Article by Jasper
Word Count: 2,522
My hands quickly maneuvered over my key board; pressing keys left and right.
“He’s down to twenty-five percent”, I said as my eyes focused on the monster before me.
I was face-to-face with the Shatterer; a world boss in Guild Wars 2. It was a terrifying dragon who could summon an army of corrupted. Beside me were a group of players duking it out against the monster.
“There is only ten percent of his health left!” I said to myself as my character hit the beast with a barrage of arrows. The players around me began to congratulate each other as they fought the monster as we had him down to nine percent. “We got him!” They said, “GG.”
The application disconnected.
“Ugh! The internet!” I yelled with frustration, “Why did this have to happen now?!”
I was quite upset when this happened as I knew that I would not be able to get any loot from the boss if I got ejected from the game while the boss was killed. But it had not been the first time that this happened to me. With Internet in the Philippines being as slow and faulty as it was, it was not impossible that a MMORPG game such as Guild Wars 2 would disconnected.
I logged in again hoping the boss had not died yet but to my surprise many other players were at the respawn point. All of them were chatting in the world map wondering what happened. At first we were all confused but then we realized what had happened; the Guild Wars 2 server had a massive error. The game kicked all of us out of the battle; rendering our effort against the world boss useless.
“REPORT IT! REPORT IT! REPORT IT TO ARENA NET!” Cried the angry players. Those who were affected by the bug quickly reported the error. After sending in my report on the bug, I quickly logged off Guild Wars 2; frustrated at the turn of events. My brother came in the room and said, “I know the perfect meme for this situation…”
El Risitas a.k.a. The Giggles
The meme he showed me is commonly known as Shocking Interview, The Spanish Laughing Guy, or “El Risitas”. The meme usually represents Juan Joya Borja, a famous Spanish comedian known as The Giggles, as an uncaring employee of a company who makes fun of customer’s concerns or certain issues. His shrill voice and laugh makes it feel like he is indeed mocking people but in reality he was merely relaying a funny story.
The story he tells during the interview was when he was working as a dish washer in a restaurant. In the hopes that they would “clean themselves” overnight, he threw pans into the ocean. Then when he returned the next day to collect them they had disappeared because of the tide which is why he was laughing so hard.
The meme is quite idiotic or confusing for people who understand Spanish as they know what Borja is actually saying.
However, the meme is catered towards those who do not understand Spanish. His actions and voice can easily be interpreted differently and can be easily juxtaposed to many different translations. This is because non-Spanish speakers are reliant on the subtitles which do not give a correct translation of what is being said. Another similar meme is “Hitler Reacts” which shows an incorrectly subbed translation of German to prove a point or poke fun of the situation.
While the use of the “El Risitas” is similar to the use of “And Then I Said”.
In the case of the Guild Wars 2 version of “El Risitas”, it was hilarious because it poked fun at Arena Net’s patch and release patterns. They would upload new clothes and items on the gem store but sometimes the game would be quite buggy after the latest patch.
Many Guild Wars 2 players on Youtube found the video absolutely hilarious as it garnered sixty-five thousand views; which is quite small compared to the other YouTube El Risitas videos. As Goriunova said, “idiocy is performed to a varying degree of coherency or success; it is not one condition or style that is applied to convey the message but is a vector along which various non-uniform kinds of performances concretizing idiocy are carried out.”
Other commenters even recommended the video be shown to the developers of the game and poked fun at the developers
However, there were those who did not get the joke and commented regarding how other people will have a bad perception of the game because of the video.
While others came to point out that the video was obviously satire as Guild Wars 2 actually has some of the better servers in the gaming community.
However, once again, people who could speak Spanish were clearly not amused by the video. But a commenter told the user to search for a Hitler Reacts version to “get the joke”.
Memes such as “El Risitas” are popular because they feed on a players or customer’s disdain. According to Olga Goriunova, “New media idiocy is produced through craftful participation, a participation that is not summed up by one or two clicks, but is compositional, conceptual and performative itself. Such a participation is itself the practicing, the performance of idiocy, of everyone joining in together.”
This is what happened in the case of the “El Risitas” meme. Players of Guild Wars 2 took the original interview video of “El Risitas” and created a composition that was both funny and frustrating. The video is conceptual and compositional because it juxtaposes the original video with humorous or sarcastic text. It is an act which involves participation because it is made by fans of the game who are participating in a larger discourse. Lastly, it is performative because it needs to be interesting for viewers to watch.
The original video of “El Risitas” currently has two million views which it gained over the span of eleven years. While the parody videos of “El Risitas” got hundreds of thousands and even millions of views in a short amount of time.
In the Apple version of “El Risitas”, it garnered 4 million views in the span of a week. The video poked fun at the developers when they released a MacBook which had no USB ports.
Other prominent versions of the “El Risitas” meme make fun of popular game developers such as those of League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients 2.
However, games and companies are not the only thing this meme encompasses. Goriunova states that “the individuation general idiocy offers has only recently gained power and became a very successful way to concretize a collective movement: to be heard politically; to concretize an object of achieving media attention; to individuate the human and to experience her individuation through expression, and so on.”
Thus “El Risitas” memes also encompass politics and social issues. According to knowyourmeme.com, the meme first gained traction when it was incorrectly subtitled and used as to make fun of the political issues in Egypt during the 2014 elections. While BBC Trending documented that it was used to make fun of the President of Russia regarding issues with Ukraine.
It was also used to comment on Trump’s initiative to build a wall around the United States to keep immigrants out.
The video transcended beyond its humble origins as an ordinary television interview to an iconic meme known and used throughout the modern world.
