I wake up angry every single day for no specific reason whatsoever, then I log onto Facebook and assign my aforementioned rage to whatever social issue everyone else is pretending to be mad about. I have a theory that, at any given time, there's only one person who honestly knows what's actually irritating them. The rest of us just wanna be part of something.
While I don't particularly enjoy how anger feels, over the years I've figured out how to turn my rage into indignation. Because, as I learned in liberal arts college, there's no more noble an undertaking than to act indignant on someone else's behalf. And this week, I got to act indignant about YACHT.
As many may have already read, some band named YACHT released a fake, promotional sex tape. The promotional effort succeeded, because I'd never heard of them until now. (That's not me being shitty; I am an unfamous comedian living in Portland, Oregon. I'm the last person who could insult someone for being unknown). The effort was not without consequences, though, and some folks were upset about the tape.
I initially understood the anger being expressed towards the band. I can see how manufacturing a dramatic sob story surrounding a fake sex tape is insensitive to those who've had similar experiences in real life. But when I thought about it, I wasn't entirely sure how to feel; because in order for this promotional hoax to evolve into a Whole Ordeal, several things had to go down:
1. YACHT confided to fans that their privacy had been breached and their sex tape had been released without their consent. In an effort to find a silver lining and monetize their great despair, the band made the video available for download saying, "…if you feel like you 100% have to see this tape, don't stream it on some tube site, or download a torrent. Instead, we beg of you to download the video, Louis C.K.-style, directly from us."
2. YACHT's alleged fans – whom at this point sincerely believed the couple to have had their sex life illicitly and amorally put online without their consent – downloaded the fucking tape anyways because people are, at best, curious pieces of shit. Here, I think it's important to cite an interview published by Vanity Fair in 2014 regarding Jennifer Lawrence, who actually faced a breach of sexual privacy when explicit images of her were leaked online. (Side note: Remember back in 2014 when that was the thing we were all kinda upset about for a while? My, how time flies and outrage is forgotten.)
Lawrence was quoted as saying, "Anybody who looked at those photos, you're perpetuating a sexual offense. You should cower with shame." If you agree with this sentiment, then it's important to note that, at this point, everyone who so much as attempted to watch YACHT's video knowingly and actively participated in a sexual offense. So, if you agree with Lawrence's sentiment, it's safe to assume that a significant number of people purposefully perpetuated YACHT's alleged degradation. And while the band did – with seemingly real reluctance after having expressed their seemingly valid grief – offer a link to the video, that's still a far cry from actively encouraging fans to watch the tape.
3. Upon watching the alleged sex tape and realizing that it was just some weird promotional video featuring aliens and bad night-vision, the very people who had just perpetuated a sexual offense decided to feel betrayed. Was it right of YACHT to fake a sex tape? Probably not. Was it right of anyone ever in the whole world to watch that sex tape? Probably not. Does anyone on either side get to take the moral high ground here? Not really.
4. The very people who were willing to watch the alleged humiliation of an artistic couple decided that charging $5 for a fake sex tape was worse than paying $5 in an attempt to watch somebody else's shame. Controversy followed. The promotional act was a success.
In the end, while the band did certainly stir up some negative emotions, they also succeeded – to whatever sordid degree – in posing interesting questions about whether artists are commodities or people in the eyes of their fans and what degree of trust an artist owes their fanbase and is owed in return. I also found myself wondering if it's worse to pretend you didn't leak a real sex tape you really did leak than it is to pretend you didn't leak a fake sex tape you leaked for sure. Even if posing these queries wasn't YACHT's initial goal – and even if they already apologized for any hurt feelings – any planned act that poses questions and makes the moral compass of a given situation jump back and forth that many times should count as art. Also, CW: Did you know that some art is meant to make you feel uncomfortable? That's why David Cronenberg is a thing.
There's also a solid chance this whole occurrence could've easily been swept under the rug. Luckily, though, writers have deadlines to meet and freelancers stand the chance to earn more money by pitching stories; so even though YACHT's stunt could've easily gone completely unnoticed by most of the folks who claim to have been offended by it, there are people who literally get paid more to make you upset about nothing. That's why so many quasi-progressive sites are always shoving outrage in your face. No one smart gets mad without getting paid.
What struck me was how many folks got mad about this for free.
I've spent years trying to better understand the mathematics of our public outrage. There's a wall in my house covered in various strings and thumbtacks of assorted colors holding up the headshots of famous celebrities who've fucked up in the progressive eyes of our wannabe liberal society, but I still can't figure it out. What I do know is that Robin Thicke releasing a hit song that can be interpreted as anti-feminist is worse than Caitlin Jenner killing a man with her car. I don't know why this is, but I have accepted it as a truth of our society.
