1. The “It Gets Better” Project
Video series like the “It Gets Better” campaign affirm YouTube’s potential to enact social change. After Billy Lucas, a 15-year-old high school student from Indiana, hung himself after being the target of repeated bullying because of his sexual orientation, celebrity sex columnist Dan Savage launched the project to tell other gay and lesbian teens that it gets better as you grow older. YouTube’s accessibility allows homosexual adults to bypass the restrictive rules of churches and schools that will not allow them to reach out to gay teens who are being bullied. And as the project has gained critical acclaim, politicians and public figures have also stepped up to offer their support. Hopefully, the “It Gets Better Project” will make a difference in the lives of the teens being bullied and serve as a wake-up call for a society that lets it happen.
2. Chatroulette Piano Improv
At the zenith of the Chatroulette craze, an unidentified pianist known only as “Merton” posted a video of himself playing the piano for the random strangers he connected with during his session. The encounters are hilarious, with the strangers either disconnecting almost instantaneously (as is typical of Chatroulette) or, in the case of a group of teenage girls, typing repeated hearts. The best part, of course, is that none of the people Merton connects with realize he is making fun of them to a camera. Merton gained further notoriety when a rumor began that the mysterious pianist was actually the pop singer Ben Folds. Both Folds and Merton discounted this, though Folds later paid tribute to Merton, singing to Chatroulette on a giant screen at a live concert. Merton was forced to take his original video off YouTube after it garnered millions of views, most likely due to someone in the video requesting privacy rights, but an edited version is still available.
3. Bed Intruder
A distinct genre of YouTube video takes serious footage and makes it humorous. On July 28th, a Huntsville, Alabama news station aired footage of a particularly colorful interview with Antoine Dodson, the brother of an attempted rape victim. The interview itself became an Internet meme, and gained further fame as it began to inspire parodies. The most famous of these parodies was created by the Gregory Brothers, the producers of the YouTube channel Auto-Tune the News, who Auto-Tuned Dodson’s voice to make it sound like he is singing an R&B song. While many find the parodies bigoted and offensive for the way they seem to be laughing at Dodson, he has taken his overnight fame in stride, now maintaining a blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, and YouTube Channel.
4. Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like
Perhaps the most famous advertisement of the year, this commercial aims to transform Old Spice’s image from your 60-year-old professor’s cologne to your boyfriend’s. The ad features a shirtless Isaiah Mustafa, who is now a celebrity in his own right, producing a number of other videos for Old Spice, including one in which he answers women’s questions in nothing but a towel. The ads play up vague, stereotypical female desires, such as “two tickets to that thing you love,” which turn suddenly into a stream of diamonds. The Old Spice ad sometimes veers towards chauvinistic territory, promising “anything is possible when your man smells like Old Spice and not a lady,” but it’s a nice change to see a popular ad feature a scantily clad man.
5. Yosemite Bear Mountain Giant Double Rainbow
With over 20,000,000 views, this video of two rainbows over Bear Mountain with audio of a man almost literally having his mind blown demonstrates the sometimes arbitrary nature of how Internet memes are created. The video became popular after Jimmy Kimmel posted it in a tweet on July 3rd, and has now received coverage from ABC News, CBS News, and the Huffington Post. Paul Vasquez, who posted the video and is now more often referred to as “Double Rainbow Guy,” has said his over-the-top response to the rainbows was not due to drugs, but that he was “on pure rainbow power.”