Cringe ContraPoints

(light classical music) - Hello again, the gays! Welcome to my garden party fantasy. Straight people are of course welcome to tag along too, provided you're emotionally damaged. Hi! Hey how are you! Cringe! Let's talk about it! The word cringe has taken over my vocabulary lately. It just pops into my head all the time. Like when I randomly remember that month back in 2013 when all my Facebook posts were just lyrics to Kesha songs rewritten in iambic pentameter? Why? What audience was that for? Who is this inconceivable person I used to be? Cringe! Megacringe! I think I say this word like 50 times a day, cringe cringe cringe. And I'm not the only one. Google Trends shows that in the US search interest in the word cringe has dramatically increased over the last decade, peaking in 2016 and remaining pretty constant ever since. And if you look at worldwide trends, search interest in cringe is at an all-time high the month I'm making this video. So what is cringe? Well, let's start with some examples. There was a recent thread on AskReddit titled "What Things Really Make You Cringe?" And here's some of the most upvoted responses, "The time I was talking too loud at a wedding "when I wasn't supposed to and everyone "at the wedding turned around to see "what asshole wouldn't shut up." "Recordings of my own voice." "When I remember that I did the 'I do have a boyfriend, 'he just goes to another school' thing" "Early teen me. "So many cringe stuff I did. "I hope all of my old friends have forgotten about me" "This happened about two years ago. "I ordered some Pizza Hut online "and when it was delivered, "the lady handed me the pizza boxes. "I said thanks and she told me my shirt was inside out. "I said oh, and then she hands me the receipt "to sign and leave a tip, and I spend 30 seconds "trying to get the pen to work. "She looks at the pen and says 'you have to click the pen.' "I said oh, and then she reaches "to get the receipt and tells me the pizza smells good. "Then I said 'you too' and then I closed the door "and killed myself." All of these responses illustrate exactly what writer Melissa Dahl says in her book "Cringeworthy: A Theory of Awkwardness." According to Dahl, "The moments that make us cringe are when we're yanked out "of our own perspective, and we can suddenly "see ourselves from somebody else's point of view." She quotes the anthropologist Edmund Carpenter, who in the '60s did a study of the Biami tribe in New Guinea where he showed them mirror, video, and photographic images of themselves for the first time, and described the results: "They were paralyzed: after their first startled "response, covering their mouths and ducking "their heads, they stood transfixed, "staring at their images, "only their stomach muscles betraying great tension." So basically, they cringed at themselves. Maybe self-awareness always begins with cringing. Like, pretty much everyone seems to hate the sound of their voice when they hear a recording for the first time, I guess because it sounds different from the way you hear it resonating in your head. So when you hear the recording you realize oh God, that's how other people hear me all the time. And you're suddenly aware of this clash between the way you appear to yourself, and the way you appear to other people. That's when you cringe, that feeling Dahl describes as "The intense visceral reaction produced "by an awkward moment, an unpleasant kind "of self-recognition where you suddenly "see yourself through someone else's eyes. "It's a forced moment of self-awareness, "and it usually makes you cognizant "of the disappointing fact "that you aren't measuring up to your own self-concept." When you're talking too loud at a wedding and suddenly everyone turns around to see what asshole wouldn't shut up, you suddenly realize how you look to them, because we've all at some point turned around to see what asshole wouldn't shut up. But this time, you're the asshole. Cringe! Oftentimes, it's the violation of an implicit social norm that makes us cringe. There's no law of state or even of etiquette that tells you exactly how loud to speak at a wedding. It's something you have to intuit based on context: how loud are other people speaking? Is the ceremony about to begin and we're all supposed to be quiet now? According to YouTuber Vsauce Michael Here, the function of awkwardness is that-- - It sands social dynamics by smoothing out even what etiquette doesn't rule on. - Cringe is the electric shock, the emotional punishment for being awkward. It enforces the limits of socially acceptable behavior by wounding the ego. And memories of your cringey moments are often just as painful as the moments themselves. 10 years later you'll be trying to fall asleep and for no reason at all your brain will decide to remind you of that time you were talking too loud at the wedding, and of the stupid thing you were saying when everyone turned around, and you'll cringe all over again. That's why remembering your teenage years is so painful, 'cause you look back and you realize, damn, I was the asshole for like seven consecutive years. Can I just hire a hitman to kill everyone who remembers me before, I don't know, November? All the examples we've considered so far involve self-cringe, but usually when we talk about cringe on the Internet, we're talking about cringing at other people. Popular subreddits like r/cringe, cringepics, and Cringetopia host videos and images of people behaving in cringey ways, for instance, a maternity photo that looks like a hostage crisis, grim moments of lamentation and cuckoldry, and Mitt Romney attempting to communicate during his first encounter with black people. - Who let the dogs out? Who, who? - Ugh watching that makes me feel like my soul is on fire. It makes me wanna crawl out of my body and escape into another dimension. I think some people feel cringe more intensely than others. For me it's uncomfortable to the point where I'll reflexively pause a video like that because I just can't stand it. In other words, it's like watching my own YouTube videos, which sweaty, if you put that shit on, I will leave the room. So why is it that cringing at other people hurts the same way as cringing at yourself? Well, one theory is that cringing at other people is simply vicarious embarrassment, or second-hand embarrassment. Basically, it's a form of empathy. When you cringe at someone, you're feeling the embarrassment that they're feeling, just as if you see someone fall down the stairs you might wince empathetically with their pain. But there's a problem with the vicarious embarrassment theory of cringe, or at least a complication. Which is that in the purest examples of cringe, the person doing the cringey thing isn't feeling embarrassed. In fact, often they're super confident, and it's actually their lack of self-awareness about their embarrassing behavior that makes you cringe. Like when a woman posts a ridiculously over-Facetuned picture of herself as if anyone's going to believe she looks like that, or when a man thinks he looks like a badass tough guy when he actually looks like an embarrassing dingus. So in the Internet sense of the word, cringe is not just vicarious embarrassment. Someone tripping and falling onstage is embarrassing, and I do feel embarrassed for her. But she knows it's embarrassing, and she feels embarrassed. - You guys are just standing up 'cause I fell and that's really embarrassing but thank you. - Nothing about this is cringe. Maybe to her, it's self-cringe. Maybe she looks back on it and it's still embarrassing. But I don't cringe at her. Maybe there's a difference between cringing at someone and cringing with them. When someone falls on stage I cringe with her, in the sense that I feel vicarious embarrassment; my feelings mirror what she's feeling. But when I'm cringing at someone, I'm feeling something very different to what they're feeling. I'm cringing at Captain Badass over here because he doesn't have the decency to cringe at himself. Another example is bad American Idol auditions, which are quintessential cringe content. People try out for American Idol because they think they're good enough singers to compete in a national competition. So they're effectively revealing their own delusions when they show up and sing like this. ♪ Is this the real life ♪ ♪ Or is this just fantasy ♪ - It's not just that he's terrible that makes it cringe. Most of us are bad singers, right, when people sing Happy Birthday at a party, usually they're singing in three different keys at no particular tempo. But that's not cringe because the point of singing Happy Birthday is not to sound amazing. Bad American Idol auditions are cringe because of the contestants' misplaced confidence. - Who are you as good as in your opinion? - The lead singer from Queen. - It's the hubris of thinking you sound like Freddie Mercury when in fact you sound like a wounded street dog. (singing out of tune) I admit that watching Red, I'm actually not in very much pain when I'm cringing at him. I laugh at his ludicrous performance, just like the