by: Kimberly Samia
Mid 2016 witnessed one of the most bizarre trend that happened online: 100 layers of any beauty product, or simply anything, and seeing the finished result.
I first encountered this facepalm-worthy trend when a Facebook friend shared Jenna Marbles’ (link above) video of “Ultimate 100 coats of things”.
I must admit, I watch Jenna’s videos. Not regularly, but when I am bored. And knowing her adventurous personality plus millions of subscribers, it would not be unlikely for her to create such a trend.
In the video, Jenna applied 100 coats of liquid lipstick, 100 coats of liquid foundation, 100 coats of glitter nail polish, 100 coats of spray tan, 100 layers of fake eyelashes, and 100 coats of hairspray to herself. At the beginning of her video, Jenna said that she has been watching the trend on Youtube, and wanted to do it like the others but “hard as f*ck”. Jenna filmed it in her living room, her couch covered with towels, while her boyfriend, the camera operator, laughs at Jenna’s regretful reactions.
Jenna calls it: “the worst decision I’ve ever made in my life.”
Jenna compared the 100 layers of hairspray to putting glue on her hair, and by the end of the video she called the entire challenge: “I don’t think I would wish this experience on anyone else ever. I don’t know what I did this to myself. It just feels so wrong. My face, at this point, feels like I’m not sure if it can ever feel clean again.”
“I regret everything, I wanna take this whole day back. It took me seven and a half hours for very mediocre pay off… and just a very wrong looking arm,” Jenna said.
However, when I researched who really started this trend, I found out that it was Youtuber Cristine Rotenberg’s (Simply Nailogical), “100+ coats of nail polish” video that started it. The video was uploaded last June 5, 2016, and has 18+million views to date.
The content of Cristine’s Youtube channel is mainly about nail polish and nail products, sans the 100+ coats video. Her channel has millions of subscribers engendering for it to become viral on the video-sharing website, and other social media platforms.
In response to the trend that Cristine started, hundreds of Youtubers (those with huge following or even those with small) made their own versions of it using literally anything under the sun—from bath bombs to sanitary pads to hot wax.
To be honest, this trend is just about wasting anything for viral fame. But still, people are intrigued by it, we watch it. Regardless of the video’s quality, who uploaded it, and what was item was used, the trend progressed for about five months.
The format of their videos usually go this way:
- Youtuber/User says his opening spiels;
- Explains how he/she found out about the trend, and what beauty product/item they will apply on their bodies,
- film the application in fast forward, highlighting their reactions (mostly regrets) and words like, “The things I do for Youtube!”
- Finish off with the 100th Looks at the mirror, regretfully reacts to what they see.
- Starts removing the layers while asking the viewers to like the video and subscribe to their channel.
My own consideration why this a form of ‘new media idiocy’, is the fact that its participants are aware that they will regret what they are about to do, but does it anyway, and then ask people to like their video and subscribe to their channel.
Who would believe that they are doing this for thrill and adventure? Of course, not. The things people do for “viral content” and a “following”.
Last October 15, 2016, a Florida teen named Andrea, uploaded her catastrophic attempt to layer 100 clothes on her body.
In the video, Andrea can be seen crying whilst attempting to remove the top layer of her clothes, but is unable to. “I can’t do this,I can’t take them off. Oh my god. Oh no. This is not okay right now.” Andrea cries, then cuts the video.
Andrea uploaded the video on Twitter, entitled: ‘#100layersofclothes don’t do this or you’ll die (I was home alone)’. Her tweet thus far has received 58,000 retweets and 84,000 likes since. Following her cry for help online, Andrea’s friends went to her house immediately to help her get out of the dozens of layers. Andrea’s unfortunate attempt to own an online challenge was immediately picked up by news outlets such as: Daily Mail, AoL, Metro UK, and Mirror UK.
Personally, I think the appeal that is resonating from this new media “idiocy” is it is lowkey satisfying and hilarious to watch. It is like being on the “weird side of youtube”, but highly publicized. As much as I want to criticize the people who have jumped into this rather pointless hype, I would like to take a look at the bigger picture: today’s digital age allows people to earn popularity through idiocy.
Nowadays, if you trended online, it is considered as a bragging right. Whether it is perceived as positive or negative by netizens, having a thousand views, shares, likes on your content gives a sense of fulfillment for the user. I would also like to take note that earning the “trending” spot on the internet today does not mean that you have to create flawless content, you can actually trend just by taking a video using your camera phone (just like Andrea).
