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Recent Entertainment articles from Daily Dot

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    Commenters and people who smash gallons of milk in supermarkets are no longer the only jackasses on YouTube.

    Steve-O, who starred in the MTV stunt program Jackass and its three spin-off movies, has just created his own YouTube channel. And, hardly a surprise, it doesn't look like the 39-year-old has lost his penchant for doing the things that made him moderately famous: hurting himself, or finding creative ways to fire your gag reflex.

    Launched on September 23, he has already posted two videos. The first, "Condom Prank - Steve-O," depicts Steve-O using a condom filled with fabric softener to lovingly mess with fans.

    The other, "Steve-O vs. Beer Bottle," is a stunt video featuring fellow Jackass alum Chris Pontius smashing an actual root beer bottle over the back of Steve-O's head.

    The videos have a combined total of almost 500,000 views. Noticeably absent from both? The famous Jackass disclaimer, which warned viewers they that they should never attempt to replicate the stunt.

    With the Jackass series long concluded—the last appearance of the crew was in 2010's Jackass 3D, released less than a year before the death of cast member Ryan Dunn—the Jacakss crew have taken to YouTube to their gross-out, um, magic. Bam Margera joined the site in 2012 and has uploaded everything from stunts to footage of his favorite bands. Jason "Wee Man" Acuna also has his own channel, but hasn't posted any new videos in over a year.

    It's surely comforting to know that the world might have a chance to finally see follow-ups to "Tropical Pole Vaulting" and "The Butt-Chug."

    Screengrab via steveo/YouTube


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    The Polaris Music Prize is Canada’s most prestigious music award. It’s like the Grammys but only for one album and based on merit alone. Past winners have included the Arcade Fire, Feist, Fucked Up, and Caribou.

    Godspeed You! Black Emperor took home the 2013 prize and the accompanying $30,000 purse for its critically acclaimed reunion record, Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!

    This morning, the post-rock ensemble released“a few words regarding this Polaris prize thing.” To quickly summarize, “we love you so much / our country is fucked.”

    The whole post makes for a righteous read. Even on paper, it hits harder than Kanye West’s “Imma let you finish” rant. Here’s the full statement, straight from the band’s label, Constellation Records:

    hello kanada.

    hello kanadian music-writers.

    thanks for the nomination thanks for the prize- it feels nice to be acknowledged by the Troubled Motherland when we so often feel orphaned here. and much respect for all y’all who write about local bands, who blow that horn loudly- because that trumpeting is crucial and necessary and important.

    and much respect to the freelancers especially, because freelancing is a hard fucking gig, and almost all of us are freelancers now, right? falling and scrambling and hustling through these difficult times?

    so yes, we are grateful, and yes we are humble and we are shy to complain when we’ve been acknowledged thusly- BUT HOLY SHIT AND HOLY COW- we’ve been plowing our field on the margins of weird culture for almost 20 years now, and “this scene is pretty cool but what it really fucking needs is an awards show” is not a thought that’s ever crossed our minds.

    3 quick bullet-points that almost anybody could agree on maybe=

    -holding a gala during a time of austerity and normalized decline is a weird thing to do.

    -organizing a gala just so musicians can compete against each other for a novelty-sized cheque doesn’t serve the cause of righteous music at all.

    -asking the toyota motor company to help cover the tab for that gala, during a summer where the melting northern ice caps are live-streaming on the internet, IS FUCKING INSANE, and comes across as tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise.

    these are hard times for everybody. and musicians’ blues are pretty low on the list of things in need of urgent correction BUT AND BUT if the point of this prize and party is acknowledging music-labor performed in the name of something other than quick money, well then maybe the next celebration should happen in a cruddier hall, without the corporate banners and culture overlords. and maybe a party thusly is long overdue- it would be truly nice to enjoy that hang, somewhere sometime where the point wasn’t just lazy money patting itself on the back.

    give the money to the kids let ‘em put on their own goddamn parties, give the money to the olds and let them try to write opuses in spite of, but let the muchmusic videostars fight it out in the inconsequential middle, without gov’t. culture-money in their pockets.

    us we’re gonna use the money to try to set up a program so that prisoners in quebec have musical instruments if they need them…

    amen and amen.

    apologies for being such bores,
    we love you so much / our country is fucked,
    xoxoxox
    godspeed you! black emperor


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    In keeping with the staunchly individual-oriented nature of Ayn Rand’s objectivist philosophy, the producers of the flop films Atlas Shrugged: Part I and Atlas Shrugged: Part II, based on the first two-thirds of one of Rand’s thick hymns to capitalism, have decided to pull themselves up by the bootstraps in financing the not-at-all-anticipated final installment.

    How? By asking strangers for money online.

    The Kickstarter campaign, messily titled ATLAS SHRUGGED Movie “Who Is John Galt?,” has set its goal at $250,000, and with 28 days to go, it’s attracted 450 backers, almost cracking the $100,000 threshold in the process. Five people have already donated $10,000 apiece, which will get them an invite to the premiere, but tellingly, no one has shelled out $5,000 in order to be an extra in the film—there would be no recovering from such embarrassment.

