Thursday, June 05, 2008

Pork and Beans



The video for Weezer's "Pork and Beans" plays a game of "spot the references to internet memes" that calls to mind a recent episode of South Park, as well as the web series ViralCom, which also featured a real-life Tay Zonday cameo.

On a side note, it's interesting how a cameo from a viral video star has come to have almost the same impact as a cameo by an actual star -- the excitement of recognition is the same, and YouTube commenters are left gasping in disbelief: "How did they get all these guys?" This despite the fact that booking the likes of Gary Brolsma or Tay Zonday can't possibly be all that hard. It's also interesting that Tay Zonday's role on a Warners-backed web series like ViralCom is supposedly a step up to a semi-legitimate production, despite the fact that Zonday's own videos have far more hits.

But back to "Pork and Beans." It might lose some comic punch by not arriving first to the internet-reference party, but as a music video it has no obligation to be particularly funny. What it is, instead, is warm and delightful. As opposed to South Park's characteristically mean-sprited take, in which the internet celebrities abruptly kill each other, the Weezer video is inclusive in spirit. Some of the people featured are talents, some are objects of mockery, others are mere curiosities. Some, like Tay Zonday, are some combination of the three. At first it seems like the video is merely including clips of the notorious viral videos. But as it goes on, we see the stars mouthing the lyrics to Weezer's song, and finally interacting with the members of Weezer themselves. The video's defining moment comes when Rivers Cuomo offers Chris Crocker a hug. Weezer treats Crocker, Brolsma, and the rest with decency: These freaks are, in fact, human, and they are invited to join Weezer in celebrating their individuality. "Pork and Beans" even helps these maligned individuals reclaim some dignity -- Brolsma enjoys a moment of fame that is self-aware; "Afro Ninja" -- in reality an experienced stuntman whose career suffered after his hilarious face-plant during a jet-lagged audition -- redeems himself in a brief but impressive fight scene; Miss South Carolina bounces back from humiliation with a smile and gentle self-mockery.

By the video's end, everyone is playing and singing and dancing together, and the video has become what its lyrics express: a defiant celebration of the outsider, and a satisfyingly good-natured good time. "Pork and Beans" as a song may be a bit lightweight and generic, but it's undeniably infectious fun. Anyone could sing a lyric like "I ain't gonna wear the clothes that you like," but when you see Rivers Cuomo in his idiotic cowboy getup and mustache on the red album cover, it's hard to doubt his sincerity.

Tomorrow: Thoughts on the Red Album.

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