by Pael Balbaboco
All screenshots from YouTube
Who doesn’t like cinnamon? Cinnamon is like the lovely darling of all spices. It can be put on tasty pastries, hot milk, hot tea, hot vanilla, and even in chicken or pork recipes. Not to mention that people have discovered its tasteful (and irresistible) wonder when sprinkled on top of a Hawaiian pizza or when used to marinate lamb meat for shawarma. In Morocco, they use cinnamon as an added spice on their meatballs, and in Chipotle, they have cinnamon-flavored popcorn. Cinnamon is pretty much a universal spice.
But as they say, too much of one thing can cause us harm or “all that glitters is not gold”. As most of us would find cinnamon appealing to our palettes (because it really is, like some fairy sprinkled shimmer dust on our tongues), most of us also do not know that too much cinnamon is harmful to our health (Yikes!). Very high quantities of cassia cinnamon may be toxic (WebMD.com). Moreover, too much intake of cinnamon (or food with cinnamon) can cause liver problems and complications. This is caused by coumarin, an ingredient in some cinnamon products.
Now… imagine yourself at the comfort of your kitchen eating a spoonful of cinnamon. Must be easy, eh? Doing so carries substantial health risks because the cinnamon coats and dries the mouth and throat, resulting in coughing, gagging, vomiting, and inhaling of cinnamon, leading to throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and risk of pneumonia or a collapsed lung.
However, this did not seem to bother whoever started the Cinnamon Challenge. The cinnamon challenge is a food challenge (or food experiment challenge) that became viral on the Internet in 2012. This challenge was mentioned on the Internet as early as 2001. It gained popularity among Internet users in 2007 and peaked in online virality in January of 2012. The objective of the challenge is to take a video of oneself eating a spoonful of powdered cinnamon in less than 60 seconds without drinking anything. Afterwards, the taker of the challenge must upload his cinnamon challenge video.
Courtesy of YouTube
This is what GloZell Green exactly did. GloZell Green, or GloZell, or GloZell Lyneette Simon, is an American YouTube personality and comedian, who started her YouTube career in 2008. Her first few uploaded videos were interviews, humorous stories and events about her life, and song parodies. GloZell gained more than four million followers in 2015, with more than 700 million total video views. Her biggest gig yet was to interview former US president Barack Obama in a YouTube livestream in 2015. (Don’t get me started with her staple green lipstick and her signature opening phrase in all of her videos, “Hello this is GloZell! Is you ok? Is you? Good, ‘cause I wanted to know!”)
Courtesy of YouTube
So going back to the cinnamon challenge, in January 30, 2012, GloZell uploaded the video of her cinnamon challenge. At present, this video currently has 50.9 million views, with almost 95,000 comments, 406,000 likes, and 18,000 dislikes. If you’ve watched this video, I’m sure you’ve laughed at GloZell. And if you’ve watched a couple more of her videos, no wonder you’ll be converted as a fan. But in the words of Olga Goriunova (2012), what GloZell is doing on her YouTube videos, is a form of new media idiocy.
To understand Goriunova’s concept of idiocy in new media (and its development), she laid out three essential ingredients or factors (in making an idiot online or an online idiot): formal simplicity, humour, and DIY aesthetics. This is the same framework that she used to analyze and explain the new media idiocy in “Guitar” – a YouTube song and video (music video) by Peter Nalitch, posted in April 2007.
Courtesy of YouTube
According to Goriunova, “Simplicity [in new media idiocy] 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.” Humor in new media idiocy, on the other hand, is three-fold: (1) laughter and sincerity in its comic, (2) vital joy, and (3) parodic. Lastly, the craftsmanship or DIY aesthetic in new media idiocy transmits a ‘homemade’ feel in the content.
Let’s use the same framework to see if GloZell is an online idiot and if here YouTube videos are forms of new media idiocy. Further, we may come up with new factors that contribute to the development and flourishment of idiocy in new media. Before we look at the three factors of Goriunova in GloZell’s cinnamon challenge video, let’s try to understand first what happened in the video.
GloZell started the video with her signature opening phrase. “Hello this is GloZell! Is you ok? Is you? Good, ‘cause I wanted to know!” After that, she said, “Okay. So, a hundred and fifty kabillion people have been asking me to uhhh, do the cinnamon challenge.” With whatever GloZell means by the word kabillion, that I don’t know, but as other Internet challenges (best example is the ice bucket challenge which GloZell also took), someone takes the cinnamon challenge after a couple of friends or fans actually challenge you to do it. In GloZell’s case, it was a hundred and fifty kabillion people.