The video meme “El Risitas” encompasses the three categories provided by Olga Goriunova because of its “simplicity, humor and DIY aesthetic”. The meme of “El Risitas” is simple because it is a video with subtitles. The humor of these videos do not come from what interviewees are saying but from the incorrect subtitles being juxtaposed with a funny image that seem appropriate for the said subtitle. This is the same humor that is used for the “Hitler Reacts” memes. Although the video is professionally made as it was from an interview show, the DIY aesthetic comes from the sometimes blurry video and from the “badly translated” or sarcastic subtitles with a varying array of hideous fonts. The parody videos of “El Risitas” brought out a spur of creativity that easily resonated with many frustrated gamers and individuals. The video itself was funny but with the fake subtitles matching Borja’s actions it appealed to the greater audience.
According to Gorinunova she stated that “on a different scale, the mumbling, instant, repetitive, easy, playful, junk, worthless creativity that is expressed in new media idiocy is a creativity that has not yet been individuated, or is in the process of, being concretized. As an ‘atmospheric’ creativity, such creativity is a part of individuation, which previously only revealed itself privately, and it is utilized or brought to the fore with new media idiocy.”
Media clearly played a role in the popularity of this meme. When the original video was first uploaded in 2007, very few people paid any attention to the video.
YouTube was only two years old and was still just gaining traction; which contributed to the slow growth of the exclusively Spanish language program. It was only when it was utilized as a parody video by Egyptians that the video views experienced an exponential surge.
People realized that they could use it for their own purposes despite not knowing what the original video meant. This allowed the language barrier to be broken and the meme was used in all sorts of parodies mix ups. People from different parts of the world who stumbled upon Borja’s funny laugh and facial expressions used the videos to air out their own frustration. Despite not being able to understand what Borja said, Youtubers used his video to make fun of popular media companies from prominent media companies such as Apple, Valve, Defense of the Ancients 2, League of Legends, and many others.
People who were frustrated found these satirical video parodies and shared them with fellow gamers and customers on Reddit, Facebook, and other social media sites. Goriunova stated that “large communities of… users whose main flow of posts are exchanges of such idiotic expressions…” With the Internet being the avenue to cross boundaries, the video was downloaded and parodied throughout the world for various situations. The video was even featured on BBC trending explaining the origins and success the video has made. While news websites such as The Guardian featured the parodies of “El Risitas” thus adding to the already enormous view count.
People continue to make internet videos from this meme to make fun of and mock media personnel, political figures, and situations. They even created a mash up between the memes Hitler Reacts and “El Risitas”. Here Hitler is seen “talking” to Borja through a fictional news station about how the public is now using Borja’s video instead of his. The two are seen “interacting” with each other through subtitles and juxtaposing shots.
People have also created react videos around the “El Risitas” meme. In these types of videos, people film themselves watching the meme and show their reactions to it. There have also been videos where people simply react to his laugh, take the “Try Not to Laugh Challenge”, or simply react to the subtitles of the “El Risitas” video. While meme research websites and YouTube channels such as KnowYourMeme.com break down and explain the history and success of such memes.
New media allowed “El Risitas” to have a new life and allowed it to be kept in the public consciousness. According to Goriunova, “here, the power of the ‘I like’ or ‘Share’ button on Facebook” or in this case YouTube “and other elements engineering public emotion on Web 2.0 cannot be underestimated. The capacity to mold behaviors and expressions in anticipation of fitting in and capitalizing on the functional allowance of certain elements of technological design…” Because people shared it in social media, the meme became so popular that its parodies were even featured by several news sites.
With traditional media, “El Risitas” would not have become the iconic meme it is today but rather a simple interview that would have largely been ignored by the non-Spanish speaking public. However, thanks to the Internet, “El Risitas” spread throughout the world as a meme to share, like, and use. Whenever an “El Risitas” meme becomes old and dull, a new one with a new set of subtitles pops up to comment on whatever game, company, or social issue is available to mock.
An example of this was a patch update of Guild Wars 2. The patch prompted a Guild Wars 2 player to make another “El Risitas” video. This time, instead of making fun of the servers, the user made fun of the developer’s idea. One of the buildings in Lion’s Arch a central hub for many players was replaced with a building that closely resembled a giant lobster. The video was very “DIY” because the video was very blurry and the font type that was used was not the standard for a traditionally subbed video.
Like any meme, the many diverse scenarios in which the meme “El Risitas” allowed it to be relevant for present day political and humorous use. The public space YouTube and the Internet gave “El Risitas” allowed it to be used for things that would otherwise be ignored by the non-Spanish speaking public. The meme garnered even greater success than the original and its spin offs can now be considered as “original” themselves. To which Goriunova stated that, “New media idiocy is false but authentic, and materialist in its relation to technical media. The ease with which it can switch from breakthroughs to meaninglessness is characteristic of network human–technical architecture at large and the software mediation of culture in particular.” The official website of the actor even acknowledged the existence of the meme by putting it and its parodies on his official website. From a simple Spanish interview which was meaningless to the non-Spanish speaking to a universally loved Internet video.
As Dr. Joseph Palis said, “Media catapults certain social phenomenon” which is why memes such as “El Risitas” are still in the hearts and minds of the people today. The life of a meme wholly depends on who uses it, the humor it is based on, and lastly the medium that breathes life into it. If people ignore the “El Risitas” meme, it will eventually die a natural death like the many memes that come to be ignored by the public and by the media. But if people continue to make humorous videos with the meme, the life of the meme will continue to go on to make frustrated gamers, citizens, and customers laugh. Perhaps one day, like the Hitler Reacts video, another video meme can join the army of incorrectly subtitled videos which make people laugh. But until then, we have “El Risita’s” shrill laugh to poke fun at media companies and politicians whose bad ideas pair perfectly with the video meme the world has come to love.
New media idiocy by Olga Goriunova