The Very Hungry Bear and the Internet’s Other Oddities

Pop Culture

The Very Hungry Bear and the Internet’s Other Oddities

Illustration: Shivali Devalkar

This year swung between hope and hopelessness – on the internet, of course, reality was too dark to deal with. In 2016 we learned (yet again) that the web is a truly democratic arena, where everyone from a Japanese “pop star” to a dead gorilla can leave their mark. But the general takeaway remained the same as the years since the internet swallowed up our lives: Nothing is ever as it seems.

PPAP Music
The internet is a beautiful place. You can use it to learn a language or an instrument. You can speak to loved ones across continents, you can catch Seinfeld clips on YouTube in the train. Or, you can spend a precious few minutes watching “Pen, Pineapple, Apple, Pen”: A “song” that went so viral, former viral internet sensation “The Biebs” called it his viral sensation of the year. Last we checked, the song’s shorter version had more than 179 million views.

There’s no point in getting into the lyrics of the song, which are those exact four words from the title repeated multiple times over. What is amazing are his gaudy clothes, his idiotic expressions, and that exceptionally catchy beat. The song’s ability to crawl into your ear and lay eggs there makes it an official contender for the most annoying thing on the planet. Add in all the variations, and you’re going to be humming the damn thing for a week at least.

For all the nuisance that PPAP has caused, there are important lessons to be learnt here. All advertising agencies out there trying to create a viral video of their own, Piko Taro, the song’s conceptualiser, could teach you a thing or two. The internet doesn’t give a fuck what you think good content is. Or how long you try and crack something. A Japanese man with weird sunglasses, no talent for writing lyrics, and seemingly tone-deaf, can go viral enough to sell his own merchandise. And that is truly what makes the internet beautiful.

– Sagar Shah

Bananas Over an Ape
He died on the 28th of May
On a bright summer’s day
He sat calmly in his enclosure
While the crowds snapped away
Chaos ensued, a child fell into his cage
He tried to hurt it, or so they say
To save the child there was just one way
Shots were fired – motionless he lay
He died on the 28th of May
He was called Harambe

The Western lowland gorilla will live on in our hearts and minds – or at least continue to provide fuel for countless memes panning everything from George Bush to Donald Trump. He even won 2 per cent of the popular vote in the US elections. The killing of Harambe occurred at a time when the world was literally going ape shit.

The week that the gorilla was shot at Cincinnati Zoo, 1,000 other people died attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. Around the same time, racially charged police shootings in the US were also on the boil. In that atmosphere, Harambe’s death became a symbol for everything wrong with the world. He became yet another victim of the authoritarian overkill we’ve come to witness in current times.

On the internet, he became an icon for the oppressed and outraged, a modern-day martyr for millennials. Who knows, next year a giraffe might get shot because it looked the wrong way at a zookeeper. But Harambe will exist in the dark corners of the internet, as a random comment or dank meme, reminding us of the time we all went bananas over an ape.

– Damian D’souza

Legiondary Timeline
There’s little doubt that when it comes to global cyber punishment, Anonymous is the Internet’s finest. Nobody from ISIS to the “Church” of Scientology is safe from these “Keep Calm” meme-posting, server-crashing hacktivists. Their brand of vigilante justice wearing a Guy Fawkes mask has spurred millions of people to launch their own strain of cyberactivism. They’ve also spawned one of the best TV shows of 2016, YouTube videos with millions of hits, and plenty of lawsuits. And of course, as we’ve recently discovered, they’ve inspired an Indian cousin with a vocabulary leeched off ScoopWhoop and a minor pot habit.

On November 30, the Chairperson of the Indian National Congress announced that he was a “memeworthy fucking f**got” and proceeded to make jokes about his own intellect as well as his “small penor”. While we loved the candour and appreciate the hacking for general amusement, most of us were left wanting a bit more. Was there a corruption scandal that poor RaGa was a part of, or some amazing data on Congress’ dealings? Turns out, more like nope. They did for the lulz.

They did it again to the official handle of Indian National Congress and Vijay Mallya and they’ve promised to do it to Lalit Modi and Apollo Hospitals next. We’ve pinned a new hope on Indian Legion. For the sake of hacktivism in 2017, we hope that they create the kind of chaos that alters a democracy, not just our Twitter timeline.

– Nimisha Misra

Wild Wild North
In November this year, a video of a polar bear playfully petting a chained dog surfaced. The footage was shot in Manitoba, Canada, and quickly garnered millions of views and comments celebrating the unlikely friendship. In the now-viral video, the bear gingerly strokes the husky’s head, as the dog grows increasingly uncomfortable under the weight of his paw, and coolly tries to move out of the way. The entire scene plays out so naturally, that it was easy for people to mistake their behaviour for affection. The reality however, is very different.

Cries about how heart-warming the video was, were silenced when the owner of the husky told the Canadian Broadcasting Company that another polar bear had just devoured a husky on his property. This was within hours of the post going viral. Turns out, this is what wild polar bears do.

The news, while devastating, started a conversation on how humans apply their own moral values to the actions of wild animals. The “fond” petting in the video was most likely the bear sussing out its prey, a completely natural act. It was a lesson in realising that animals cannot be expected to live by the codes that govern our relationships – and that we shouldn’t believe everything on the internet. The next time you see adorable pictures of a cheetah befriending a puppy, remember who the predator is.

– Tanvi Dhulia