    Randians like to tout the wisdom of the free market, but they seem oddly unwilling to face the reality of the numbers thus far: About $50 million went into the first two Atlas Shrugged movies, which grossed all of $8 million combined. That could be why producer John Aglialoro, CEO of fitness equipment manufacturer Cybex, who has owned the rights to the novel since 1992, decided to stop bankrolling the project with his own money—no matter how he praises it in a video plea for cash (the production values of which should make any potential “investor” think twice).

    The pitch even includes a canned response to the inevitable accusations of hypocrisy. In the FAQ section, we get an answer to the question “Isn’t asking for charity antithetical to Ayn Rand’s philosophy?”

    Ayn Rand had no problem with someone giving money to a cause they care about. If someone deems a cause worthy and wants to donate money, they should be free to do it. What Ayn Rand had a problem with is altruism for the sake of altruism as a moral duty, or being compelled, or forced, to "give." The Atlas Shrugged Kickstarter campaign is of course a voluntary value-for-value exchange. You are not obligated to contribute.

    I should hope not, especially given that this $250,000 they’re after is but a part of the movie’s allegedly $10 million budget (information buried at the bottom of the page, incidentally). What are they spending this bonus couple hundred grand on? My guess is a fully CGI John Galt.

    Producer Harmon Kaslow doesn’t seem to think they’ll need to spend much on marketing, anyway. In a bizarre comment to The Hollywood Reporter, he noted that there’s “an incredible amount of vitriol out there and we have every intention of capitalizing on it this time around. The day we launch the Kickstarter campaign those haters are going to come alive. They’re going to come after us in droves, attacking us everywhere online. To them, we say, thank you.”

    If Kaslow really thinks that this is a case of “no such thing as bad publicity,” he must have a rather selective memory. But as far as ridiculing his godawful, unpopular, amateurish films goes, hey, I’m happy to help. I don't expect to show up in the credits, however—that costs $1,000.

    Photo by hugodeluna/Flickr


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    Just in time for Banned Books Week, the Internet's largest book-review site is hosting a meltdown over a new policy that many of its members feel is a blatant act of censorship.

    The problem that Goodreads attempted to solve in its recently announced review policy update was one that has plagued the publishing community and book blogosphere for some time: the issue of authors and reviewers behaving badly. Last year, authors angry at reviewers for leaving negative feedback spawned a campaign to "stop the Goodreads bullies" [STGRB], which in turn has made a habit of harassing and calling out negative reviewers.

    The back-and-forth has spiralled out of control. Last month, trolls on Goodreads harassed an author with rape threats before she was even published, prompting her to pull her book from publication altogether. Earlier this month, a writer hired hackers to leave negative feedback on other books as "revenge" upon his "enemies."

    Clearly, Goodreads needed to take a stand. But the stand they took seems to have enraged everyone on the website. While most of their revised review policy is understandable—they note that reviews should be focused on the book and promise to help authors understand what's not acceptable Goodreads behavior—the kicker for most Goodreaders is the part where staff promises to:

    **Delete content focused on author behavior. We have had a policy of removing reviews that were created primarily to talk about author behavior from the community book page. Once removed, these reviews would remain on the member’s profile. Starting today, we will now delete these entirely from the site. We will also delete shelves and lists of books on Goodreads that are focused on author behavior.

    Goodreads kicked this policy change off by deleting reviews and shelves before the announcement was made, which left users confused, and subsequently enraged. For many Goodreaders, being able to discuss an author's behavior is hugely important, since it can directly affect their opinion of the book. And while creating a negatively titled bookshelf may seem like a passive-aggressive move, it's a very popular method among Goodreads reviewers to easily share info about a writer whose behavior has turned them off or alienated them from buying books. On her blog, reader Tess Burton explained what all this meant to her as a reader and a book buyer:

    I make decisions based on an author’s behaviour. I don’t want to buy a plagiarized book. I don’t want to buy books from Becca Fitzpatrick because I feel that Hush, Hush endorses dangerous and abusive relationships.  I don’t want to buy Ender’s Game because of Orson Scott Card’s stance on marriage equality.  It’s my right, and I want reviewers to warn me about what I’m getting myself into when I purchase books, and I want to be able to warn others myself.

    On Tumblr, breakraven echoed her:

    I mean, excuse me, but sometimes knowing the author has a LOT to do with my opinion of a book. Knowing why they put something in a book, if it was plagiarism, it DOESN’T MATTER if I enjoyed it or not, because they STOLE it. WE SHOULD BE ALLOWED to let other people know about this stuff! … If the author’s behavior impacts my impression of the book, you can be darned sure that I WILL MENTION IT.

    And what about those reviews that mention the author in a positive light? I’ll bet they aren’t deleting those. Goodreads is sucking up to the authors now and I hate it. -__-

    But many authors don't like it any more than readers do. "That's not how you Community, guys," said author Leah Raedar in an open letter to the website.

    Additionally, Goodreads' decision smacks of side-taking. While reviewers only have Goodreads as their platform for reviewing, authors can and do take grudges offsite. An author can make an angry Facebook or blog post about their Goodreads reviews, naming reviewers by name; but because those incidents occur off of Goodreads, staff can't exactly ban them for bad behavior. Goodreads' new policy stance means reviewers on Goodreads have no way to talk about the author or their behavior, or to warn each other that reviewing a book by a certain author might put you in their line of fire. Essentially, Goodreads' real policy update is: take the drama elsewhere. But that assumes that reviewers have an elsewhere—and while most authors do, most reviewers and readers don't.