In Goriunova’s article, she mentioned a popular humour video “Guitar”, which, according to her, became so popular across many countries due to its outright simplicity, humour, and DIY aesthetics—that constitutes the main characteristics of a new media idiocy.
“Such simplicity is rooted in a certain naivety that is required to synthesize freely and globally at a level where every element in the composition is positioned in order to be able to speak independently as well as be immersed in a global ‘porridge’.” (Goriunova 2012).
What Goriunova is trying to expound here, is that the simplistic element present new media idiotic content makes it understandable for viewers across borders. “speak independently”, meaning the humour is surface level and can be easily decoded by anyone who sees it.
The 100 layers trend is composed of a surface-level of simplicity, that anyone will quickly grasp what the participants are trying to portray on their videos. What started from Cristine Rotenberg’s home, have inspired Filipina beauty blogger Michelle Dy’s 100 Layers of Foundation Challenge, and in such manner to Michelle’s Filipino followers who are trying to build their Youtube channels.
“It is the humour of an amateur that needed to produce the simplicity explored above, and to maintain a performance of idiocy in terms of its being made, spread, loved, and returned to.”
To Goriunova, the ingenuity of an amateur producing a simple, humorous content, are what makes a new media idiocy (like Guitar) very popular.
The 100 layers trend appeared o be like a contest of ‘the most random material you can layer’, and it was perfect for the the trend’s main idea. Really, who would have thought of layering 100 sanitary pads on your female underwear? Why would a beauty guru apply 100 layers of foundation on their face?
But we have to admit, it was effective. The randomness and weirdness of these people who participated embody the ‘humour of an amateur’ that Goriunova is talking about.
“The DIY characteristic of a new media idiocy recursively connects to the formalism and emotional base of simplicity touched above. ‘Homemade’ feel, and a sense of ‘bedroom production’.
Like I have mentioned above, the 100 layers trend need not professional camerawork and editing for it to spiral on the surface of internet trends. Of course, popular Youtube stars have the right equipment, but the other participants, like Andrea (although hers was unfortunate), escalated their humour through the amateur-ness of their content (ex. filmed through web cam or smartphone, grainy, shaky camera work, hilarious comments captured on audio etc.), Goriunova stated that the ‘homemade’ feel of a new media idiocy retains a sense of the authenticity of amateurism.
The Idiotic Participation
“Here, the space, time, and mode with which the development of new media idiocy bursts open to drag everyone along, is like that of a non-circular, non-linear centrifuge. It is not only that a page is made, spread and enjoyed quickly, but it is enacted, and the becoming of an idiot, a false one, is tried-on, however hastily. Even the recently overused term ‘participation’ can be usefully applied here: new media idiocy is produced through craftful participation that is not summed up by one or two clicks, but it is compositional, conceptual and performative itself. Such a participation itself the practicing, the performance of idiocy, of everyone joining in together.” (Goriunova 2012)
The compositional, conceptual, and performative character of new media idiocy can be seen in the 100 layers trend because of the following factors: first, every video is composed of a single idea, to apply 100 layers of something to oneself. Second, participants follow a conceptual trend that originated from one person, and is now enacted upon by several, even thousands, of others. And third, the most basic, humans joining in together in performing a very random task of layering stuff on themselves for the people online to see.
Like any other form of new media idiocy, people feel compelled to participate in a so-called ‘online challenge’ because of the thrill of doing it plus the chance that their video might trend. This tendency overlooks the regrets and hazards that may come after. In the case of Jenna, Andrea, and the guy who put hot melted wax on his hand, all three of them immediately regretted their decision afterwards, stating that it was a complete waste of time, messy, difficult to take off, and unsatisfying.
“General idiocy would be a sum total of objects, behaviours and individuations that are false, absurd, simple, humorous, troubling. It is, as a general common idiocy, a phase state of the multitude. Such idiocy is especially exciting as it is not stupidity as critics would fear; at the same time it is far from engendering straightforward digital empowerment.” (Goriunova, 2012)
Finally, I would like to believe that the satisfaction these participants are getting from their videos are not from the fact that they are able to complete the challenge, but from the views and shares they are getting. And we help them achieve satisfaction by watching. Indeed, “These are the things that people do for views and Youtube money.”