judges do. And, because he's so cocky, and because he doesn't show signs of embarrassment himself, there's a part of me that actually kind of enjoys his failure. There's almost a sense of karma, a sense that because of his tragic hubris, he deserves the humiliation he's bringing upon himself. And my sense that he deserves it suppresses my compassionate response, and it helps remove any guilt I might otherwise have about taking pleasure in someone's humiliation. Contrast this with another Idol cringe contestant, Meesha, who's there with her mom, and they both seem like such sweethearts. - I do believe in her talent very much. - And yeah she's delusional about her singing talent, but I'm routing for her, and when she embarrasses herself I feel no joy, only deep and agonizing cringe. ♪ Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me ♪ - Yikes. My differing reactions to Red and Meesha track a distinction that Dahl makes between compassionate cringe and contemptuous cringe. Compassionate cringe involves an emotional identification with the person you're cringing at. Even if they aren't actually embarrassed themselves in the cringeworthy moment, you still feel the embarrassment they would feel or perhaps ought to feel if they were aware of how other people are perceiving them. Contemptuous cringe, on the other hand, involves an emotional distancing from the person you're cringing at. Just like with compassionate cringe, you perceive that the person is embarrassing themselves, but instead of feeling that embarrassment on their behalf, you feel annoyance and disgust at them, and maybe even a little schadenfreude. So these are actually two very different emotional responses, vicarious embarrassment versus contempt. But we call both feelings cringe, not because they're similar feelings, but because they're responses to the same type of situation: people lacking self-awareness embarrassing themselves without realizing it. Now, embarrassment and contempt, seem, at face value, like pretty unpleasant feelings. So why are we so fascinated by content that makes us feel that way? Why do these cringe subreddits have more than a million members? Why are cringe compilations and cringe reaction videos so popular on YouTube? Why does so much comedy feature cringey situations? Well I think the answer to that question depends on whether we're cringing compassionately or contemptuously. When I read that AskReddit thread, where all the people share their cringe stories, I cringe compassionately, that is, I feel vicarious embarrassment for them. And with that compassion comes a sense of solidarity and camaraderie with them. I recognize myself in them, and I'm reassured to hear that other people are just as awkward and embarrassing as I am. I'm not the only one who cringes at my past, or at videos of myself; I'm not the only who's says "You too", when the person says the pizza smells good. When we collectively laugh at these situations, we're bonding over our shared human frailty. We're recognizing that we all say the wrong thing sometimes. That we've all arrogantly argued for an opinion, only to later educate ourselves and realize how ignorant and wrong we were. That we've all tried to present ourselves as cool and likable, as beautiful, and talented, and badass; only to totally miss the mark and completely embarrass ourselves. And laughing at our shared absurdity, our insecurity, our ridiculous pretenses; it makes us feel less alone. Now, this is all of course assuming that we're cringing compassionately. But I would argue that most cringe content on the Internet does not encourage compassion. And that's kind of an uncomfortable fact, because we like to think of ourselves as morally evolved. This is the 21st century, right? Pillories and freakshows and public floggings, these are barbaric practices from the Dark Ages, right? Surely no one the Internet would ever entertain themselves by humiliating people, right? (frantic circus music) We've got maniacs, we've got wackadoos, we've got schizos, fatties, and spergs! Come see sexual deviants on display! That's right folks, we've got cackling perverts of every denomination! Come see the panty-sniffer, he'll stop at nothing to indulge his twisted cravings! Come see the skeleton girl, she hasn't had a bite in 30 days! That's right we've got real live lesbians! I'll be your master of ceremonies: half man, half woman, all freak. Okay, we've heard enough heartwarming gibberish, welcome to the dark side of cringe. Here on YouTube.com, we have a cringe culture. And by that I mean there's whole channels making content that centers the experience of cringing, and there's a huge audience that seeks out cringe content, which includes content the creator doesn't intend to be cringe. I first started paying attention to this back in 2016, which was the heyday of the feminist cringe compilation or the SJW cringe compilation. Remember those? This is all ancient history by YouTube standards but in 2106, the word cringe was most associated with a teenage YouTuber called LeafyIsHere. His videos followed the format of a cringe reaction video, which means he would play someone else's content, then pause it to rant in voiceover about how cringe it is. ♪ No makeup with some sweatpants ♪ - [Man] Oh my God. It's so f*cking bad. He looks like he's genderfluid. He looks like a f*cking lesbian. - This format of cringe reaction videos was very influential, and it was picked up by a rational herd of skeptical beasts and freethinking tuxedos. - [Man] What even is this thing? It must be one of the 76 genders. I didn't realize retarded was a gender. - I'm sorry my dudes, you were on the cringe side of history. Obviously there was a political angle to SJW cringe videos. The logical antelope isn't inviting you to foster a shared sense of humanity by recognizing your own weakness in the embarrassment of screeching feminists. No. This is an invitation to contempt. Here's a YouTube video titled "Fat Acceptance Cringe Compilation." You'd expect from the title that it would be a video of fat acceptance activists behaving in cringey ways. But it isn't. It's literally just a compilation of fat people doing things. This is just a clip of a fat woman swimming. Is this cringe? What is cringe about it? Earlier we defined cringe as either vicarious embarrassment or contempt for someone who lacks self-awareness about the way others are perceiving them. But in this video of a swimming fat woman, there's no context, so we don't know anything about her mental state. And we certainly don't know whether she's self-aware about how she's being perceived. If there was an interview where she talks about how she looks like a supermodel, or if she tried to Photoshop herself to look like a size four, okay, maybe that would be cringe. But that's not what's going on in this clip. She's just existing, in water. What cringe are we being invited to feel over this? Presumably, something along the lines of "Ew, fat people. "Gross." It's literally just disgust, right? Disgust and contempt for a type of person, a type of body. Here's another cringe compilation, this one titled "Genderfluid Non-Binary Cringe" and we're watching a young teenager discuss their plans to start vlogging about their genderfluid identity - Honestly it's kind of terrifying because genderfluid people just aren't as accepted. - Yeah apparently not. And judging from the fact that I'm currently watching this in a cringe compilation, it seems the person in the video was dead on about how other people will perceive them. But despite that self-awareness, we're being invited to cringe. Because I guess being genderfluid, like being fat, is cringe in and of itself. Now, the pedant in me wants to oppose this use of cringe. This isn't real cringe, I want to say, cringe has to involve a clash between self-perception and perception by others. But this usage of cringe as a mere synonym for contempt is so widespread that there's really no point in objecting to it. If you look at the banner image of Cringetopia, one of the sleazier cringe subreddits, you can pick out an otaku with a waifu body pillow, a furry, a couple bronies, a fedora tipper. These are subcultures associated with nerdy social outcasts. They're types of people who are widely ridiculed online. I'd like to share with you a list that I've put together of groups that are often considered to be cringe, Bronies, furries, otaku, weebs, incels, neckbeards, fedora-tippers, gamers, TikTok teens, not-like-other-girls girls, fanfic writers, beat poets, SJWs, feminists, MAGAs, trans people, non-binary people, transtrenders, queer AFAB ukulele players, autistic people, fat people, the mentally ill, and the mentally disabled. Now I'm searching for some thread that all these groups have in common. And a handful of themes do jump out: Deviancy, whether physical, mental, social, or sexual. A combination of passionate sincerity and amateurism. The perceived tendency to lack emotional composure. Obsessive interests in unconventional hobbies. Low social status. It's pretty easy to wind up in the cringe category these days. If you add