    The announcement post has garnered over 65 pages of distraught comments from Goodreaders. Goodreads user Thalia was one of them. "What is not being understood is that we DO report [harassing authors] to Goodreads," she explained after receiving a reply from Goodreads staff:

    [T]hey get banned, and then they take their fight elsewhere. They take it to site where Goodreads cannot take care of it. … Banning them from the site did/does not stop the folks behind STGRB from doxxing readers. It does not stop that certain individual putting bounties on reviewers' heads and getting hackers to dig up our personal, identifying information. We can't force them to take it down, and most of the time, the web host doesn't even care that these sorts of things are being posted. We have no defense.

    We WERE able to shelve them as a badly behaving author, we WERE able to explain in comments outside of the review space that this is the lengths they're willing to go in order to silence your negative review. We were able to warn each other that we could be in danger if we dared to pick up a book from that person.

    Goodreads is not all-powerful. We don't have many ways to protect ourselves from this.

    Goodreads has already begun deleting comments and shelves that make even innocuous references to "author behavior," such as those named "Due to Author." Goodreads user KarlynP ripped into staff last night, articulating what seems to be the general sentiment from readers that this is not just a review policy update but a major shift on Goodreads' part away from a "readers first" mentality. KarlynP cites a comment from May that Goodreads' CEO Otis Chandler made after Amazon bought the website, in which he vows, "we will always err on the side of readers." Not any more, according to Karlyn and many others:

    While nearly all of us fully support the deletion of truly offensive and abusive content, it is becoming quite clear that even innocuous 'hurts their feelings' shelf names and reviews are now banned, and the 'we will always err on the side of readers'days are now over.

    Shelves named 'due to author' and 'STGRB supporter' [Ed. note: a supporter of the Stop the Goodreads Bullies campaign against reviewers] have been removed, but I fail to see them as offensive. THOUSANDS of your members also fail to see it as such. This is our new standard?

    Attempts by Goodreads Customer Care Director Kara Erickson to assuage angry readers just made things worse; after she asserted that Goodreads only looked at how shelves were being used, angry readers demanded to know how the website could possibly be "confident" about the purpose of deleted shelves with names like "icy_hex" and "taa." The thread, meanwhile, continues to be full of comments from "deleted users" who've killed their Goodreads accounts in the days since the post was made. And despite heavy criticism, the site has not restored the reviews and shelves of users who fell privy to this policy before it was officially announced.

    Goodreads users have been fighting back by deleting their accounts, blogging elsewhere about the incident, and by leaving troll reviews, such as this example of a review for Hitler's Mein Kampf: "The author is such a dick. I'm not even going to read it." The Tumblr account Censored by Goodreads is compiling examples of responses to the controversy.

    But even though the changes look universally unpopular, after four days and thousands of comments, it looks as though the community is unlikely to pressure Goodreads to reconsider its policy. And with the pressure on Goodreads to drive sales to its new flagship, Amazon, it could be that the website's new motto is a fittingly Orwellian one:

    Stay positive, or else.

    Photo via Goodreads


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    Ever wonder what a Twitter conversation would sound like in person, loaded with forced hashtags like #riseandgrind and #wewontstop?

    On Tuesday's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, the host and Justin Timberlake to mine the ridiculousness of using hashtags in offline life with a conversation consisting almost entirely of hashtags. 

    It’s as absurd and annoying as you’d expect. But thankfully, like the show in general, Questlove was there to save the night.

    In an effort to close the loop and make this real-world conversation comprised of Twitter search terms searchable on Twitter, here's a list of every hashtag mentioned in the video:

    Now, let’s make sure those hashtags stay where they belong: Twitter.

    Screengrab via YouTube


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    Who needs to sink hundreds of dollars into professional engagement photos when you can use Photoshop to make amateur ones. Pro-tip: Take your inspiration from Top Gun, The Shining, and Pulp Fiction.

    This is exactly what Gamebeat reporter Jeff Grubb, 30, and his fiancée, Stephanie, did over two days, using whatever clothes and props they could find in their closet and at Goodwill.

    “It still took a lot of time to set them up and get everything to look similar to what you see in the films or posters,” Grubb told the Daily Dot. “The editing also took forever. Honestly, I still have a handful of other pics that I'm still working on because they each take an hour to three hours to edit. With the day job and planning for the wedding, it's just not enough time.”


     

    Grubb posted the full Imgur album of photos on Reddit Wednesday afternoon where they’ve more than 480 comments praising his creativity.

    Grubb and his gal will be married this Saturday in a simple ceremony, with a party afterward. Sadfully, the movie theme will not find its way into the ceremony. And since their families haven’t seen the photos yet, they will surely make for a nice surprise.

    “I love the Jaws one because it is just so stupid, but Back to the Future was the first one I edited it and when it came out so well, it really validated the idea—so I think I'm the most fond of that,” Grubb added.

    Photos by Jeffrey Grubb


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    With the finale episode of Breaking Bad more in demand than even Heisenberg's Crystal Blue, fans are starting to get creative, and one fan brought the best of AMC together in one mashup blog to hold us over ‘til Sunday.

    It's Walter White and Don Draper against the world, and they're both breaking mad. Despite the difference in decades between the two shows, each antihero has a cast of characters who both help and hinder them in their ultimate goals.

