How did this monstrosity get made? Find out in a new book.
"If you met a hatchet-wielding hitchhiker in real life, would you laugh, or would you cross the street?
'It’s important to realize how the funniness in these videos is really close to something that’s desperately unfunny,' says Mark O’Connell, who wrote Epic Fail: Bad Art, Viral Fame, and the History of the Worst Thing Ever.
He thinks of Ruslan Tsarni, the uncle of the alleged Boston bombers, who became affectionately known as Uncle Ruslan by the collective public, and who was widely memed for calling his nephews ‘losers.’
'This is a guy who is undergoing an incredibly traumatic experience, and then he becomes this ironic folk hero,' O’Connell says. 'It’s really weird.'”
Kai the Hatchet-Wielding Hitchhiker: Why did we love him? by Monica Hesse
Epic Fail Aces Its Lulz Studies
"While others … have explored the more serious contexts of online humor, particularly when it tilts into the grim and mean, in Epic Fail [Mark] O’Connell makes a useful addition to what I’ll refer to as Lulz Studies by attempting to put this variety of Schadenfreude in cultural-historical perspective.”
"If you’re looking for a link to this GIF, you won’t find it here. That’s because, mid-laugh, I considered this [person] as an actual human being, moving through the world somewhere, possibly embarrassed that documentation of [their] genuine enjoyment had been repurposed into a nutty-looking punch line. I felt clammy."
- When laughing at an epic fail is no laughing matter by Rob Walker
Sometimes contemporary culture, Internet culture particularly, seems like a kind of Mexican standoff of weaponized irony.
"In this expertly researched, wonderfully witty essay, O’Connell explains why we enjoy watching the spectacular artistic failures of others. The culture of the epic fail is a culture of "sublimated predation," he writes. It’s a concept well understood by great artists, including Shakespeare, but understood little by its unfortunate victims, who often remain convinced of their creative genius even in the face of mass ridicule.” The San Francisco Chronicle on our own Mark O’Connell’s Epic Fail.