up all the groups on this list, I bet it includes most of the people watching this video. It includes me three or four times. I'm, of course, a fedora-tipping, queer, AFAB ukulele-playing, TikTok teen. Can't we just accept that we're all a bit cringe and try to be like compassionate or whatever? (scoffing) F*ck no. The Internet will not abide any of that kumbaya bullsh*t. Oh no, this is social reject "Battle Royale." Clearly, contemptuous cringing is rewarding to people in some way, and I want to explore what the rewards might be. Let's start by looking at the role of cringe in Internet politics, where manufacturing contempt is a powerful strategy. At the height of YouTube anti-feminism, 2016 or so, you couldn't escape clips of this woman known as Big Red, a Toronto resident who showed up at a Men's Rights event and read off a list of feminist theses while swearing profusely. - It's part of patriarchy. Part of patriarchy. I don't know if you're noticing a theme: Patriarchy. I'm reading, f*ckface. Mr. Entitled. Mr. Ego. Patriarchy f*ckface! - She's one of these people who generates memeable phrases at an amazing rate. I actually think she's hilarious and iconic, but, I have unconventional tastes, Anastasia. Anyway this video appeared in countless cringe compilations, reaction videos, remixes, and even anti-feminist video essays. Often Big Red was framed as like THE feminist, the mascot of feminism, a sort of metonymic stand-in for all feminists. Which is highly dishonest, considering she's not even a high-profile activist or thinker. She was literally some random woman on the streets of Toronto. But because of this amusing 12-minute video, it was insisted upon that we all take a stand on this random woman, who, we we were told, exemplified feminism in its purest form. I call this strategy mascotization, the construction of a strawman nemesis. What you do is you select a cringeworthy person and you appoint them the mascot of an opposing political team. It's very simple, but very effective. And it's best paired with memeification; that's when you take a single moment in a person's life, you freeze it, and you declare that that moment fully represents a person. Then, through mascotization, you declare that this memeified person represents an entire group or movement. Other right-wing memes from this era include this protestor. - You're a f*cking white male. - Memeified as AIDS Skrillex. And this protestor. - Get your hate speech off this campus. Get your hate speech off this campus. - Who was memeified as Trigglypuff. The two of them symbolized the wretchedness of beta numale cuckoldry, and the hysteria of social justice crybullies, respectively. I guess the ultimate memeified mascot was Anita Sarkeesian, about whom hundreds of hours of salty gamer ramblings have been uploaded. Sometimes Anita was caricatured as cringe, as like this fake gamer girl, this pleb-tier casual throwing a pathetic tantrum at real gamers. Other times it was almost a super-villainous caricature, this sort of dark devouring mother archetype, threatening to confiscate your video games and engulf you in her yonic abyss. Now it's obvious why caricaturing your political enemies as supervillains is effective. Though it comes at the risk of backfiring by making your opponent seem a little bit too powerful, a little too bad-ass. But the subtler strategy of symbolizing your political enemies with not an evil but a cringeworthy mascot works because it connects with a wide audience in an intense emotional way. Most people have a primal terror of becoming the target of public ridicule and if someone has been made a laughing stock, it's much safer to take the side of the people doing the laughing than it is to risk being laughed at yourself. To be cringe is to not be in on the joke. And because people crave acceptance and dread rejection, I think one reason we're fascinated by cringe content is that our brains want us to learn how to avoid being laughed at. When we see a mob of people, whether in person or online, laughing at someone and ridiculing them, we register an emotional memory of it as a warning: don't act like that, or people will laugh at you. This is a powerful tool for anyone who wants to control human behavior. It's why public humiliation has in many societies been a punishment for criminals. You see a person in the stocks, in the pillory, at the whipping post; you see the mob jeering and throwing rotten vegetables. And it sends a powerful message. Don't do what that guy did. I don't think the Internet has yet reached self-consciousness about the fact that the fear of public humiliation rules us like it's the 17th Century. There's no judge sentencing people to a day in the stocks, but instead, there's teenage YouTubers making cringe reaction videos; there's ex-boyfriends revenge-posting their girlfriend's nudes; there's vigilante Twitter mobs harassing and shaming just about anyone for alleged breaches of wokeness. Public humiliation is a powerful force, and it's usually uh, it's not a good force. But there are some rare exceptions. Back in the Gamergate era-Gamegate itself of course being a study in public humiliation, slut-shaming on a massive online scale- YouTube commentary was increasingly dominated by anti-feminism. As far as leftist content, there was the Young Turks, and there was a network of besieged feminist vloggers who were constantly mobbed and harassed. What I see as one of the turning points in shifting the atmosphere from the pro-Gamergate days to the LeftTube world of today was a handful of videos uploaded by the then-obscure YouTuber Harry Brewis, in which he mocked a misogynist pseudo-intellectual called Davis Aurini. - Come on Davis, no stop lecturing me about ethics we have to get out of here, and can you please stop trying to start a forest fire! - [Natalie] In his YouTube videos, Davis would pontificate about the wickedness of women, while posing in front a toy skull and taking microscopic sips from a glass of whiskey. - Men of the West, women in our culture have become the most decadent sluts since the fall of Rome. And so in discussing sluts versus whores, I would start with the premise that all women are whores. - Harry's videos ridiculing Davis attracted a lot of views and a fairly positive response even from a mostly male gamer audience, who were overwhelmingly anti-feminist at the time. Why did these videos work with this audience, where so many others didn't? Well, I think it's because Harry didn't moralistically call out Davis for being problematic or misogynistic. Instead, he simply drew attention to the fact that Davis is a cringeworthy buffoon. And Davis was a perfect target because he truly is cringe in the traditional sense; he had no self-awareness about the fact that pretty much everyone saw through his absurd posturing as a badass tough guy by day, profoundly dark philosopher by night. - We exist in a world with feminized legislation. - I've spoken to men and boys, who've told me that Harry's videos inspired the beginnings of a feminist awakening in them, not just because they cringed at Davis Aurini, but also because they recognized a little bit of Davis in themselves, and they cringed at that too. Recognizing part of yourself in a cringeworthy person induces self-cringe, which can motivate you to change your behavior, your beliefs, or even your own self-concept. And it helps that Davis is a perfect instance of a recognizable stock character on the Internet, namely the fedora-tipper. Basically a man who poses as a gallant crusader for traditional masculinity, but who's basically just a pasty nerd who can't relate to women. Davis was such an extreme version of this, and he delivered unintentionally hilarious moments so frequently that I would classify him as what the Internet calls a lolcow. Lolcow is old 4chan lingo, it means a person whose unintentionally eccentric or foolish behavior can be milked for lols. Milking in this context can mean simply watching the lolcow's behavior and laughing at them, or it can mean making reaction videos where you make fun of them, or it can mean actively trolling and provoking them to get a response that you find entertaining. I'd describe Harry's videos about Davis, or my old videos about The Golden One as lolcow-milking content, with a political angle. It was essentially an argument from ridicule, an argument from cringe, with the aim of convincing people: don't embarrass yourself like these ding-dongs. But also, and I'll just speak for myself here, I am, at the end of the day, an entertainer. And I wanted people to laugh. There doesn't need to be a political agenda behind milking lolcows, in fact usually there isn't. The purest example of a lolcow I can think of is actually someone from way before the Internet, namely Florence Foster Jenkins. Jenkins, or Lady Florence as she liked to be called, was an American soprano who attracted a cult following in New York City during the 1920s, '30s and '40s due to her being such a terrible singer that people went to her concerts essentially for the lols. She was described as "The world's worst opera