    In this case, the dialogue from Breaking Bad is added to the Mad Men universe, and it looks like there's more cooking at Sterling Cooper & Partners than just the advertising.

    The two shows even both reference "Ozymandias," the Percy Bysshe Shelley poem both quoted by Michael Ginsberg in Mad Men and read by Bryan Cranston in a teaser trailer. (It was also the name of a recent episode.)

    If you’re looking for something a little more contemporary, mashing Breaking Bad with AMC's biggest show works just as well; Merle has some blue crystal meth stashed with the rest of his drugs, suggesting that The Walking Dead may already exist in the same universe.

    If anyone could survive an impending zombie apocalypse, it'd be Walter White.

    H/T Death and Taxes | All images via Breaking Mad


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    Judging from the reaction of fans online, the highly anticipated premiere episode of South Park's 17th season was a success. Always topical, South Park dove right into the most important issue of the year—the U.S. government's controversial surveillance programs. Also, it delivered the regular dosage of pussy and dick jokes. 

    The show leaked aspects of the storyline in advance; anyone who followed their Twitter account knew that the NSA was going to be the theme of the episode.

    What may have surprised many viewers was that the focus of the show wasn't entirely about the troubling actions of intelligence agencies (although it was parodied well), but the behavior of the public following the revelations leaked by Edward Snowden. But it fits: South Park has never missed an opportunity to mock the reactions of its fans or to challenge their beliefs.

    In the opening scene, Cartman takes on the role of someone over-using social media to pour out the trivial yet private details of his daily life—online. Of course, simultaneously, his biggest concern is how easily the federal government could track him and acquire his personal information. Desperate to put an end to the surveillance state, he announces his secret plans to undermine the NSA loudly, while in a room full of people, and into a cellphone that he assumed was already bugged. 

    Instead of recognizing that he's the one needlessly sharing much of his personal information with the government, Cartman decides to ditch Twitter for Shitter, a new social media company whose spokesman is Alec Baldwin. This new platform instantly transmits his every thought online and to everyone else using Shitter. It also echoes his thoughts out loud so that anyone nearby can hear them. He plans to use this new form of social media to expose the NSA's plans for monitoring him, oblivious to the fact that it destroyed the last bit of privacy he had left. 

    As Cartman infiltrates the NSA headquarters, the spies are seemingly unaware of his agenda, even though he's audibly transmitting his plans to expose them while in their immediate presence. It's a subtle jab at the ineptitude of an agency that was oblivious to whistleblowers operating freely within its own ranks. 

    Later, while Cartman's new boss is giving him a tour of the NSA facility, one of the analysts alerts the supervisor, saying, “I got a 24-year-old male in Albuquerque. He just emailed his wife and asked if she could go to the store after work. Then he called a fitness center to set up a membership. He liked the fitness center so he tweeted his friends that they should try it out.” The supervisor responds, “All right. Keep an eye on them. Let me know if anything changes.”


     

    Meanwhile, in a separate storyline, the character Butters becomes confused with the role of government after believing he's being watched at all times. He begins praying to the government for protection and Christmas presents, then establishes a religion at the DMV where followers find inner peace by confessing their sins to federal employees. Later, at the end of the show, he manages to convert Cartman, telling him, “Just let the government into your heart.” 

    The final jab targeted the self-importance of American citizens who've become increasingly paranoid in the wake of Snowden's disclosures. While Cartman is confident that the U.S. government is targeting him specifically, later he learns the agency doesn't even consider him important enough to monitor. This infuriates him. Incensed, Cartman eventually removes his fake mustache after learning the NSA's secrets and exposes his identity to the agency to prove that he does, in fact, deserve to be under surveillance. 

    In the end, Cartman manages to blow the whistle on the NSA's program (which utilizes an imprisoned Santa to track the world's citizens) but unfortunately discovers the public doesn't give a shit. The citizens of South Park assume that whatever the government is doing, it has only their best interest at heart. It's hard to say if this conclusion parallels reality, but if true, America may be closer to South Park than we thought. 

    Photo via South Park/Twitter


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    In Spike Jonze’s 1999 film Being John Malkovich, employees at a mysterious company can access a portal into actor John Malkovich’s mind. It’s a movie within a movie. This is sort of what last night’s inaugural YouTube Music Awards felt like.

    Jonze, a longtime music-video director before switching to film, was the creative force behind last night’s 90-minute awards show, framing all the live performances as smaller scenes on one big stage within a stage, rather than the typical main stage performances. Watching Odd Future's Tyler, the Creator and Earl Sweatshirt hype a crowd across the room from M.I.A.’s DayGlo hula-hoop trip might have made sense in, say, a festival context, but as framing for the YouTube Music Awards, it felt a bit curious. A feeling of impending chaos was constant throughout the night, and that wasn't always good, epsecially when the livestream cut out.

    Jason Schwartzman and Reggie Watts hosted, and they had a rapport that was genuine, and fueled by that chaos. Schwartzman made sure to let us know the YTMAs were unscripted, and that the night’s theme was “creativity.” Their banter was a nice change of pace from the awkward teleprompted readings of most awards shows, but having them dig through cakes or get pelted with colored dust killed some of the momentum. Why not have a performance or interview with a nominated artist in that space?

