as a setting to tell a story, “to tell people about our lives and what we’ve seen.” Apparently, Rae Sremmurd has seen a lot of schlock and writes about it for listeners who don’t understand or care to evaluate the nonsense they’re admiring. Or, if they do, they dismiss their consciences in favor of looking fun and trendy to other bandwagon riders. After all, the powerful opiate of amusement helps people get by.
If Hans Christian Andersen wrote about our pop culture today, he’d have two lifetimes of fresh material. Few people seem willing to state just how foolish, and even disgusting, many fads are. Instead, they pat participants on the back, smiling about how awesome it all is and uploading videos to YouTube in hopes of fame. But, like Andersen’s naked emperor, many fad chasers are clueless, with no one admonishing them as they rush to the next big stupid or even damaging thing.