singer. "No one, before or since, "has succeeded in liberating themselves quite "so completely from the shackles of musical notation." Behold this f*cking camp queen. Oh we have no choice but to stan. Here's a short clip of one of the few recordings she made. (bird squawking) Cringe. So she was essentially the Tommy Wiseau, the William Hung of her age. Apparently she was oblivious to her own incompetence, until 1944, when she was 76 years old, and she booked Carnegie Hall for a concert, to which newspaper critics showed up. The next morning, the New York Sun reported, "Much of her singing was hopelessly lacking "in a semblance of pitch, but the further a note "was from its proper elevation the more "the audience laughed and applauded." And five days later she had heart attack and died. I find something very touching about this story. I mean I'd probably be laughing as much as anyone if I were at Carnegie Hall that night, but I feel so much compassionate cringe for Lady Florence. It kind of makes you appreciate the kind cruelty of Simon Cowell; at least he tries to stop these people before things get out of hand. I think it's normal to have mixed feelings about a lolcow. Like yes this is hilarious but on the other hand, doth not a lolcow bleed? On some level we know it's wrong to entertain ourselves this way, but on the other hand, other people's pain is incredibly entertaining. There's a good book about this called "The Joy of Pain: Schadenfreude and the Dark Side "of Human Nature by Richard Smith." Schadenfreude is of course the pleasure we take in other people's misery, and Smith argues that we experience it because psychologically we gain something when other people lose. We're constantly evaluating our own worth by comparing ourselves to other people. So we get a reassuring self-esteem boost, a pleasant feeling of superiority from comparing ourselves to people beneath us, especially if we're kind of insecure to begin with. Maybe I'm not perfect, but at least I'm not this lolcow. And we also get a boost when people who are socially above us, whom we envy, get brought down a peg. James Charles is canceled party, lolol. I think schadenfreude basically accounts for just a huge percentage of the things that happen on YouTube.com. Smith uses the word humilitainment for this type of media, like reality TV shows designed to produce spectacular moments of embarrassment. YouTube is basically a big reality TV show, or some kind of a carnival sideshow. I mean, take a look around you. We have Eugenia Cooney, a YouTuber who at the time I'm making this video remains apparently in total denial about her eating disorder, and continues to make videos modeling skimpy clothes for millions of gawkers. We have WingsOfRedemption, a bad-tempered gamer who for a long time was essentially confined by poverty, obesity, and depression to streaming video games all day to an audience of trolls that enjoyed tormenting him. We have Onision, a habitual, alleged, abuser of women and teenage girls who earlier this year essentially performed his own mental breakdown on YouTube after Patreon banned him for doxxing an accuser. - I love kombucha. Whooo, whooo! - Whose idea was it to give hundreds of pathological narcissists access to video equipment? What kind of sick social experiment are we living in? And the viewers are no better than the performers. Every one of you bloodthirsty voyeurs makes me sick. Oh, you people love nothing more than to watch one of us poor helpless egomaniacs completely lose our minds live on camera. - Is this what you want, huh? Is this what, you want a total meltdown! - You know as a creator you have to be aware that you're a circus performer, and the crowd may in fact be more entertained if you fall from the trapeze and get eaten by the tigers. Online media today is full of Lady Florences, anti-celebrities with anti-fans. Now, to be clear, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with indulging now and then in a little bit of light contempt. Cringing at Davis Aurini or bad American Idol auditions seems pretty harmless, but it can be taken too far. And there's no better case study of taking it too far than the cult following of one Christine Weston Chandler. If you don't know what's coming, you might wanna strap in gorg, cause this is coconuts, it's bananas, it's a full fruit salad. God how do I even begin to explain this? Well, Christine Weston Chandler, more commonly known on the Internet as Chris-Chan, is the victim of what is quite possibly the longest running and most obsessive Internet trolling saga of all time. She's the lolcow of lolcows. - Hello everybody, this is Christine Chandler. coming to you live from home once again. - Chandler is an autistic trans woman, and yes I will be calling her by she/her pronouns, which I pause to explain because I don't think I've ever seen anyone actually take her transition seriously. Most people seem to regard it as simply another absurd symptom of her hilarious mental condition. In fact a bunch of trans people will probably get real salty with me for making trans people look bad by including Chris-Chan in our, oh, our very prestigious and exclusive club. Oh please. Transsexualism is a deviant sexual identity, sweaty; this is not the Princeton Alumni Yacht Society. God, how did [email protected] get so snobbish? Look is Chris-Chan really trans? I don't know, and I don't care. If Chris-Chan wants to be a woman, I for one support her journey. But it doesn't matter. The relevant thing about Chris-Chan is not Chris-Chan. It's the fact that for the last 13 years, nearly every aspect of her life has been obsessively archived online by thousands of voyeurs known as Christorians. Chandler first acquired this anti-fandom several Internet centuries ago, back in 2007, when 4chan took notice of her comic-book series Sonichu, a childishly drawn hybrid of Sonic and Pikachu. The comic is set in CWCville, CWC being Chris-Chan's initials. The protagonist is a self-insert who references Chandler's real-life quote "Love Quest" to find a quote, "Boyfriend-free girl," which apparently involved posting bizarre "attraction signs" around her community college. For this story to make sense you have to keep in mind that Chandler identified and presented as male until 2015, so these trolls saw her as like the ultimate autistic incel manchild. Just to give you a feel for this person, here is Christine in 2018 holding up the iconic pre-transition portrait, note the Sonichu medallions, here is the bedroom she lived in, and here she is in recent years giving us a full bronycon eleganza. Pegasister snapped. Basically she's the entire Cringetopia subreddit condensed into a single person. So 4chan zeroed right in on this shit, because of course they did, and they began tormenting her by creating pornographic parodies of Sonichu, posting candid photos of her, et cetera. Chandler reacted to the trolls, which of course encouraged them more, and the harassment escalated and escalated. They hacked her accounts, or tricked her into giving out passwords, they posted all her emails online. They showed up in person and photographed her house. They called her parents posing as friends, psychiatrists, journalists, employers in order to extract as much information about her as possible. And of course they contacted Chandler herself, which was very rewarding for trolls, because she has no filter, and was very naive and trusting. So she was very willing to divulge, or was easily manipulated into divulging, mortifying information about herself, sexual, psychological, scatological, there's not really any limits or boundaries to this. For all the information they gathered, the trolls created a Wiki, called the CWCki, devoted to the obsessive compiling of all Chris-Chan data. It includes a detailed diagram of her bedroom, entire articles about all members of her immediate and extended family, pages of psychiatric records she was tricked into sending them, and that's only the beginning. In their more grandiose moods, the Christorians have speculated that Chris-Chan is the most documented life in all human history, comparing their social experitainment to "The Truman Show." It's a level of obsession that surpasses the wildest excesses of stan culture. It is a gaze into the abyss that does not blink. Some trolls have also sent taunting letters and packages, or on one occasion sex workers to the Chandler household. Two female trolls actually went on real-life dates with Chris-Chan, of course secretly wearing wires to record their conversations. Others pretended to be her Internet girlfriends so they could solicit and post nudes and masturbation videos. These things must be archived don't you understand? Chris-Chan must be documented. The absolute low point came when some trolls encouraged a 13-year-old boy to pose as a 19-year-old girl and have phone sex with Chris-Chan and record it. In other words, they groomed a child to deceive an autistic person into performing sex acts for their entertainment. Now to contemporary Christorians this sort of sadistic interference with Christine's life is frowned