GloZell added, “If you go to my fan page, on uhhh, Facebook, or any comments from the last couple of videos I put up, ‘Hey, do the cinnamon challenge!’” Here, we can see the power of interactivity in social media. With the growing community of online participation and feedback systems, it is now easy to talk to someone virtually. Someone can post anything whether on Facebook, Twitter, or other new media platforms, and his friends or followers can reply instantly, as long as there is internet connection. In effect, the person who received a comment can also reply right after reading the insight.
She then continued on her video, saying “And I usually don’t give in to peer pressure because… what’s so challenging about cinnamon? Really.” As an effect of online participation and the receive-give feedback cycle in new media, people can be easily persuaded to do something. This is the same concept that online influencers use in persuading their followers. They might not be providing feedback specifically to someone, but through their blogs and social media posts of what they wear, where they go, and what they do, they hold on to this power of allowing and pushing other people to do as they do. As asserted by Rahwan (2014), “Copying other people has helped the human race become adaptable, letting us acquire information from other people as well as by direct experience.”
After this, GloZell said, “So everybody’s been getting on my nerves, I got some cinnamon. I don’t even know what kind you’re supposed to get. You know because cinnamon is good for you. You put cinnamon on like, you know, different drinks and stuff.” Here, we can see that GloZell is (or might be) actually clueless of what she’s doing, of what she has got herself into. She is not sure what kind of cinnamon to use. (Although it’s pretty much easy to understand her since there are hundreds of types of cinnamons, but only four of them are for commercial use.) But at least, GloZell knows that cinnamon is delicious. GloZell then continued by saying, “So uhhh, you take some cinnamon, I guess, I don’t. So I have a spoon (regular) and I don’t have a spoon (regular) bigger than this, so I had this (ladle), ‘cause I don’t know how much you’re supposed to take. So… you just take it and I guess you count to ten or you take it and… I don’t know.” It makes me wonder though, given that she was challenged by a hundred and fifty kabillion people (as she said), maybe, just maybe, none of these kabillions of people explained to her how to actually perform the challenge – which spoon size to use, how much cinnamon to eat, how long should the cinnamon stay in her mouth. Not one of those kabillions of people.
GloZell then puts a ladleful of cinnamon on the ladle, saying “Alright. So here’s the cinnamon. Alright? Alright, here it goes.” Then she ate all the cinnamon she put on the ladle. What happened next was hilarious. As I’ve transcribed the video:
“GloZell started choking and coughing. Powdered cinnamon bursting out of her mouth to the kitchen.) (GloZell started gagging.) God! (GloZell shouts, screams, coughs, chokes, gags, and cries all at the same time.) (GloZell tried to take out all of the remaining powdered cinnamon in her mouth. She also shakes her head continuously.) (GloZell reaches for the fridge to get water.) (GloZell gasps for air.) (GloZell drinks straight from the water pitcher and gargles the water before spitting it out to the sink.) (GloZell drinks and gargles some more.) (GloZell continues to show pain, drinks more water, and gargles some more.) (GloZell started jumping, with continuous shouting.) Okay. You all got me. You… (GloZell coughs some more.) (GloZell calms down, grabs the water pitcher, and goes back in front of the camera.) I… (Still coughing.) (Still gasping for air.) I hope… wooooh! (Drinks some more. She even wets her clothes while drinking.) Over and… (Coughs.) Over and out. Over and out. (Winks and kisses to the camera.) (Still coughing and gasping for air.) (Video ends.)”
Where is the formal simplicity, humor, and DIY aesthetics in this video?
Formal simplicity, as described by Goriunova, has something to do with a certain level of naivety – more like innocence or gullibility. In the video, we can say that GloZell is clueless of what she is doing. She made it clear that it was some of her fans, specifically those who commented on her fan page on Facebook, who pushed her to do the cinnamon challenge. Also, she kept on saying “I don’t know.” on the video, which gives us the impression that she, indeed, is definitely not familiar with what the cinnamon challenge is. GloZell also said that she does not usually give in to peer pressure, but in this video, she did. That is, at some level, gullibility and innocence. She questioned what is the challenging thing about cinnamon and she’s clueless of what type of cinnamon to eat, which spoon size to use, and how long should it stay in her mouth. To make GloZell more naïve, all she knows is that cinnamon is good and it cannot harm oneself.
