Bateman: TV can’t hold up against YouTube

By Oliver Bateman

One of the great things about technology is that there is so much of it. No matter where you… One of the great things about technology is that there is so much of it. No matter where you look, some kind of invention is making your life a lot easier than it used to be. Back before our slap-chopping devices, chocolate-melting pans and microwave-safe omelet makers, who knew how to do any of that? We sure as heck didn’t.

As young, in-the-know college students, you have benefited from the intellectual largesse of our top inventors. But sometimes, two technologies war against each other — and only one can emerge victorious. Such is the case with the bitter struggle between television and YouTube.

For many years, the only way you could see your favorite celebrities was on the television. Sure, there were those blockbuster movies at the theater, but, the economy being the way it was and is, few people had the money to get there on a regular basis.

Television had so many nifty ways of showcasing celebrities. You could watch established celebrities banter with one another on sitcoms, glamorous celebrities disclose their sob stories to Oprah and everyday celebrities compete with one another on real life or “reality” contests. If that wasn’t enough for you, you could watch news shows like “Access Hollywood” that recapped the latest goings-on in the celebrity-verse.

With the advent of the Internet, web cams and this site called YouTube, the script flipped. Instead of watching celebrities, you could videotape yourself doing something wild and ridiculous and perhaps even become one. Suddenly, those choreographed falls and drooling little cutie-pie babies on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” were old news.

Users could create any kind of show they pleased. Did you want to cry about how the media had mistreated Britney Spears? Flash your skills as a basso-profundo singer by performing a song about cocoa-flavored precipitation? Demonstrate how you could uncork a bottle of wine with your shoe? Raise a ruckus about all of the sexual assaults that were occurring in your low-income neighborhood? If these happened to be among your talents, YouTube all but guaranteed you Internet stardom.

Television has fought back the best that it could, but its celebrities just don’t seem like they can compete. Good old Bachelor Brad struck us as sweet and adorable the first time he got his heart broken, but his decade-long quest for love isn’t nearly as exciting as a 13-year-old from Nebraska who imitates a six-year-old by talking like one of the Chipmunks. Those dancing stars might have all the right moves for people who have never used up the 600 free minutes that came with their AOL install discs, but they’re out of step with a youth culture that gets its jollies watching a chimpanzee take advantage of a frog.

Back in the dark ages, people tuned in to spectacles like “American Idol” to watch a haughty Englishman criticize the singing abilities of deluded, talentless people. Now a few quick searches on YouTube will turn up millions of these sorts — and you can supply your own haughty, English-accented commentary. Afterward, you can Auto-Tune those comments, edit the whole thing on Final Cut Pro, upload the new video to YouTube and try to become as famous as the celebrity you’ve always wanted to be and still might become.

Technology wars always end badly for the loser. How many people remember that the Diamond Rio mp3 player came before the iPod? That there was a show called “The X-Files?” That Zeus, Baal and Isis preceded Jesus? That Steve & Barry’s served as an anchor store in many suburban malls? That Buffalo has a professional football team? That anyone wore cargo pants, ever? These and many more outdated technologies have been abandoned to the tender mercies of the user-maintained archive known as Wikipedia.

As sad as this kind of forgetting might seem, you can’t fight city hall, and you can’t stop progress. To paraphrase Walter Benjamin, who was never on Oprah and whose works have yet to be selected for her book club, the storm of progress leaves behind a pile of debris that grows ever closer to the sky. As YouTube continues to fill with the detritus offerings of would-be celebrities, all of us must realize that it too will eventually be surpassed by some technology that is even more awesome but which, fortunately for the composer of “What What (In the Butt),” has not been invented yet.

Oliver Bateman is one of the founding fathers of the Moustache Club of America, which has been among the Internet’s most obscure memes since it opened in 2002. You can help the Club go viral by visiting it at and linking to it on your Myspace, Friendster and Foursquare accounts.