upon, not so much because it's immoral so much as because it's considered a bit tacky, a bit attention seeking. No, to the sophisticated Christorian the real pleasure of all this is supposed to lie in quietly spectating, savoring the fine notes of cringe. Now I take it I don't even need to comment on the morality of all this. The real question to me is why. Why do thousands of people have a morbid obsession with Christine Chandler? And yes it is an obsession. Just to give a sense of a single individual's personal investment in this, the YouTuber Geno Samuel, one of very few Christorians with the audacity to show his face, has been working for more than two years to produce an eventual-100-episode documentary series about the life of Chris-Chan. Geno has completed 36 episodes so far, and each episode is around 40 minutes long, meaning he's already produced around 24 hours of video about the life of what is essentially a random stranger. I think this phenomenon deserves its own name. I'll call it morbid cringe: defined as an obsessive and addictive contemptuous fascination with a particular person or group. Why does morbid cringe happen? Well, I've spent some time poring over Christorians' conversations with each other, and I've even interrogated a couple of them, and this is what I've found. The first thing they'll tell you is they just think it's funny and entertaining, that Christine's strange life and mind simply appeals to their morbid curiosity. And I'm sure that's true. But a lot of things are funny and entertaining and morbidly interesting. Why fixate on this particular person? Well, for a lot of them it's a reassurance that there's someone out there worse than them. Maybe they're nerdy loners with no social skills, but at least this defenseless punching bag called Chris-Chan is here for them to assert their superiority over. It's pretty much common knowledge that a lot of Christorians, including some of the most vocal haters, are autistic themselves. And a frequent justification given for trolling Chris-Chan is that she's, "Giving autistics a bad name." In recent years there's also been a small contingent of transgender trolls, who are likewise prone to say, "He's not a real transgender like me "and he's making us all look bad." Oh, yeah, because people who troll Chris-Chan, you guys look amazing. It's common for trolls to offer rationalizations like this about why trolling Chandler is justified, righteous even. Because at the end of the day, trolls are people too, and a lot of them actually do have a guilty conscience about this, which they suppress by insisting that Chris-Chan is a horrible person who deserves to be tormented. But trolls who protest-too-much about the evils of Chris-Chan, and therefore reveal the excess of their emotional investment in this, are known in the community as A-Logs. A-Log was a troll who attracted the ire of other trolls by ranting about about Chris-Chan's crimes, comparing her to Hitler, and generally betraying a pathological hate obsession. Among the trolls this kind of behavior is considered an embarrassment to all of them, because they want to feel like they're just coolly and casually toying with this person; you know, just for laughs, not a big deal, this is all perfectly healthy and normal and fine. It's fine. But A-Log gave the lie to that illusion, because it was obvious that his Chris-Chan obsession wasn't healthy or normal or fine. So the other trolls turned on A-Log and they made him into Chris-Chan 2.0, and they uncovered his autism and his furry porn collection and his cringey erotic fanfiction. So why would someone as similar to Chris-Chan as A-Log obsessively hate on her? Well there's two explanations. One is trollshielding, that is A-Log may have performatively despised Chris-Chan and spearheaded the trolling efforts in order to protect himself from being targeted by trolls. The idea is that you can protect yourself from the mob by waving your pitchfork the hardest. Obviously this did not work. The other other explanation is that A-Log saw himself reflected in Chris-Chan, and sort of projected his own shame and self-contempt onto her. A-Log hated Chris-Chan because he saw part of himself in her. And the other trolls hated A-Log because they saw part of themselves in him. To quote Margaret Pless, who covered this story in New York Magazine a few years ago, "I think it might be A-Logs all the way down." People form morbid cringe obsessions with Chris-Chan because to them she's a symbol of something they hate about themselves; something they're ashamed of. Maybe it's being on the autism spectrum, or being a socially awkward recluse, maybe it's being unemployed and living with their parents, or an adulthood fixation on children's cartoons, or embarrassing sexual proclivities. Or all of the above. This is how scapegoating works, right, you repress your uncomfortable feelings of shame and insecurity and self-loathing, and you displace them onto someone else, usually someone you can feel superior to. Then you blame and persecute the scapegoat, transforming your painful shame and self-loathing into pleasant judgmental self-righteousness. It's pretty safe to assume that a large percentage of Christorians and trolls are some kind of social outcasts, much like Chris-Chan. So bonding together over their shared contempt for Chris-Chan is a way of processing the shame and anxiety of social rejection and exclusion. And I think for a lot of people, even normal people who aren't part of a bizarre Internet stalker community, contemptuous cringing helps us cope with our own shame and insecurity. Anyway it's time to stop this tedious empathizing with other people and find a way to make this all about me. (light orchestral music) (music box playing "Danse Macabre") (shushing) Meow meow. Would you like to meet my quarantine boyfriend? Would you like to meet my boyfriend's boyfriend? That's right, henny, I'm giving you fujoshi realness nyaa. He's gonna stay right here as a grim reminder of the things that you have seen. Actually, I identify as a trap. It's very that. I guess it's not really cringe if I'm trying to be cringe. Cringe is failed seriousness. In my last video, I talked about how ashamed I am of being a transgender lesbian. Cringe. Shame! At the end of that video I talk about how I sense that my shame is related to the contemptuous cringe I feel for a lot of other trans lesbians, particularly those of the heckin stripey-sock nya nya catgirl variety. But I confess to periodically sinking into these morbid, guilty binges of cringing at embarrassing trans lesbians. I want to return to that thought, and kind of psychoanalyze myself as a kind of first-person case study of a morbid cringe obsession. So, catgirl trans girls are, I can't believe I'm about to explain this. They're trans women, usually attracted to women, who express their identity online through cloying, neotenous otaku memery. And my conscious reason for cringing at them is that I see these Japanese cartoon catgirls as a kind of visual baby-talk, an infantilized and unrealistic representation of femininity and womanhood that's designed to titillate nerdy boys. So when trans women identify with it, I cringe. Like, no, you can't become an anime girl, Lily. F*ck your dreams. Now look, I don't want to get sidetracked with a discussion of whether my opinions about catgirls are fair or correct. So don't listen to what I'm saying about catgirls. Listen to what I'm feeling about catgirls. Listen to the contempt beneath my words. Because even if everything I'm saying is true, "Catgirls are being cringe online" is a situation so inconsequential, that any amount of emotional energy spent on it is too much. So why do I have this cringe fixation? Well according to the A-Log Theory of Morbid Cringing, we form obsessive and addictive contempt for people who have traits in common with us; people who make us uncomfortable because we see something of ourselves in them. So do I have traits in common with the catgirls? Well, we're both trans women. We're both attracted to women. Um, I do like anime, but, I don't like the anime they like, okay? I like good anime that has mature, three-dimensional female characters, look I'm a real transgender okay I'm not like you! It's not lost on me that this is like the seventh time on this channel, I've dressed as a catgirl, "to make fun of them." (scoffing) I have posted cringe, and you should all be laughing at me right now. Nyanyanyanyanyanya! So I do think there's some truth to the idea that I'm A-Logging these catgirls. I also think there's a group representation aspect to this, like I'm afraid that other people will cringe at a group that includes me, trans lesbians, because of how these catgirls are acting. So, let's make yet another distinction between ingroup cringe and outgroup cringe. Ingroup cringe is when you cringe at someone who belongs to the same group identity as you, for example your family, your romantic partnership, your ethnicity, or your country. Particularly if they're embarrassing themselves in front of outsiders to the group. Think about how embarrassed