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Davis, California

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Doing the Harlem Shake

From cultural phenomena to unbelievable annoyance in a matter of days, most viral videos seem to suffer the same sudden and irreversible demise. A video is posted with an easy to follow formula — it’s hot, it’s new and then, suddenly, there are hundreds upon hundreds of versions and responses. For a time, the formula is embraced, the videos are modified and made extraordinary … and just as swiftly, the magic is gone. Parodies of “Call Me Maybe” and “Gangnam Style,” once so popular, now reside in Youtube purgatory. Internet fads are short-lived, and accruing likes or views is entirely dependent on the hour or minute in which the video is posted. What is cool one moment is dead the next.

The latest fad to make waves online were dances done to Baauer’s “Harlem Shake.” The craze lived a life of just two weeks before being considered majorly overdone, but before that time, many residents of Davis were able to create and submit their own versions of the video.

Each video begins with a masked individual dancing alone in a group of apathetic bystanders before suddenly cutting to a wild dance party featuring the whole group. As the fad grew, so did the quality and creativity of the videos, with some groups utilizing outrageous costumes, entire crowds of people, outlandish props and strange dancing patterns.

The UC Davis Law School’s rendition of the Harlem Shake was especially bizarre. Michael Murza, a third-year UC Davis Law School student and creator of “Harlem Shake (Law School Edition),” pointed out the girl using her dachshund as a fake gun and someone else lying on a table in a sleeping bag.

“The idea behind Harlem Shake is so simple. There are little variations in the crazy things that people can do, but to a certain degree, you can only do so much. We tried to be a little more unique with having Professor Tanaka lecturing in the beginning of the video,” Murza said.

The video currently has over 50,000 views, due in part to the narrow time window that Murza was able to exploit.

“We were the second law school to post a rendition, and we were only behind the first by an hour,” he said. “By the end of that same night, however, there were five or six more law school Harlem Shake videos out there. Because we were in the top three, we were featured on the Above the Law website, which was really a cool thing to see.”

Timing is everything with this type of viral video, a fact that UC Davis graduate and intramural sports customer service coordinator Greg Fulks found when making the UC Davis Athletics Harlem Shake video.

“We were all planning it a week before we filmed, but I started to feel that the Harlem Shake was getting old. We were thinking of rescheduling for later, but because everyone had already done it, we knew that we had to make it as fast as possible,” Fulks said.

The video, which features athletes from many of the UC Davis sports teams fist pumping, grinding and running in various stages of undress, contains an alternate ending in reference to the awareness that the fad was dying. UC Davis mascot Gunrock kicks a dancer offscreen and stops the video as the words “Gunrock kills the Harlem Shake” appear onscreen, as a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement to the end of the trend.

Even though it was released a matter of days following the first incarnation of the video, Fulks went on to explain why the fad went out of style so quickly.

“If you hear a song on repeat for a long time, no matter what, you’re going to get sick of it. It’s human nature. It’s just like popular songs, after hearing it over and over, you’re not going to want to hear it anymore,” Fulks said.

While Fulks was late to creating the viral video, he’s prepared for the next round of internet phenomena.

“I’m waiting for the next big thing. We have an [online group with all the participating athletes] already going, so as soon as another video comes up, I’ll just send a message to everyone asking if they want to do another one. We had a lot of fun [making the Harlem Shake].”

While both Fulks and Murza said that the best part of the process was getting together and doing something silly with colleagues and friends, others see viral videos as a means of competition.

Alex Krasnoff, a fourth-year food science and technology major, decided on a whim to make a Harlem Shake video with the rest of his staff one Sunday shift in the ASUCD Coffee House Kitchen. The spontaneous endeavor turned into a face-off between the CoHo out front staff and kitchen staff, who have always had a friendly rivalry.

“[The video] became a rivalry point because the kitchen staff liked it a lot, but the out front staff thought they could do better, so they planned for a week and made their own to spite ours,” Krasnoff said. “They say that it’s more popular, but I don’t know where they get their stats from—last time I checked we had twice as many likes on the CoHo page.”

There is a long standing practice of one-upping other schools and groups through viral videos. Last year, the UC Davis baseball team released a video of a bus-dancing routine set to LFMAO’s “I’m Sexy and I Know It” in response to the Harvard men’s rowing team’s video bus dance to “Call Me Maybe.” Earlier this year, the UC Davis Dining Commons produced a video to the then-viral “Gangnam Style,” in an effort to throw its hat into the ring.

What high-profile viral video competitions lie ahead? In response to San Diego State’s men’s basketball team’s video “Montezuma’s 55th,” the UC Davis men’s basketball team recently shot and is planning on releasing their own, similar video with the hope of it going viral.

Kristine Craig, a first-year economics and political science double major and UC Davis Dance Team member, expressed excitement for the video’s release.

“I think it will definitely be more popular than State’s video,” she said. “It has the potential to go viral because it is a direct response to their video.”

The UC Davis men’s basketball video airs on March 7 to coincide with the ESPN televised game against Long Beach to stir up excitement and fan support for the team.

“It’s encompassing school spirit and showing that we have a lot of pride. There’s Band-Uh!, Aggie Pack, Cheer and the dance team, all behind the basketball team in the video, so we are featuring different types of student life. I’m really excited for it to come out.”

Whether for notoriety, view count or to express dominance, competitive or recreational remakes of viral videos is a trend that doesn’t seem to be dying out fast, even if the specific crazes themselves do.

“There are new memes coming out all the time, and most of them are dead within a week,” Murza said. “Everyone that I talked to about the Harlem Shake said it was so much fun to participate in, and we got nothing but positive feedback. So yes, I’d definitely participate in making another video.”

HANNAH KRAMER can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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