BOB GARFIELD: A week after Miley Cyrus’ August 25th performance at the MTV Video Music Awards introduced a large swath of America to a dance move called twerking, a video appeared on YouTube called "Worst Twerk Fail EVER.” A 20-something woman named Caitlin Heller, making a self-described sexy twerk video for her boyfriend, is dancing upside down against her apartment’s front door, when her roommate opens the door, sending Heller through a glass table with candles on it. The video ends abruptly with the hapless twerker’s leg on fire.
Within a week, this masterpiece had racked up over 9 million views and became fodder for the most banal type of 24-hour news cycle filler.
CORRESPONDENT: The girl in this video was trying to make a sexy twerk video for her boyfriend.
CORRESPONDENT: Check out this twerker: “Girl on Fire.”
CORRESPONDENT: Watch how a twerking girl literally sets herself on fire!
BOB GARFIELD: On Monday of this week, Heller appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
JIMMY KIMMEL: And I’m – I’ll get straight to the question everyone wants answered: How are your yoga pants?
BOB GARFIELD: And she came with the director’s cut of the
"Worst Twerk Fail EVER.” The video begins the same way, with Heller crashing through the table, catching fire and screaming –
But suddenly, through the front door rushes Jimmy Kimmel, himself. Brandishing a fire extinguisher, he puts out the blaze.
CAITLIN HELLER: Thanks, Jimmy Kimmel.
JIMMY KIMMEL: All part of the job, ma’am.
[SOUND UP AND UNDER]
BOB GARFIELD: The video was a fake. The danger was fake. Even Heller was fake. Caitlin Heller is, actually, Stuntwoman Daphne Avalon. Ordinarily, this kind of Internet meme story wouldn't be on our show, and that's why we've created TLDR, our brand-new podcast and blog, hosted by OTM producers Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt. As a sample of their wares, we offer this snippet. They’ve been arguing all week about whether the faked video is a good thing or a bad thing. Alex complained that he had a problem with the whole stunt.
ALEX GOLDMAN: Because I’ve empathized with this person. I saw her go through sort of an embarrassing terrible thing. I’ve certainly –
PJ VOGT: You saw her twerk upside down and fall over and get set on fire.
ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah, something that happens to me on the reg.
And part of what I find so great about the Internet is that it's a mode for connection with people you wouldn't have a connection with otherwise. People are constantly uploading videos and text and audio that’s sometimes really raw, both in terms of quality and in terms of emotion. Even though it’s kind of a silly thing, to find out that it’s fake makes me question everything I see on the Internet.
PJ VOGT: But in this particular case, I don't think the point of the video is actually to feel empathy for the lady who set her butt on fire. I think the point is to laugh at the lady who set her butt on fire, which is people's prerogative. But the fact that those people were tricked, I have no sympathy or empathy for them. They are a bunch of mean dummies, and they fell for a dumb pratfall. And Jimmy Kimmel and those idiots I think kind of deserve each other.
ALEX GOLDMAN: I think what makes it even more problematic is that there are veins of purity they get corrupted.
PJ VOGT: But even this week, where the Internet was aghast to find out that their twerk video was fake, there was that six-second clip that you sent me of the girl eating potato chips on Vine, who’s just adorable in a way that is totally impossible to fake.
GIRL: [CHEWING POTATO CHIPS]Hey, I want to be famous.
ALEX GOLDMAN: The problem is that I now approach a video like that with skepticism.
PJ VOGT: Really?
ALEX GOLDMAN: Yes!
PJ VOGT: Really?
ALEX GOLDMAN: The Twerk video might be an extreme example ‘cause the cascade of misfortune might seem a little - contrived.
PJ VOGT: Yes.
ALEX GOLDMAN: But the Internet that I grew up with, ‘cause I’m an old man, relative to you, was all text-based and it was all sort of stimulus-response to other people in live chat rooms. It was a bulletin board that I dialed up to, with a 2400 baud modem.
PJ VOGT: In the snow –
ALEX GOLDMAN: Yeah [LAUGHS], shut up!
PJ VOGT: 2 miles, uphill and no one told any lies.
ALEX GOLDMAN: I’m sure people were lying about their –
PJ VOGT: Age, sex, location.
ALEX GOLDMAN: - age, sex, location, right? But there was a connection there anyway.
PJ VOGT: Yeah.
ALEX GOLDMAN: When a corporation coopts a real human weird thing that happens – people injuring themselves, people crying, things that are meant to evoke a real emotion, it robs those moments of meaning a little bit.
PJ VOGT: Fair enough.
ALEX GOLDMAN: So, friends again?
PJ VOGT: Friends again.
BOB GARFIELD: Alex Goldman and PJ Vogt are producers of both On the Media and the brand-new TLDR. Go to onthemedia.org and click on the blog, download their audio and, generally, roll around in all things Internets.