A QUICK DISCUSSION OF RAGE COMICS
The “rage comic” has gained its incredible self-propelling internet momentum from its ability to funnel the repetitive rudiments of alienated consumerism into the universal relation of the cliche. The “rage comic” is always about either basic moments of anxiety or exaggerated disappointments in the consumer experience. Insofar as the identity of the consumer is specifically manipulated by peddlers of product into the binary relation of “consumes” or “doesn’t consume”, the consumer then internalizes this identity; the chaotic contradictions in the mechanism of desire must bleed around the corners of this constraint and seek the blood, metaphorical and actual, of others when the blood overrunning these corners runs dry.
Man-as-consumer, so wonderfully magnified and typified in the “gamer”, finds the origins of their constituted self in similar mazes of meaninglessness that promise no endpoint of actual gratification. The crisis of faith in the benevolence of consumption is reinforced in the repeated folktale of the consumer miracle. The vision of the Virgin Mary in a slice of toast, the statue that cries, becomes the vision of an Xbox at a garage sale.
Similarly the minutia of “fan” (re: consumer) identity are drawn out in seemingly hyperbolic terms of having lost or found meaning or truth. Their frequency would seem to suggest this as a collective homeopathic aversion therapy; if repeated enough times the intensity of the underlying real anxiety might be diffused; it no longer threatens because it becomes meaningless. In one way, this is a classic function of the joke; the outsizing of a dilemma to grotesque proportions so it can be written off as irrelevant while still being engaged. That these jokes tend to repeat themselves over and over suggest the illusion of their confident sarcasm.
The users of internet messageboards like Reddit, where a large portion of rage comic production goes on, can frequently be found in the throws of bipolar shifts between blind gift giving (“Random Acts of Pizza” etc.) and angry lashing out in all directions at each other and anything outside themselves that threatens the tenuous illusion of community on which the message board users draw their impetus to continually recreate the message board. The hive mind, because of its constituent complexity, tends to push its individual components toward more and more simplified forms of expression and the repeated use of cliches as a lingua franca to bond them into a sense of unity. The ultimate thing the user desires is a sense of community; for a universality of experience that can bond them beyond the glass barrier of the screen. This bonding of course can only take place through the medium of the screen and as such can’t actually be reached or resolved; it can only escalate in tone.
Rage comics work on endlessly recombined images of exaggerated emotional states and sarcastic commentary so that they can resemble a lot of people. In the chase to resemble each other they chase their own tails; the celebrity of the internet is not the exceptional person but the sum total of the internet’s desires; the internet’s 2.5 children; its hyperreal. The hyperreal is that which is more real than the real and no more is the more real than real the reality than on the internet.
A DIALECTIC OF YOUTUBE VERNACULAR AND YOUTUBE AVANT-GARDE
Realism in the Youtube video gives little romance to the present. Endless videos detailing recent purchases of DVDs and video games and Oreos by people alone in sparse rooms and empty kitchens are too directly of their own present to be anything besides an evasion of something else. The thing evaded must be presumed to be the frightening simple legibility or chaotic illegibility of their interior life; it’s only in the automatic visual writing of things like memes that this turbulent arena of the interior briefly presents itself.
The narrative tension of the video below: will a woman eating Doritos on her couch like them or not? For over 9 minutes, she pulls chip after chip from the bag like petals off a flower. “Do I like them? Do I like them not?” And by this oft-repeated exercise the product blogger strives toward some greater weightless grace in which to dance the courtship ballet between layman and Dorito.
As the crisis of the self in the present is very much the degraded quest for meaning (“meaning” in the abstract is pretty much always the constitution of the contours of self), the most effective proponents of the avant-garde come to their effectiveness not in terms of insight but in the space where the cycling dialectic between blunt recognition of the real and the hallucinatory approaching the same object/lack collide into train wrecks that survey their own wreckage in the reflected glow of their own combustive friction. Nowhere is this disturbing glow more brilliantly reflected than in the short animation “Dilbert 3”.
I’d give a specific trigger warning here but I’m not sure any single one would suffice. Do with that what you will. Definitely NSFW.
This video explores an undercurrent that was already present in the actual Dilbert comic strips. As a blurb for one of the collected books states: “Millions of office dwellers tack Scott Adams’ comic strip to their walls when murdering the boss is not an acceptable option.” In Dilbert 3, the enigmatic filmmaker only known as Cboyardee explores the conflict of sublimation in the Dilbert figure; the socially impotent employee/consumer. The best way to explain what’s going in this video seems to be in a shot by shot analysis, so follow along with the captions…
The internet message board’s mythology; the expression of the psychology of the product internalized. The product cannot be sated; it answers positive attentions with tone deaf and increasingly diminished repetitions of itself until their through-line is revealed; their essence: a voice that says “buy me” in slight distortion of the range of tones a person says “love me.”
In Marx’s formulation “first as tragedy, then as farce” lies an incomplete dialectic; a thesis and antithesis with the synthesis conspicuously absent. Dilbert 3 is a product of this synthesis, the thing that is simultaneously tragic and farcical and neither.