    But, OK, chaos. A good awards show has a few fourth-wall-demolishing moments. (Remember when Courtney Love interrupted Madonna’s interview at the 1995 MTV VMAs?). The YTMAs fully embraced this, and left no wall standing, letting the audience see all the inner workings and loose threads of an awards show.

    The live performances shifted locations throughout the space, but there was no real thread to tie them together, much like YouTube videos. Lena Dunham’s short film for Swedish DJ Avicii, which may as well have been a deleted season from Girls season 2, was hard to watch. Arcade Fire’s opening number, directed by Jonze, was well-orchestrated, if a bit precious, but the follow-up “history of YouTube” medley by CDZA felt like a hurried and half-baked parade through a few chuckle-worthy memes (T-Pain, Tay Zonday). Besides Lindsey Stirling and CDZA, no other artists who got their start on YouTube performed. Seems a little off, no?

    The highlight might have been Lady Gaga, who performed a power ballad called “Dope,” off upcoming album Artpop. She sat behind a piano, dressed down in a flannel shirt and baseball cap, and played the drama high, tearing up before even starting the song. Gaga became a Jonze character, and in this one moment, things sort of made sense.

     

    MTV, which hasn’t hosted a decent VMA in more than a decade, threw a bit of virtual shade via Twitter last night. So did fans of One Direction, Demi Lovato, and Justin Bieber, after Korean pop collective Girls’ Generation won Video of the Year for “I Got a Boy.” While many fans defended and applauded the group’s win, there was the usual sprinkling of casualyouthful racism.

    Notable YouTubers questioned the lack of YouTube talent involved and the character of those who won awards:

    At its peak, the show had more than 200,000 viewers, but does that equal success? Google, YouTube's owner, obviously plunked down a lot of money to make this mess, but did YouTube decide to put its weight behind big names like Arcade Fire (who just streamed their album on YouTube) or Eminem to get eyes on their program, unsure of who would tune in otherwise? They’ve got another year to figure out who they want to represent.

    Here are the winners:

    Artist of the Year: Eminem

    Video of the Year: Girls’ Generation, “I Got a Boy”

    YouTube Phenomenon: Walk Off the Earth, “I Knew You Were Trouble”

    Innovation of the Year: DeStorm

    Response of the Year: Lindsey Stirling & Pentatonix, “Radioactive”

    YouTube Breakthrough: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

    Screengrab via YouTube Spotlight


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    M.I.A. had unexpected support act at her New York concert on Friday: Julian Assange.

    Last year, the controversial rapper contributed to the WikiLeaks founder’s TV show, The World Tomorrow. Appearing via Skype from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange returned the favor before the release of her new album, Matangi.

    In his 10-minute speech, Assange described M.I.A. as “the most courageous woman in Western music, without exception,” and spoke about the importance of WikiLeaks. “The military occupation of cyberspace is also the occupation of our primary communication space,” he said.

    A longtime supporter of WikiLeaks, M.I.A. has previously spoken out about Assange’s house arrest. It could even be said that he had some influence over her new album, after he helped her find words that rhymed with “tent” for her new song “atention”. In an interview with the BBC last week, she explained, “Julian Assange came into the studio and took my computer and basically decrypted the whole of the internet, and downloaded every word in the whole of the language that contained the word tent within it. He gave me, like, 4,000.”

    That’s pretty incredible, but truth be told, Assange makes for a terrible hype man.

    Photo via New Media Days/Flickr


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    It’s been a miserable week for Justin Bieber. He was photographed sneaking out of a Brazilian brothel, stormed offstage when someone hit him in the head with a bottle at a concert, and he no longer operates the most popular Twitter account.

    Claiming the top spot, possibly on the strength of her run as spokeswoman for Popchips, was fellow popstar Katy Perry. As of this writing, Perry boasts a staggering 46,537,423 followers, while Bieber has a paltry 46,513,529, according to statistics tracker Twitter Counter. It must be noted, however, that aside from certain album and song titles, the feeds are essentially indistinguishable, offering the same mix of self-promotion, warmed-over platitudes and innocuous scheduling reports. Neither celebrity has acknowledged the exchange of power.

    Other singers and songwriters account for most of the top 10 Twitter follower counts—music is the universal language, after all—with Lady GagaTaylor SwiftBritney SpearsRihanna, and Justin Timberlake all commanding millions of eyeballs daily. The other three belong to YouTubeInstagram, and Barack Obama, presumably because Vine is no substitute for entrenched visual media and Twitter users love to get in political arguments.

    Photo by Hello/Katy Perry/Flickr


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    British group Bronski Beat had a hit in 1984 with the synth-pop single “Smalltown Boy,” which became even more well-known in Germany. The band’s singer, Jimmy Somerville, just happened to be in Berlin when he (and his adorable dog) heard a familiar sound.

    This video, uploaded by Onkel Bernis Welt, shows what happened next. As a busker performs “Smalltown Boy” on the street, Somerville pops into the frame. The busker is a bit confused, but he goes with it. The two begin an impromptu duet, and together they nail the harmonies.

    Of course, this could have been staged, or the two might know each other. Spinpoints out that the man with the guitar is Jonas Mann, who cohosts a German webseries called Onkel Berni’s Butze. The other host might have been filming. Somerville posted the clip to his official Facebook page, but said little else.

    Still, for just a few moments, homage became collaboration.

