Spotlight On – FAIL

May 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

(Originally posted January 21 2011; original title “I agree, r34, but would also add that if something exists, there is FAIL of it “)

cheese get down from that cats head you are not a hat youre not even fabricCHEESE GET DOWN FROM THAT CATS HEAD YOURE NOT A HAT YOURE NOT EVEN FABRIC

There are many rules of the Internet, or so I am told. There are rules about what you should do (apparently one must post pictures or forfeit the privilege of telling whatever story), and rules about what you absolutely under no circumstance should ever THINK about doing (something about not talking about bees? seems oddly specific, but whatever). Most importantly to this post, there are rules about failure. For example, the harder you try, the harder you will fail (r15). However if you fail epically enough, you might end up winning (r16). But you mustn’t get complacent, because every win (even a winning failure) will fail eventually (r17). So enjoy your fail/win, you failure (winner).

Failing at winning, and therefore winning due to excessive fail, has become something of an online staple. See Failblog, a website which collates epic moments of failure, and/orRegretsy, a take on the more horrifying finds on Etsy (including this lovely Human Centipede cat toy), and/or the seven million image results which pop up which you enter the search term “fail.” The trend has jumped that shark all the way to network television — Every week on Tosh.0, America’s favorite TV-troll features a touching “web redemption” in which the victim/perpetrator of a notorious fail is given a chance to redeem him/herself — which is both a win (i.e. proof of infamy) and total fail (because the person in question usually just ends up embarrassing himself, making his fail even fail-ier). For example, while touting the printing-capabilities of some crappy digital camera/printer set, a host on the Home Shopping Network Host whipped out a 15×20 inch picture of a moth. “This is a big horse,” he said, stroking its outline. “LOOK AT THAT HORSE…the bushy tail, the big teeth. The hooves.” After a pause, the host calmly explained that, per his producer, the picture is of a butterfly and not a horse. Although, “actually it may be a moth.” The video of this incident ended up online and “became a virus,” as we say in the business, which was subsequently featured on Season 2 of the Tosh.0. Unfortunately for the host (but fortunately for the viewers), this slice of web culture was hardly redeemed — the host insisted he’d made the mistake on purpose, making what could have been a fail/win a straight-up fail/fail (and therefore win?). Who cares, really — the important thing was that somebody screwed up, and we all got to see. Sounds like a win in my book!

But seriously, folks, the question remains — what is so hilarious about the failure of others? And why would failure as a general concept become a meme, and sometimes/subsequent synonym with win? The emotional and physical distance afforded by the Internet probably has something to do with it — we laugh because it’s not us, and because we don’t have to deal with the consequences. But it seems to go further than that; failure as understood (and appreciated) on the Internet is as much an aesthetic as anything. It signals inclusion in the “we” of online meme culture, and nods towards trolling humor and LOLcat stuff and Reddit-type viral whatever and, generally speaking, actually does something. Why “failure” is so attractive, then, isn’t nearly as simple as it might seem — it situates people, and in that sense functions as a linguistic and social buttress. In conclusion: failure is not just for failing anymore. It also builds things.


and/or fail

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