a teenager gets if her mom does something cringey in front of her friends. Or, think about how embarrassed liberal Americans get when we talk to foreigners about Donald Trump being our president. Or, think about the phrases, "She makes me embarrassed to be a YouTuber", "They're making trans people look bad", "He's giving autistics a bad name." When we cringe at someone who belongs to our identity group, we don't just feel vicarious embarrassment, we feel embarrassment, because their disgraceful behavior makes us look bad too. So ingroup cringe is actually a kind of self-cringe, because you're cringing at your membership in an embarrassing group. Nothing has ever triggered this kind of ingroup embarrassment more for me than a cringe video that went viral last year in which a masculine trans woman throws a tantrum over being misgendered in a GameStop. - [Woman] You're gonna give me my f*cking money back. - [Woman] Excuse me, sir, there's a young man here. You need to watch your mouth. - Excuse me, it's ma'am. It is ma'am. - This video is excruciating for me to watch. - Motherf*cker, take it outside. If you wanna call me sir again, I will show you a f*cking sir. - [Man] I apologize. - [Woman] Motherf*cker. - [Man] I apologize, ma'am. (grunting) - The paradoxical absurdity of trying to brutishly intimidate people into seeing you as a woman. (grunting) Now Twitter's gonna come for me over this and say "Natalie hates trans women who don't pass." But passing is really not what this is about. It's aggressive, intimidating, hyper-masculine behavior from a trans woman, accompanied by apparently total delusion about how she's presenting. - Well I'm gonna ask you for the fifth time to stop calling me a man because quite clearly I am not. - It's really not that clear, gorg. And that's what makes this video classic cringe, right, the incongruity between her thinking that she's serving woman while bellowing like a drill sergeant. By the way, what I'm doing right now, this is cringe reaction content. I don't really do that on this channel, but I'm dipping my toe in just to see how it feels. And it feels good. Like, intoxicatingly good. I can see how you could get addicted to this. I'm imagining myself right now surrounded by cis people and I'm leading the righteous mob as we all point and laugh at some delusional manly dump truck. I am a real transgender, a true transgender, a good transgender, father finally approves of me! Uh, this would be the unconscious archetypal father. Jot that down in my progress notes please, Doctor. Okay so why does this feel so good? Well, let me talk you through my feelings. When I watch that GameStop video, for first few seconds, I do feel vicarious embarrassment for her. I can even relate, because in the first couple months of my transition, there was an occasion where I was in a lengthy customer service interaction where the guy at the desk was calling me sir the entire time. And there's something very humiliating about trying to present female, like wearing a dress and makeup, and yet being called sir. It's a quintessential mismatch between self-concept and the way other people are seeing you. And the memory of it is painful to me, but what I cling to is that while I may have looked like man, at least I didn't act like a man. I didn't threaten to take anyone outside and "Show them a sir." In fact, I was too ashamed even to correct the guy. So as the GameStop video progresses, my sympathy runs out fast. And instead of compassionate cringe, I feel group embarrassment for trans women including myself, and I feel contempt towards this individual for making us all look bad. I also feel a kind of morbid fascination rooted in fear: what if I'm as delusional as this trans woman? I don't look and sound like that, do I? I feel like I have to do a sanity check. I start scrutinizing myself in the mirror, listening to recordings of my voice just to make sure. That fear motivates me to distance myself from the person in the video. I don't feel compassion for her because that would mean putting myself in her size 16 shoes. And I don't want to do that because I'm horrified and repulsed by the thought that I'm like her in some way. So I want to push away, and contempt is a way of emotionally distancing myself. And if I express that contempt by publicly shaming and condemning her, then I'm also socially distancing myself. Accidental Covid jokes. Oops, guess it's uh, contagious. (crowd booing) I think many people who are stigmatized, or who have been humiliated, long for the experience of being a normal, surrounded by fellow normals, judging and humiliating a freak. And if you take a look around trans YouTube, a lot of the biggest creators on the platform have channels that are basically devoted to exactly this type of cringe-reaction humilitainment. The YouTuber Kalvin Garrah is a trans guy who is best known for what are essentially cringe reaction videos, mostly aimed at people he deems transtrenders. That is, people who claim to be trans but who aren't real transgenders like Kalvin. He's especially bothered by girly AFAB trans and non-binary teenagers, or by anyone who muddies the line between trans-masculine and lesbian identities. Sometimes he'll do a long form reaction to a specific person who grinds his gears. - So this person is an asexual, non-binary, transgender lesbian, who uses he/they/its/thons pronouns. According to my calculation, you are a transtrender. - [Natalie] And other times he'll basically just laugh at cringey trans TikTok teens. (laughing) - No, no, I'm turning off the video. I can't watch this. - He has a couple justifications for making these videos. One is that he's actually helping the people he's cringing at, because if a trender transitions, then they'll give themselves dysphoria and they'll have to detransition. But I have to wonder, does humiliating or laughing at people really help them figure out whether they're trans or not? His other justification is that transtrenders are giving real trans people a bad name; they're the reason people are transphobic, this is why they hates us. It's because of the trenders. Wow, I love the idea of a truscum furry. Isn't that just, isn't that just wonderful? A truscum furry! But it's not though. Transphobia existed long before there were people you could plausibly describe as transtrenders. So transtrenders are not the reason society hates trans people, Kalvin. They're the reason you hate trans people, right? Or at least the trans community. And I feel like what you're doing is you're projecting that feeling onto society at large and saying oh this is the reason people are transphobic. And to be fair I get that it's not just a projection. Back in 2016, the SJW cringe era, it was cis people mocking trans people with all these tropes: attack helicopter, two genders, 76 genders, special snowflakes. But now they're used by trans people trying to distance themselves, trying to ghettoize the most laughed at people in the community under the label of transtrenders. And Kalvin there may be some truth to what you're saying about there being confused teenagers who think they're trans when they're not; I mean I wouldn't know cause I'm a near-dead woman in the twilight of my life. I don't hang out with teenagers, But if even it is true, Kalvin, your fixation on it seems disproportionate to me. Like, you return to this topic to cringe again and again and again and again and again, it's like you're picking at a wound. It feels to me like a morbid cringe obsession, and I guess I think I recognize part of myself in you. This could be me projecting of course but, I wonder if the way you feel about girly sparklegender AFABs is similar to the way I feel about otaku transbian catgirls. And it might be worth considering that I don't cringe at the sparklegenders the way you do. I mean I'm with on you on wondering what a he/they/xir genderflux lesbian demiboy is, but unlike you, Kalvin, I just don't have a morbid cringe obsession with feminine AFAB trans people. They can identify as however many genders they want for all I care. I may not always understand it, but I support their journey. I guess it doesn't bother me because I'm not worried that anyone will judge me because of how they behave. I don't feel ingroup cringe. Now, it's a different story if I'm reading a general lesbian subreddit and I see a comment like: "Pre-transition trans lesbian here. "I wish I had titties. "Girldick nya nya!" Get the f*ck out of here, Lily! You're giving real trans lesbians a bad name! This is why they hate us! See now I have strong feelings. Now I'm ingroup cringing. And intellectually, I do think think my feelings are correct to some extent. Like I don't think a general lesbian community is the appropriate forum for a trans woman who's effectively still living as a man to take the mic and whine about wanting titties or rhapsodize about girldick. But I'm also aware that I feel this strongly about this because of my own dysphoria, and my own shame, and, honestly, my self-loathing. Like, I can't even talk to cis women on dating apps, because I feel like a fake woman