    Photo via antaean/Flickr


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    BY JOSHUA COHEN

    Sorry, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, but PewDiePie is no longer the Most Subscribed Channel on YouTube. That title now belongs to another. And that channel is YouTube.

    The world’s most popular online video sharing site's repository for all its videos relating to its tentpole events (including things like Comedy and Geek Week) skyrocketed past the 24-year-old Swede's collection of gaming videos earlier this week. YouTube.com/YouTube now boasts no less than 15,361,753 subscribers to YouTube.com/ewDiePie's 15,129,420.

    The drastic ascent of YouTube’s Spotlight Channel can be attributed to two main factors.

    One, the incredible amount of marketing and promotion YouTube has given to its YouTube Music Awards. The channel was home to the live stream of the event and all the subsequent live music videos (from the likes of Eminem, Lady Gaga, and more) shot and/or creatively directed by Spike Jonze.

    And two, YouTube has been autosuggesting new YouTube users to subscribe to its owned and operated channels (in addition to the channels of popular YouTubers) for the past several months.

    Here’s what the signup process looks like for those creating a new YouTube account:

     

    First, there’s a “Welcome” pop up that suggests different categories of programming in which the new user may be interested. Each category contains a number of channels.

     

    New users can simply click on a category to highlight that category. Once that user has selected all the categories he or she would like to explore, he or she clicks on the ”Next” button and is taken to the next step in the process below.

     

    Finally, users are given a selection of channels to which they can individually subscribe based on their previous category selections. All the channels are pre-selected and a new user must de-select a specific channel if it’s something to which he or she doesn’t want to subscribe. The “Channels from the best of YouTube” category is pre-selected and—in all of our testing—automatically shows up at this stage. Once the new user clicks “Save”, he or she will be subscribed to every channel with a check mark.

    As YouTube adds to its one billion unique visitors every month and converts more and more of those visitors into new users, it’s no wonder the subscription numbers on its own channels are increasing at an incredibly fast rate. It makes sense, too. Of course YouTube would want to do all in its power (without being too overbearing or burdensome) to promote and publicize its own offerings, especially as it starts to produce more high-profile events. If even a small percentage of those passive subscribers see the links in their feed and tune into YouTube produced or promoted videos, it can add tens of thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of views. That’s beneficial for brands like Kia (who sponsored the YTMAs) and creators like Felicia DayChester SeeFreddie Wong, (who all participated in YouTube’s Geek Week) and more.

    Hopefully, YouTube will use its power as the no. 1 Most Subscribed Channel to continue to promote creators and events both big and small. And here’s to PewDiePie for holding onto that no. 1 spot on the Most Subscribed list for 10 weeks with grace and aplomb.

    Photo via iJustine


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    There’s something dissociative about hearing the voices of vindictive, foul-mouthed cheerleaders coming out of the mouths of grown men, but watching the geniuses behind the YouTube and Tumblr smash webseries The Most Popular Girls in School, it almost seems natural. Almost.

    It’s all about high school drama, but with a cast of Barbie dolls and 99-cent knockoffs. The stop-motion animated series’ season 3 premiere airs Tuesday. Here’s everything you need to know. 

    From Tumblr meme to YouTube stardom

    The show’s pilot revolves around control of the girls’ bathrooms. A head cheerleader named Mackenzie Zales—played by a black-haired dollar-store doll—is pissed to find a new girl, Deandra, a blonde in an ill-fitting ball gown, using the cheer squad’s private pooping station. 

    Every episode is this absurd, with over-the-top swearing, props straight out of a 1990s high school sitcom, and plots like some demented, Adult Swim–style Daria-meets–Mean Girls crossover parody. There’s also a realness to the way the characters interact, bringing up past events (usually from the third grade) very naturally. They call each other by their first and last names. The show is quotable as hell: “Nobody's fucking talking about Gossip Girl, Rachel Tice! Why don't you go eat a roly poly like you did in the goddamn third grade?”

    Or:


     

    The idea for The Most Popular Girls in School (MPGiS) was taken from a sketch originally titled “Bathroom Hierarchy,” written by L.A. actor Carlo Moss. It was based on an improvised scene and centered on the comedy of the deep, annoying voice Moss said he often used to portray women on stage. Moss performed in drag as Deandra at L.A.’s Improv Olympic theater, and Mark Cope, looking for a new animation project when he saw the sketch, asked for permission to stop-motion animate it. From there, the character of Deandra, the protagonist of the show, was born.

    MPGiS soon hit its stride and became a ubiquitous Tumblr meme with the second episode, which introduced the character Brittnay Matthews, voiced by Lily Vonnegut. Brittnay is arguably the show’s most beloved character because she’s incredibly temperamental. She’s blunt; she loves calling out other characters on their shit. In her introduction, she flips out at a French exchange student who overuses the phrase “How you say…” and accuses her of being from Montreal.

    Two years ago, a GIF of the Brittnay character’s freakout flooded Tumblr dashboards. It became a go-to reaction GIF—the perfect animation with which to say “You are the worst.” Initially, there was confusion on Tumblr about where it came from. “What the eff is this Barbie show?” one user wrote. Another asked, “Why are there Barbies all over my dash??”


     

    Tumblr is known for its relentless pursuit of fandom, and so it didn’t take long for people to track down the source—a video of a sweet-faced Barbie screaming “It’s a fucking French word, you little bitch!” at a Disney Belle doll. The channel grew to half a million subscribers and changed the careers of Cope, Moss, and Vonnegut (who also serves as the show’s producer).

