Friday, November 9, 2012

Cultural History Through That Dancing He-Man Video

GameSpot is a gaming website with varying degrees of journalistic integrity. But they're one of the oldest game sites still in operation, and was doing video reviews before basically anyone else.

As part of my recent love affair with Deadly Premonition and its goofy creator Swery65, I watched a GameSpot video review of Swery's unremarkable 2001 survival-horror game Extermination. And then it hit me: "I'm watching an internet video that's over a decade old."

There are children old enough to read GameSpot who are younger than that video review. The internet's been around for a while now, eh? The great thing (and horrible thing) about the internet is... it's there forever.

We learn a lot through the layers of modern history we find in random places on the internet. Let's take a gander at the timeline of one of the internet's greatest classics: That Dancing He-Man Video, officially known as "HEYYEYAAEYAAAEYAEYAA":

What events led to this video with 26 million views? History layers itself.
  • 1982: He-Man is spawned with the creation of the Masters of the Universe media franchise. It's a super cheesy show aimed at prepubescent boys of the era.
  • 1993: Insignificant one-hit-wonder rock band 4 Non Blondes releases their only popular single, "What's Up?"
  • 2005: Prior to the ubiquity of YouTube, animation studio Slackcircus re-edits clips of Masters of the Universe to the tune of a dance-music version of the 4 Non Blondes song, and uploads the video to the Something Awful forums under the title "Fabulous Secret Powers." You can see the original video (now on YouTube) here.
  • 2010: YouTube user ProtoOfSnagem condenses Slackcircus' original video to its essential core song, and uploads it to the now-popular YouTube site under the fitting title "HEYYEYAAEYAAAEYAEYAA." Nothing in the video's description tells you anything about the video or its source, other than "please note I do not own this video."
Today, ProtoOfSnagem's verison of the video has 26.2 million views. If you search "He-Man" on YouTube, the first result is the He-Man opening theme. The second result is "HEYYEYAAEYAAAEYAEYAA."

4 Non Blondes' original music video for "What's Up?" was finally uploaded to YouTube in 2011, and while the song was mildly popular in the '90s, I can't help but think it was put on YouTube specifically because of the He-Man video. The music video currently has 10.2 million views on YouTube, and the majority of the video's comments relate to He-Man.

The dancing He-Man video has distinct markings of the time it was made--low resolution video, rudimentary editing techniques, and references to AOL Instant Messenger that today's youth probably don't understand.

In conclusion, an inconsequential alt-rock song from the 1990s is popular today because of a video of He-Man dancing. If we're seeing such evolution of the internet after only a few short decades of existence, it'll be fun to see where we are in a few more decades.

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