Is it impossible to create a really good story that hinges on something that happens online? Or is the internet so diverse and such an individual experience that it is fundamentally undramatic?
This chap here seems to have found himself an interesting niche in the world of media and entertainment. He appears to be a multimedia story teller who specialises in delivering semi-apocalyptic stories about the internet, presumably for a peer group of internet-fascinati.
He’s got an interesting approach, and his technique is obviously pretty well practiced. As you see at the beginning, he has to time his patter exactly right, as he is narrating over a video. So well done. Lovely hair too.
The story in a nutshell in case you can’t be bothered to click the link (SPOILER ALERT) goes roughly…girl uploads video of herself singing bad song badly, ex-boyfriend posts her address to get revenge, DJ remixes video to terrible Euro-Beat rhythm, becomes ironicall popular, lots of people turn up at here house, then somehow there’s a riot and lots of people die.
Given that he could have constructed absolutely any scenario in which something unexpected and violent happens as a result of the changing nature of the internet, don’t you think he could have come up with a story that was a little bit more interesting?
But in fairness to the storyteller, his choice of narrative seems to reflect roughly where we are in terms of our collective imagination about the narrative potential of the world of social video.
Apparently 24 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute apparently – but once you get past a few undeniable highlights like the one where a panda sneezes, it does seem like the main thing people upload is, indeed, footage of themselves singing bad songs badly, in the hope of being the new Susan Boyle. In reality, it seems pretty unlikely that any of this material is likely to spawn a fascinating chain of events.
There have been a few attempts to make interaction with the internet a dramatic device (just focusing on movies for a second, there was definitely a bit in Mission Impossible where they googled something, and teen music comedy The Rocker which centres on the overnight fame generated by a drummer practising in the nude) – but overall the internet seems to fail as a dramatic device.
It certainly suffers by comparison to some other seismic media revolutions of the past – say, for example, the advent of the humble letter. Letters going astray is one of Shakespeare’s favourite devices (alongside the prevalence of twins), and you could say that the enture existence of the modern novel is based on the dramatic possibilities of letter-writing, with some of the earliest novels like Clarissa and Les Liasons Dangereuses being entirely epistolary (try saying that after a hard day’s work and a couple of ciders.)
Is the internet just fundamentally undramatic? Is it too democratic, too open, and too personal to really work as a narrative device? Or have we just not thought of any good ideas yet?
I suspect the former – that usage of the internet is just fundamentally undramatic. It suffers, for example, by comparison with the phone. I have already lost count of the number of Eastenders storylines that have hinged on someone leaving their phone in their car and thus failing to receive some important information and as a result end up in an East End back alley having their legs broken due to some ill-deserved aggro. Following in the epistolary tradition, the real life soap opera that is the lives of footballers often seems to hinge on the newly invented medium of the ‘sex text’. And it’s even not too unsuccessful to see James Bond using his trusty Sony Ericsson to avoid danger (though here is a brilliant spoof on how silly it all is really). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQC8BeSjmyQ
So maybe I have answered my own question. Maybe, like many developing countries of the world, storytellers are simple going to have to skip the internet, and go straight to mobile.
And so we’re probably never going to have an action movie in which the hero has to disable a nuclear device on countdown but is held back from accessing the appropriate VideoJug clip by slow buffering from an unreliable wireless broadband connection.