    Fast-forward to today. MPGiS now puts out new videos every Tuesday, has more than 35 million views, and two spin-offs, The Trisha Show and Judy and Red in the Morning. There are more spin-offs coming, more professional lighting and cameras being purchased, and a slew of holiday-themed episodes, including a Halloween special that came out last week. Their online store consistently sells out of MPGiS T-shirts and other goodies. There’s also a Most Popular Girls book deal in the works. 

    In the studio

    The recording sessions are pretty laid-back. The voice actors have worked together in the L.A. comedy scene for years. It’s basically a case of making something popular and then bringing all your friends on board to enjoy the success. There’s shorthand and familiarity: Some of the actors are middle school friends of Cope’s. Vonnegut and Moss used to date. Others like Lee Newton, Tyler Oakley, and Grace Helbig were brought in from the close-knit YouTube community.

    The show’s popularity is mostly thanks to writers Moss and Cope’s comedic timing and flair for the offbeat, but the style of the show is what makes it stick. There’s no shortage of details about even the most ancillary characters, and each boasts unique quirks and a lengthy backstory. The show’s not shy about confronting issues like homosexuality, bodily functions, teen pregnancy, and other tropes of high school CW dramas, but without the forced melodramatics. Oh, and one girl gets her arm replaced by a robot.


     

    Fans cosplay as Brittnay, nerdy Rachel Tice, Deandra, and French student Saison Margueritte in pink cheerleader uniforms or ball gowns. There’s endless fanart and fanfiction (most centered around the femslash pairing of Trisha 1 and Trisha 2, a pair of dopey friends with the same name), tribute videos with fans performing monologues from the show, parodies, and Tumblr pages dedicated to certain characters and couples. 

    To promote the group’s IndieGogo page for season 3, the cast did a livestream last week that was six hours long. It featured the voice actors answering questions and playing games using quotes from the show, impromptu improvisations with the dolls, and taking requests to give shout-outs in character voices.

    The group is trying to raise 20,000 dollars and have 5,000 to go with a week left. Prizes include signed T-shirts, first drafts of never-before-seen scripts, and having a character named after you.

    Seeing the real faces behind the voices was hilarious. Lots of the female characters are voiced by scruffy, bearded dudes. When in character, they change their faces and tilt their heads, trying to imitate the dolls.

    In the chat and on Twitter, the livestream’s flow of viewers asked so many questions, so quickly that it was hard for the cast to keep up. Cope led most of it, while Moss ran back and forth taking care of props behind the scenes and appearing on camera for chunks of time. Vonnegut showed off her pregnant belly but declined to tell fans the name she has picked out for her future son. Many asked if she’d name him after a fan or an MPGiS character. No dice.

    Vonnegut’s father was the late writer Kurt Vonnegut, and in the chat, she gave book recommendations to the mostly teenage crowd. A lot of the show’s young fanbase had never heard of him, or if they had, it was an essay they’d read in school and then immediately related to “Lily from MPGiS.”

    With the start of the show’s third season, MPGiS goes from a small-town operation to decidedly professional production. The quality of the videos is growing with the fanbase. The guest stars are more famous, the storylines are more intricate and dramatic. In fact, a cliffhanger set up in the very first episode is somewhat revealed in today’s premiere.

    It’s almost like Moss, Cope, and Vonnegut planned to be the Most Popular Girls on YouTube all along.

    Screengrab via YouTube


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    Alison Gold’s “Chinese Food,” the latest tween pablum from the studio behind Rebecca Black’s “Friday” and Nicole Westbrook’s “It’s Thanksgiving,” left us with a lot of questions. Why is this so bad? Why is this so full of quasi-racist stereotypes? And—dear God—what would come next?

    Why not the alphabet? Gold and producer Patrice Wilson are back with “ABCDEFG,” the completely unnecessary prequel to “Chinese Food.” This time, Gold is stuck with nothing but the ABCs (at least up to the letter P), but the four letters that she wants (L-O-V-E) are nowhere to be found.

    Why? She has a crush on a boy, and he doesn’t feel the same way.

    Then things get really, really weird. 

    Wilson, the Mr. Rogers–esque puppetmaster running a neighborhood of tween singers, doesn't want to see Gold sad. He tries to help the best way he can: by luring the 11-year-old into a club, where he uses a Cupid stand-in and “potions” to make Gold’s crush return her feelings—i.e., he puts a drug in Gold's drink. 

    Oh yeah, and there's a final twist that leads even the background characters to cringe.

    You'll never look at Chinese food the same way again.

    H/T Viral Viral Videos | Photo via patomuzic/YouTube


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    You might remember Pomplamoose from their excruciating 2010 holiday cover song campaign for Hyundai, but the California duo managed to take the Haterade from those commercials and dump it into a successful YouTube career. Their cover songs routinely get more than 1 million views on YouTube.

    The duo’s latest homage is a mashup of Lorde’s insanely popular “Royals,” 2Pac’s “California Love,” and Beck’s “Loser.” According to the YouTube description, they didn’t use any samples from the original songs: The melody from “California Love” provides the foundation, Lorde’s words become the lyrics, and towards the end, Lorde and Beck try not to step on each other’s feet. The video “was filmed in one take, using only a single projector and pieces of white foam core.”

