Brad Troemel on Real entertainment, communal annoyance, and the meme celebrity behind them.

Everyone has seen a Tsimfuckis video. When conversation dulled at a friend’s house one night, someone next to you picked up the laptop, paused iTunes and showed you one of his videos. As anticipated, lulz ensued. Or possibly horror. Or sympathy. Probably not empathy. Something happened, though. Waking the next morning alone in a Pabst-smeared haze, unsure of whether what you viewed the night before was what it had played itself out to be, you reached for your Macbook and Googled your best to recreate the magic. Maybe you texted the person who was next to you for searchable clues, but eventually you found him again. Then you saw the numbers below– the millions upon millions of views and comments. What were we all looking for in Tsimfuckis anyway?

Probably the same thing he was looking for. Like us, Justin Tsimbidis, aka Tsimfuckis, aka Tsimbigis, aka Chickenlittl3, of Corona, New York, has watched a lot of MTV and YouTube videos. The most surreptitious aspect of popular media is that it rarely gives us answers to our lives’ conundrums, though it often structures our expectations for how things should be. Having been trapped in a feedback loop since 1992, the Real World my generation lives in is one sleekly portrayed as more honest than the generation before it. This time, the party’s invite CC’ed every minority identity under the sun– and despite being snubbed for the past century of mass media, they all showed up in person! It was definitely good fun, everyone there was amplified on Red Bull, clarified on Proactiv and terrified when hang gliding in Tijuana. We all hung out for days on end, high on the thrill of just seeing one another for the first time. Eventually Pedro and Coral and Ruthie became our new gay, black, and drug-addicted friends, respectively. But something was missing.

The Real became an itch we just couldn’t scratch, so we dug even deeper. A cottage industry was dedicated to the pursuit of finding it. Every night we became friends with even more locked up prisoners, hoarders, and canned air huffers. We stopped being polite, but somehow things felt even less satisfying. For each new friend we made a void was created. The edited display of popular media defined our anticipations for how to treat its subjects. Watching good Southern guys and bad girls clubs weren’t subterranean explorations so much as they were polished presentations. With every quick cut and planned musical accompaniment we were given a cheat sheet for how to feel and afterwards we felt bad for getting an A.

The larger (though related) problem was that we knew all along it wasn’t Real– no surprise there, we’ve been suspending our disbelief for decades now. Not because our new best friends were too talented or pretty, but simply because they were too interesting. Reality is really, really boring. You, reading this in your surplus of time, are or were likely bored. I too am boring, though have the advantage of editing what I say to you in a punchy, direct manner. What is Real about Youtube is that –for the grand majority– it sucks. We have become so fickle in our understanding of reality relative to entertainment that anything too watchable mustn’t be true. This pairing of viewed enjoyment conflated with falseness makes us loathe ourselves for indulging our own attention spans. Irony is helpful in that it bridges the gap between what we hate and what we enjoy, allowing its practitioners brief immunity from a pursuit of what is Real, but it doesn’t resolve the question altogether so much as it puts the question off to be answered another day, or by another person.

Tsimfuckis’ videos hit a sweet spot in our understanding of Real entertainment because he was able to introduce us to a new type of tweenage friend (the kind that has Progeria) and a form of content we know as objective (the boring kind). This second part cemented Tsimfuckis’ role as a Real person and meme celebrity– the relentless monotony inherent in his own process of making and any viewer’s process of watching his videos. For proof of this claim, I’d recommend readers watch all of Tsimfuckis – Fight with a Pillow, a video of 350,000+ views wherein he performs WWE-style wrestling moves on a New York Yankees pillow on top of his bed in complete silence for a total of two minutes and twenty five seconds before giving the pillow a 3 count and yelling his own name in victory before turning the camera off. One gets the sense that the pillow battle was the final stop in a search for possible video options, an event created for the sake of creation alone. An unintentional masterpiece of our generation, Fight with a Pillow’s aimless rivalry (man versus pillow) perfectly mirrors Tsimfuckis’s own viewers’ circular quarrels with one another regarding the proper moral tone to address a person stricken with Progeria. The comment threads below Tsimfuckis’s videos reveal an audience stripped of their reactionary instructions, left to their own devices to sort through how to respond to a young person with a life-threatening disease camwhoring. Once the dichotomy of ‘moral fagging’ (shaming others on the basis of popular morality) versus hateful trolling (making fun of a kid with Progeria) was established through a load of sympathy videos and prank commentary, clever trolls secretly switched their position to being overzealous moral fags in an attempt to bait the angered response of lesser trolls. Throughout this process of trolls trolling trolls, Tsimfuckis himself faded into the background and his videos became a stadium for the athletic pursuit of communal annoyance. The snake began nibbling on itself, and for a few moments everyone was able to stave off the hunger pangs of boredom.

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