imposing myself on real women. That's where my head is at. So, where does this pre-transition trans lesbian get the audacity! You know it makes me feel ingroup cringe about an identity, trans lesbianism, which for me is already a pain point of insecurity, embarrassment, and shame. So Kalvin maybe, and again I could just be projecting, but maybe that's kind of like how you feel about these trenders. When you make videos condemning them as not really trans, aren't you essentially exiling them from the ingroup, so that you no longer feel the pain of ingroup cringe? Or perhaps, Kalvin Garrah, what you're really trying to destroy is the trender within. (bell ringing) And again I could be full of sh!t here. At the end of the day this is psychoanalysis of a YouTuber I haven't met. So feel free to tell me if I'm full of sh!t Kalvin, but still, I guess I invite you to consider whether producing transtrender humilitainment is actually helping anything, or whether it's just an addictive way to scratch some kind of emotional itch. All right, I've said my piece about Kalvin. Who's next? Oh how about, Vanessa. We meet again, gorg. And once again, I'm wearing some kind of embarrassing anime hairpiece. Vanessa is a trans woman who is, the second most popular political trans YouTuber. At least that's what I wrote in the script when I had more subscribers than her and was fully prepared to be a c*nt about it, but since then, she has in fact surpassed me once again. Good for her. Vanessa started out as basically a cringe reaction channel back when SJW cringe was fashionable. She cringed at a wide variety of SJWs but the most consistent theme was transtrenders and crazy activists are giving real trans people a bad name, they're making us look bad, this why people hate us. So what we can now recognize as a standard ingroup cringe fixation. But Vanessa focused in particular on a strident SJW-type trans woman called Riley Dennis. And Vanessa made several reaction videos to her where she made a point of misgendering Riley, and dismissing her as a fake transgender who hadn't transitioned and clearly had no intention to. - You know, if you went on estrogen, your sex drive wouldn't be so high and you wouldn't be guilt-tripping people into having sex with you. Just saying. - But then, Riley made a video revealing that she'd been on hormone therapy for a year and was about to undergo facial feminization surgery. This prompted Vanessa to make an apology video where she not only apologized to Riley and acknowledged her transition, but she actually went beyond the script of a generic oopsie doopsie YouTube video, and opened up about having experienced herself the cruelty she directed at Riley. - And I'm someone who's had my transition picked apart online. There have been Reddit threads and 4Chan threads with hundreds of comments on it, of people trying to prove that I'm not trans because I haven't done this or that or, you know, digging up my old pictures, so the thought that this entire time I've done that exact same thing to someone else and pushed that off on someone else f*cks with me and I'm f*cking sorry. - Vanessa actually managed, for one fleeting moment, to make a connection between her own past hurt and trauma and the pain she'd inflicted on another person, which is kind of a once in a lifetime event on a website where the performers are remorseless psychopaths who wouldn't muddy their shoes to save a drowning child, and the viewers are cold-blooded sadists who consume human misery a like glutton gorging himself at a particularly sumptuous buffet. - You know, this whole thing has really taught me a lesson that I should really try to stick to ideas, opinions, policy. - However, this lesson would not last. Vanessa kept doing SJW cringe content well past the point it had become passe, making a video with Big Red in the thumbnail as recently as 2019. I admit I thought she was fading to irrelevance. But once again, I underestimated Vanessa. In July 2019, her channel rocketed to a new level of success when she released a video titled "Exposing Jessica Yaniv: Trans Predator." In this video Vanessa sounds the alarm about a trans woman, or rather she believes a man posing as a trans woman, called Jessica Yaniv. Who the f*ck is Jessica Yaniv? Well, as far as I can tell, everything Vanessa says about Yaniv is true. Yaniv attempted to use a Canadian human rights tribunal to close down several beauty salons that had refused to wax her hairy balls after she approached them about it in an awkward and creepy way. She has a long history of sending extremely inappropriate messages to underage girls. And she attempted to host a topless pool party for unchaperoned children. Basically Yaniv is someone who appropriates the language of transgender acceptance and equality to cloak predatory behavior toward minors. And my read on Yaniv by the way is not that she's a cunning manipulator, but that this is someone who's mentally not playing with a full deck. After the success of her initial video, Vanessa made a few more videos about Yaniv, re-branding herself as a kind of transsexual Chris Hansen, exposing transgender predators wherever she could find them. And at first I was honestly kind of loving this for Vanessa. At least now she's finally picking on someone who deserves it. But the more I think about it, the more hesitations I have. One is that Vanessa framed the Yaniv story, and the lack of attention given to it by other trans public figures, as an indictment of trans activists, who Vanessa thinks should spend more time sounding the alarm about transgender predators. And I'm willing to admit there's probably a valid point in there somewhere. Like, some trans people really are so paranoid about transphobes framing all of us as dangerous perverts, that they basically look the other way and refuse to acknowledge the small but real subset of trans people who are in fact dangerous perverts. But Blaire, you talk about the Yaniv situation like it's urgent breaking news, like Yaniv should rightfully be a household name, but for the stubborn silence of trans activists. But why? Why should everyone be focused on Jessica Yaniv? There's more than 100,000 sexual assaults reported to American law enforcement every year, the literal president of America is a bit of a sexual predator himself, why fixate on this one particular Canadian creep? I guess you could argue that since Yaniv is a trans-identified predator-a TIP!- we as real trans people have a responsibility to be the ones who lead the charge to stop her. Or at least it would be good optics for us to do that. And again I think there's maybe some truth to that, like initially the LGBT website PinkNews straightforwardly reported Yaniv's claims of discrimination, which is pretty embarrassing and not great optics. But I don't think that constantly broadcasting updates about the transgender pred- is really the best optics for us either. Why did Vanessa make this video in the first place? Is it simply because she cares deeply about the wellbeing of children and thought making a video exposing Yessica Yaniv is the best way protect them? I mean I'm sure she cares a little bit about the children. But it's still a YouTube video. And you have to ask, is the primary intention here really to stop a predator? Or is it to manufacture a sleazy entertainment spectacle? Shortly after her first Yaniv video was published, Vanessa hosted a livestream on her channel titled "Heated Debate with Jessica Yaniv: Trans Predator." This got two million views. Is this what you do with someone you've just accused of pedophilia? You host a live event debating the pedophile on your YouTube channel? What's to debate? - I don't need to be scared in my own house that I'm gonna get f*cking attacked. (electricity crackling) Which is illegal in Canada, just saying. - You think that was like cute? Was that a moment for you. - Then of course you sell T-shirts featuring the meme that resulted from your YouTube pedophile debate. I mean that makes sense. If you're gonna catch a predator, you gotta sell pedophile debate merch! And of course you gotta follow the pedophile's makeup tutorial. You know, for the children. Now, I hate to be overly-critical, but when I look at this I don't see a high-minded activist working to protect children and trans people's image. I see a tabloid entertainer who's discovered a way to monetize milking lols from a mentally defective pervert. And I have to say Blaire, as a connoisseur of trash myself, I'm very entertained by all of this. Following a sexual predator's makeup tutorial, that's genius. I wish I'd thought of it. But just be honest, this isn't activism, this isn't justice, it's a lolcow cult. It's like one Maury's transsexuals took over the show. And I love that for her. I love that for her. But Blaire, I can't help but notice, you're still hitting all the same beats your videos have always hit. Attention everyone. There is a bad transgender in our midst. The bad transgender is not a real transgender like me. It's very important that all we gather 'round to condemn this bad transgender who is not