As I get older and the responsibilities that come with age become heavier, I find myself unable to keep up with many of the viral sensations that seem to pop up on the internet almost all the time these days. I only became aware of PSY’s “Gangnam Style” after it had surpassed over a billion views, thereby making it newsworthy enough to make it onto the news I read. Those pictures with the Impact font glazed over them that pop up on people’s Facebook pages daily? I didn’t know that was a thing until a few months back (at which time, I started making my own):
This cycle began again when the “Harlem Shake” videos began to skyrocket in popularity around February of this year. If you, like me, spend most of your existence either A) under a rock, or B) filling your life with stuff that actually matters, here’s what a typical Harlem Shake video looks like, courtesy of the Miami Heat:
Obviously, these videos have become a cultural phenomenon, with everyone from celebrities to regular people uploading them worldwide. For me though, just as it had been with a host of other memes before it, I didn’t get on the bandwagon until what is apparently the tail end of a meme’s life cycle: A month after it became popular, when apparently everyone is now totally sick of it.
The most comical of the Harlem Shake haters are people who are actually from Harlem. Most of them don’t appreciate this comical dalliance supplanting the legacy of the actual Harlem Shake, a dance that originated in the New York neighborhood in 1981 by a guy named Al B. It became a phenomenon of its own in 2001 after P.Diddy and G-Dep prominently displayed it in this video:
For those of you that still remember this, most of us recall this video as being amazing. Not because of the dance, but mostly because it was kids doing it. However, place this same dance in the hands of grown men:
And the question becomes:
“Who are those gay dudes, and why hasn’t anyone put a spoon in their mouths to make sure they don’t swallow their tongues?”
See, the real Harlem Shake is just like so many of those ridiculous dance crazes that come and go, like the Dougie or that ridiculous Soulja Boy Dance. When done incorrectly, there is at least a 70 percent chance that you will break a rib or get hip dysplasia. And when done perfectly, you almost always look like a gay seizure victim.
Harlemites should be remember the fad that swept the nation as a nice moment in the sun, and not get up in arms over a silly and harmless internet craze. For a while, this historic New York neighborhood got the chance to do what so many other states have done in the years since the real Harlem Shake was on the national stage: Make rhythmically challenged people look like idiots.
And, in the end, isn’t that what a dance craze is all about?