I also know that listening to Robin Thicke is not as offensive as listening to R. Kelly. Thicke said a thing that seemed a way, but R. Kelly did a thing that was a way.
Doing a thing is almost always worse than saying a thing, except for when doing a thing is complicated – like when David Bowie fucked that 14-year-old girl. For some reason, that was more acceptable to Bowie fans – who are, oddly enough, often the loudest group when it comes to discussing the problematic behavior of other artists – because it was the '70s, there wasn't any piss involved, and David Bowie was white.
Woody Allen gets a pass because rich liberals liked Annie Hall, and rich liberals decide how morality works.
Similarly, Michael Jackson gets a pass either because he's dead now or because we as a society have yet to write enough Halloween songs, so no one can afford to take "Thriller" off their October party playlists. In fact, Michael Jackson was so beloved that, in spite of everything, we now let The Weeknd get away with singing songs exclusively about fucking girls rolling on molly in questionable situations just because he sounds a bit like Mike.
Based on similar logic, I understand that YACHT pretending to have had a sex tape released without their consent is insulting, but Hulk Hogan actually having had a sex tape released by Gawker without his consent is something we can brush off and make light of because he also had a private conversation released without his consent wherein he used the N-word, and racism trumps acts of nonconsensual sexual exploitation done to a white guy – but also, feminism is for everyone and so all sexual exploitation is always bad no matter what unless it's on purpose in which case I guess it's unclear and also Gawker owns Jezebel and oh god I'm so confused.
It's almost like people are stupid and thus society will never fully make any sense. Because if public outrage can be used as a gauge by which to measure what our society deems most important, then there's solid evidence suggesting that a dentist killing a lion in Kenya is worse than a cop killing an African American child in the United States.
Perhaps it appears that I'm being a bit too flippant with these issues. Maybe it seems as if I'm not giving enough careful consideration to the complexities in each of these individual incidents. It may even look like I'm just reacting to the grievances of others simply for the sake of being reactionary. And if that's the case, then I think that means I'm doing it right.
I am a product of my society just as much as I am a part of it. I can walk past the same homeless family every day and feel nothing, but if you tell me a celebrity expressed some type of moderately racist sentiment, then shit's going down on my Twitter page. I've normalized a certain degree of human suffering. I can live knowing that people starve. I have no problem continuing my day-to-day existence knowing that curable diseases run rampant in impoverished countries. I never let the grocery store clerk round up my total for the sake of children with cancer. I refuse to march for a #BlackLivesMatter protest until I can afford a Fitbit. We're running out of water and coral and ozone and I hardly give a fuck. But, you know what? I'm exempt from any feelings of guilt or responsibility because one time I shared an article on my Facebook wall about how microaggressions are triggering, so I think I've done my fair share for this world.
Internet outrage is like a Baskin-Robbins, but with an unlimited amount of flavors. Also, ice cream has never ruined any of my friendships. This simile isn't working out the way I'd hoped.
I've been watching people share and discuss their righteous indignation online for years, and they all seem to legitimately believe that sharing their opinion will lead to the greater good. Sure, a few people pick a side just because it's trendy, but most folks legitimately believe they're helping. Even the people on the side of the argument you vehemently disagree with are often just trying their best to do what's right.
And while I'm excited to see what new issues we may face in this constant cyber-battle to be heard and shared and liked and favorited, I sincerely look forward to watching old issues resurface again and again. Because then people start asking questions like, "What? Didn't we already do this? Didn't we already have this conversation? Didn't I already try to shove my opinion down your throat?"
And then, instead of realizing that anger alone has never brought about a change, we just get angry about the same damn thing all over again. Or we make art or write jokes or draft tweets or write essays in which we aggrandize our moral character and/or make it seem that we're inherently better than the people we disagree with. Or we make ourselves feel superior by publicly refusing to engage in the hot mess that is other people's feelings (which I just spent 2,000 words doing). And none of that will fix anything, but it'll sure as fuck help you meet that Friday morning deadline.
Maybe feeling your feelings in public isn't as revolutionary as so many of us so desperately need to believe. As individuals, perhaps our feelings can lead us to actions, and those actions can enact change. But feelings alone sure don't seem to get shit done. So the next time you have something to cry about, be an adult and do it alone in the shower (he typed as he concluded crying all over an internet-based op-ed he gets paid for).
What a country.