Bah Humbug: That Christmas Jammies Video You Keep Watching Is An Ad
A family from Raleigh created a YouTube video that went viral. Does it matter that it's a plug for a production company?
I know a few things about Raleigh. Its downtown has buildings of middling height. It gets the nice roads. Andrew Johnson, who fairly or unfairly has been labeled as one of America's most politically impotent presidents, was born there. David Sedaris couldn't wait to leave.
I now have a much better understanding of Raleigh, thanks to this video:
To recap, Raleigh is a place where it is possible for your kid to take a hip-hop dance class, everybody does fairly well in triathlons, and they hand out walk-on parts in Ironman movies at random to people walking down Fayetteville Street. If you are a member of the upper middle class, Raleigh allows you to cross nearly every item off of your Upper Middle Class Leisure Checklist.
(Sidebar here: Charlotte is practically the same, provided you replace hip-hop dance class with Starbucks, triathlons with CrossFit, and Ironman movies with Homeland episodes.)
Thing is, this is not a video Christmas card. It's an ad for Penn Holderness' video production company disguised as a video Christmas card. Holderness, an anchor for WNCN-TV, is stepping down to do this full time, which you learn at the end of the video, after you've been sucked in by tales of the new family Prius and tales of Penn's recent vasectomy. A quick search of the company's YouTube channel shows they've also started producing videos for the Charlotte-based blogger The Food Babe. One is "Foodbabe: Do You Eat Beaver Butt," which butters you up with The Food Babe sitting on a log in the woods petting a puppet beaver, then drops truth on you by showing you an animal's butthole twice with the accompanying text "Yep, that's a butthole" just for clarity.
But back to the Christmas jammies video. The premise here, that a suburban family made a video Christmas card with amazingly high production values and a cute I'm proud of it dorkiness, gets sort of ruined at the end with the requisite plea to check out a website because the same family that did this can also do this for you, dear company or politician. It's an ad.
Fiction sets a high bar. That bar is lowered considerably by non-fiction because mildly outrageous things become CRAZY OUTRAGEOUS because they come with the implicit tagline that this happened in real life. Once you realize that what you're watching isn't a moment captured but a moment contrived, it seems much less interesting. Call it Creeping Kimmelism: The idea that eventually, everything that seems organic and real and innocent will eventually be revealed as an exquisitely disguised hoax or native advertising whose real purpose was to call attention to someone or something. The important part isn't whether it's real. The important thing is that you watch.
I'm a skeptical person. I don't want to be. I want to believe that this girl caught on fire in a twerking accident. I want to believe that an eagle can swoop in and pick up a baby. I want to believe this conversation happened. But they didn't. And somehow, with the truth revealed behind each passing video, tweet or Facebook conversation, real life feels that much more boring.
The business side of me says that every point I've made so far is moot. The video has more than 7 million views in just six days. If the Holdernesses set out to prove that they can make high quality videos that spread like a Colorado wildfire, they've succeeded. Who cares if it's an ad? You watched it, didn't you?
But the romantic in me hopes that someone out there would actually do it just to do it and share with a select group of friends. A guy I know recently showed me a special Christmas card he gets every year. It's fairly standard. There's a nice family photo. The names are listed at the bottom. But a select group of people, maybe ten, get a version where the words "Merry Christmas" are replaced by "F--k Off." It's phenomenal. But it's an inside joke. It's only meant for a small audience.
It should go viral. I'm glad it hasn't.