Our fast-paced, Internet-connected society sure loves its memes — until it doesn’t. Do you see many people “Tebowing” anymore? How about listening to Rebecca Black’s “Friday”? And that’s only counting memes that’ve come up in the past 12 months; don’t get us started about the last time somebody said that all our base are belong to them.
Sadly, we may be seeing the beginning of the end with “Gangnam Style.”
Arguably the highest-profile meme of the past two months, this compulsively watchable rap video by South Korean singer PSY has now had more than 300 million views on YouTube and has spawned a mass of imitators, all trying to do PSY’s signature ‘invisible horse dance.’ It’s an awkward yet lovable move that by now we’ve all shamelessly attempted, whether in public or in the privacy of our own living rooms.
And therein lies the problem. Part of the fun in any Internet meme is its geeky exclusivity: once it enters the mainstream and the so-called “uncool” people get a hold of it — the mall moms, the frat bros, your little sister, etc. — that’s when a meme begins to die.
So the image of Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt dancing to “Gangnam Style” should strike fear into the hearts of meme lovers everywhere. While visiting Google’s Seoul office – incidentally, in the heart of the Gangnam district PSY mercilessly mocks in his song – the Internet executive and the Korean rap star got together during a photo op with several Google employees to do the “invisible horse dance.” Sure Schmidt is a strategic genius behind the world’s most important Internet company, but he also dresses like your dad. So the minute the lanky 57-year-old software engineer busted a move, we fear, “Gangnam Style” jumped the shark.
The moment was first broadcast to the world in a tweet from Hankyung journalist Kim Kwang-hyun:
에릭 슈미트 구글 회장이 오늘 오후 구글코리아 본사에서 싸이를 만나 강남스타일 말춤 강습을 받았습니다. 사진 베리굿! http://t.co/uxHu8Nvh—
광파리_IT 이야기 (@kwang82) September 27, 2012
But today, where there’s a phone, there’s a video camera, and it wasn’t long before moving images hit YouTube. While PSY still rides that invisible horse like it’s his first time at the head of the parade, Schmidt’s halfhearted horse-stomps are just cringeworthy. It’s the same reason why you’d never want to see your dad planking on top of the family car or your uncle talking about wanting to become a Brony.
The moment was surely one of joy for PSY – after all, he wouldn’t be the phenomenon he is today without YouTube, which is owned by Google. With more than 300 million views in the two months since it was first posted, the clip already has more views than the viral hit of the spring, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”
Maybe it’s time to start cueing up Jepsen’s song again, though, because we’re calling “Gangnam Style” officially over.