As suggested by Goriunova, humor in new media idiocy, on the other hand, is three-fold: (1) laughter and sincerity in its comic, (2) vital joy, and (3) parodic. In GloZell’s cinnamon challenge video, she was able to achieve two of the three folds. Firstly, her video is certainly comic – it will make the viewer laugh, at her misery. The way she speaks is, I guess, natural, but it’s alien to us (non-African-Americans) so we find it funny. Her look is rather over the top – the Afro wig, the red lips, the big, round earrings, a blouse that exposes her cleavage, and her long, white nails. To add, her facial expressions and antics are really funny. Not to mention that GloZell is a YouTube comedian. Lastly, the humor in this video is very parodic. GloZell makes fun of herself in front of the camera by actually harming or hurting herself. Just like Nalitch in “Guitar”, GloZell here performs as a clown, with some level of mocking herself.
And where are the DIY aesthetics in this video? First, it was shot inside the comforts of GloZell’s own home, in her kitchen specifically, giving it a homemade feel. Second, the camera was single set-up. It was still and no fancy camera, shots, sizes, angles, and movements were involved and used in the production. Third, although the video is available on high-definition, its editing is not complex – more like, it’s a one-take wonder. Fourth, the materials she needed for the challenge are readily available at home. Fifth, it was just GloZell all throughout. She was the subject, the scriptwriter, the cameraman, and everything that is involved in the production phase of the video.
After the watching the video a couple of times, I asked myself, “Are these really the reasons why GloZell’s cinnamon challenge video is a form of new media idiocy?” I watched it once more and noticed some nuisance in the video. These observations, I believe, are also what “new” new media idiocy contents and forms have.
SCRIPTED. I believe that there is no way GloZell did not watch other cinnamon challenge videos before doing it herself. The use of a ladle is, for me, is intentional. The choking, gagging, gasping, and screaming (given that they actually happened) were all planned to happen. They are not simply effects of eating cinnamon, but I know GloZell knew hell will break loose.
EXAGGERATED. GloZell embroidered most parts of the video – the intense coughing and gasping, the uncanny way of drinking water straight from the pitcher, the “technique” that she had to face the camera while in despair, the use of the ladle, the way she spits out the powdered cinnamon, making sure that it will create like a smoke effect”, her wetting her clothes while drinking, the hundred and fifty kabillion people, etc.
ROLE PLAYING. GloZell might just be playing the role of an online idiot. Maybe, she’s not an idiot after all. (Her college degree was Fine Arts major in musical theater from the University of Florida.) Maybe, no one actually asked her to do the challenge, but she pretended that she had fans who actually commented, for her to do it. For sure, GloZell knows what she is getting herself into and the harms that cinnamon can cause her, but this is her show and what else is to be done, but to actually do it. But she had to play the role of an idiot for her to be entertaining and for people to watch and share it to others saying “Look at this idiot! She just ate a ladleful of cinnamon and her misery was masterclass.”
Looking at the video comments, I am surprised that it has been years, but people still watch it, and they actually find it hilarious (or maybe they don’t), sans the harm that it can cause GloZell. And her video caption says “THANKS A LOT! MY FANS TRIED TO KILL ME!” Or maybe not. Maybe it was herself who tried to kill herself.
GloZell had other YouTube video challenges like:
- Diet Coke and Mentos Challenge – You already know what she did and happened here.
- Salt and Ice Challenge – She put salt on her arm and ice over it. She said that her friends told her to do this as a way to exfoliate her skin.
- Hot Pepper Challenge – After buying some fruits at the grocery, GloZell came across a weird looking cherry. She ate it and turned out to be pepper.
- Rubber Band Challenge – GloZell wrapped lots of rubber bands on her face.
- Wasabi Challenge – She said that you cannot taste something if you don’t put it on your tongue. So she put one wasabi tube under her tongue. And she was teary-eyed.
After watching GloZell’s videos, we can say that new media idiocy is intentional. To look like and to be like an idiot on new media (social media, to be specific) is deliberate. These “idiots” are not actually idiots because they know what they are getting themselves into. It may not look or sound pleasing all the time, but these “new media idiots” involve some level of creativity at actually producing contents like these. As Goriunova asserts, “Creativity in the individual and collective process of becoming idiot produces phenomena that may be neither aesthetically brilliant nor politically very sound, but constructs forms of performance and craftsmanship that allow the inhabitation of the present, creating modes of living that explore the true through the false.”
But you know, who knows? Maybe the viewers are the one turning out to be idiots. My fingers are crossed – I hope not. Because if I will turn out to be an idiot, I don’t want cinnamon to be the death of me.