    It’s actually a pretty seamless reinterpretation of a pop-culture trinity: 

    There’s also some real-time beard-shaving, possibly for Movember. Pomplamoose’s Jack Conte also set up a site where fans can donate for future videos. Just please say there won’t be any Hyundai commercials this year.

    Screengrab via PomplamooseMusic/YouTube


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    In Sweden, cinemas are introducing a new rule that will make feminist movie fans very happy: a Bechdel Test rating.

    The Bechdel Test originated in the comic Dykes To Watch Out Forby Alison Bechdel, in which a character says she will only watch a movie if it includes at least two women who have a significant conversation about something other than a man. Over the years, this test has become the rule of thumb when judging the representation of women in movies and on TV.

    According to an article from the Stockholm AP, Sweden’s new Bechdel rating system is supported by the state-funded Swedish Film Institute, as part of an ongoing initiative to promote gender equality in the media. The new ratings system gives an “A” grade to films that solidly pass the test, such as The Hunger Games.

    The popularity of the Bechdel test is partly due to its simplicity. When used to analyze Hollywood blockbusters such as Lord of the Rings or Star Wars, the Bechdel Test immediately highlights the way women are underrepresented in mainstream cinema. It’s not uncommon for weeks to go by when none of the major new releases pass the test. However, thinking of the test as a golden rule can cause problems, because there are plenty of films that feature complex and interesting portrayals of women, but still don’t quite pass.

    Pacific Rim inspired a new version of the rule this year: the Mako Mori Test. While Pacific Rim only included a couple of women in lead roles (surrounded by five times as many male characters), many fans argued that the central role of Mako Mori was important enough to negate this lack of female representation. The movie may not pass the Bechdel Test, but Mako Mori is almost unique as a woman of color who plays the primary character in a major sci-fi movie, and is never portrayed as a love interest or emotionless ass-kicker. Sometimes, counting the number of women in a movie is nowhere near as important as taking a look at the way those characters are written.

    Still, Sweden’s new rating system is a step in the right direction, and one that many people would like to see implemented in other countries. If the Bechdel Test was seen as an important part of mainstream cinema ratings, then maybe we’d finally be hearing about that female superhero movie we’ve all been waiting for. Or at least a hint that in future, women will make up more than 11 percent of the leading characters in Hollywood.

    Screengrab via lkraul/Tumblr


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    Marvel may not be planning to make a female superhero movie anytime soon, but it’s just been announced that superpowered Jessica Jones is getting her own small-screen series in 2015.

    As part of a multiyear deal between Netflix and Disney, four Marvel superheroes will have their own TV series through Netflix’s TV-on-demand service. The first will be Daredevil (previously known for the critically panned Ben Affleck movie in 2003), followed by Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke “Power Man” Cage. The four serialized storylines will culminate in an Avengers-style superhero team-up, which will take place in a miniseries called The Defenders.

    This news couldn’t be timed better for those who keep up with the Marvel-DC rivalry, as DC just announced plans to make a TV series about the decidedly obscure Hourman—to very little interest from fans. Heroes like Iron Fist and Luke Cage, on the other hand, are reasonably well known, and the multiseries format follows a similar structure to the hugely successful Avengers franchise. 

    Unlike Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this new Netflix venture seems aimed directly at Marvel comics fans. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is intended for a wider audience and airs days or weeks later outside the U.S., meaning that family viewers are trusted to watch live on TV rather than pirating it online. To put it bluntly, on-demand television shows are more friendly to geeky audiences, who are more likely to go for illegal downloads if they have to wait for specific TV air dates.

    Plus, the announcement of entire TV shows dedicated to Jessica Jones and Luke Cage will be a balm to the many fans who were frustrated by the lack of diversity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

    Photo via Riccardo Bandiera/Flickr


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    You sit down with a big bowl of buttered popcorn, turn on the monitor, and start playing the latest Hollywood blockbuster. A minute later, the movie is over and your fingertips are barely covered in salt. 

    You’ve just watched a full movie condensed into one GIF, a quick-moving animation that features only the best and most essential scenes from your favorite film.

    These GIFs are from Reddit’s r/FullMovieGifs, a two-day-old subreddit featuring aminations of films like Aliens, Finding Nemo, and The Shining. The forum and a majority of the GIFs were made by matt01ss. Check out the top 10 GIFs so far.

    Aliens


     

    Finding Nemo


     

    Cloverfield


     

    I Am Legend


     

    Top Gun


     

    Avatar


     

    WarGames


     

    The Rock


     

    Fast and Furious


    H/T Motherboard | Photo via giggsey.com


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    Russian police officers took a break from quelling LGBT protests to dust off their dress greens and make a few YouTube covers of their favorite European pop stars.

    In preparation for a concert at the Kremlin celebrating the National Ministry of Internal Affairs Workers’ Day on Sunday, Russian police officers released a video of them singing a rendition of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” There’s even two officers who do their best Pharrell Williams impression down in front of the choir.

    The video is the second to feature the officers’ singing skills. On Aug. 22, the police force released a cover of Adele's “Skyfall.” Why not?

    It’s all well and good until they dress down like Miley Cyrus in “Wrecking Ball.”

    H/T HyperVocal | Screengrab via YouTube


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