a real transgender. And Blaire I'll give you this, you are getting better at choosing your targets. The transvestite monster is a stock character in our culture and Yessica Yaniv is good casting for that part. She's a transphobe's bogeyman come to life, and I certainly am not shedding any tears for her. But you'll have to excuse me if I don't take this seriously as anything more than a smarter version of the same ingroup-cringe humilitainment you've always made. And by the way, you may wanna check in on your understudy Rose of Dawn. Rose of Dawn is another conservative trans woman YouTuber who produces a series called "Trans-Stupid." - Hi, everyone. Welcome to another edition of "Trans-Stupid", the show where I take a look at the wonderful world LGBTQIA+++ news because stupidity is intersectional. - Transgender, more like, trans-retarded! More like, trans-gay! (laughing) Trans-gay, I love that. I'm literally, I just realized, I'm literally trans-gay. Rose's channel is allegedly about the excesses of trans ideology and activism, which in theory I do think is a perspective worth including in the conversation. But in practice, well, let's just say Rose has produced a 30-minute documentary about why Chris-Chan is not a real transgender. There is a bad transgender in our midst. The bad transgender is not a real transgender like me. I'm getting pretty tired of this. And here's her transition advice to trans women beginning their journey. - You probably have this image in your head that, you know, you're going to be this really cute-looking trans woman, like effectively you're going to be this seal. Like look at this seal. Isn't this seal adorable? You're so cute. But the truth is you're probably not looking like this seal right now, are you? You're probably more like this big bull seal, barging your way into women's bathrooms, saying, this is a woman's body. Now, you might never reach the cute seal phase. In fact, very few of us turn out to look like Blair White. - Rose, no. Do not simp for Vanessa. It only encourages her. She's also made no less than 20 videos about Jessica Yaniv. Which seems like kind of lot, gorg. Would I be wrong to say I'm getting a little bit of a morbid cringe addiction vibe? In these videos, Rose chronicles Yaniv's numerous crimes and wrongdoings but she also cannot resist making it very clear how disgusted she is with Yaniv's appearance. - [Rose] The irony being that this kind of tweet came from someone you could smell, just by looking at a picture of them. - I bring this up, again, not because I have any interest at all in white knighting for Yaniv. I do not support her journey, as far as I'm concerned she can eat shit, and maybe she does. I wouldn't be surprised. No, my point is that part of the emotional catharsis that Rose and Vanessa seem to derive from making this kind of content, comes from contrasting themselves as good presentable real trans people, with the hideousness of the wretched fake-trans dump truck. A classic Vanessa thumbnail is divided into two halves. On one half, Vanessa, looking fish, looking c*nt. Always with her lip gloss in the livestreams. And in the other half of the thumbnail, for contrast, the tragic dump truck in a maladjusted wig. And I'm allowed to say dump truck, because before I transitioned I was once one of Vanessa's dump trucks. I was one of, #HerDumpTrucks. Look I happen to possess a little thing, you probably haven't heard of, called inner beauty. That's right sweetie, my pancreas? Unclockable. (airhorn blowing) Meanwhile, Rose, who prefers to represent herself with this cartoon, okay, straight-up refers to Yaniv as the Tubby Troon and the Titanic Tranner of Canada. - A particular titanic tranner of Canada. The titanic tranner of Canada. - Tranner and troon beings pejoratives for transgenders that I associate with 4chan, where I'm guessing Rose has spent a lot of time. (chimes ringing) As for the emphatic revulsion toward Yaniv's fatness, well I'm guessing that must be an important part of stopping a predator, right? - It seems almost taboo to condemn people for how rough they look when I think that that tough love in a way is needed because I look at what I looked like when I first transitioned and Jesus Christ, I wish my friends had said something, like I looked bad, like I was overweight, I had poor taste in clothes. Like I was never wearing stupid dresses or anything. It was mostly T-shirts and jeans. You're probably more like this big bull seal, barging your way into women's bathrooms, saying, this is a woman's body. Now, you might never reach the cute seal phase. In fact, very few of us turn out to look like Blair White. I want to make it very clear that when I'm talking about transition, I don't mean-- - Rose, are you okay? No you're not okay. None of us are okay. No trans woman remotely in the public eye is in any way okay. And look I don't want to take this psychoanalysis too far. Because I don't know from watching YouTube videos what's going on in someone's head. But I can try to make intelligent inferences. And I think it's pretty revealing that this is how Rose introduces the topic of Jessica Yaniv: - One of the biggest characters in the whole f*cking world at the moment, which is Jessica Yaniv. - Rose, gorg, Yessica Yaniv is not one of "The biggest characters in the world", at any moment. This is not a world historical figure. At the end of the day, this is a more or less random civilian sex fiend off the streets of Vancouver BC. The only reason anyone has heard of her at all is that Vanessa decided to go full "To Catch a Predator" and turn this grimy reprobate into a minor anti-celebrity. She's not one of the biggest characters in the world. But it sounds like what she is, Rose, is one of the important characters in your brain. This is distorted thinking. It's like A-Log comparing Chris-Chan to Hitler. You're so deep in the morbid cringe obsession that you've lost perspective. And I'm sure you have what seem to you like perfectly logical reasons for devoting so much attention to this, and I know that videos about Yaniv get a lot of views, so I'm sure that's a factor too. But Rose, I also know a morbid cringe obsession when I see one. And I know that being a visible trans woman on the Internet is more difficult than most people can imagine. And I know that pretty much every trans person is bullied or shamed or humiliated at some point in our lives. And I know how good it can feel to take all the horrible things that transphobes and bullies and TERFs have said said about us, and repeat those things verbatim at some big, fat, fake, dangerous, delusional, disgusting male fetishist. Oh, it feels good to get to be the TERF for once. It feels good to be the judge, rather than the judged. Because when you point the finger at someone else, you're also pointing away from yourself. And it's not lost on me that in conservative circles, queer people are often treated like suspected sex criminals by default. So there's safety in being the one who spearheads the think-of-the-children type moral crusade. And when you expose a trans predator, you get that feeling of safety plus the relief of having someone in particular to blame for the shame and the stigma we all feel. Jessica Yaniv is the reason people hate us. But that's just not true. It's a simple answer to a complicated problem. It's scapegoating. When I look at the Yaniv obsession on trans YouTube, I see a community trying to cope with stigma, and hoping that destroying a scapegoat will bring relief. It's basically a blood sacrifice. It's not rational. It feels good for a moment, but it's an addiction. It won't ever erase the stigma and the shame. And Yaniv is simply the latest and the most deserving in a long line of bad transgenders who aren't real transgenders and are giving us a bad name and are the reason people hate us and must be condemned and destroyed. But when Yaniv is finally gone, when you get her sent to prison or whatever your goal is, you're just gonna find a new scapegoat to take her place. And the shame cycle continues. The humiliation and bullying we've experienced is internalized as shame. When we project that shame onto scapegoats and onto each other, it becomes cringing and contempt. And we voice that contempt by shaming other people, which starts a new cycle. So you can keep finding new scapegoats, new punching bags, new shamedumps, new lolcows, and you can wind up like one of the people who's been archiving Chris-Chan for 13 years, but that will never really heal us. God how do I get out of this video? I'm trying to have a serious conversation dressed as some kind of catgirl degenerate. Cringe. Shame! I'm ashamed. Don't look at me! You know, I love wearing florals in front of flowers. Thank you! Yes I suppose it is groundbreaking. All right children, let's review our notes on cringe. The word cringe really describes two different emotions, either embarrassment or contempt. You can feel either one for yourself or for someone else. When you're embarrassed for someone else we call that vicarious embarrassment. And that can mean cringing with someone who is embarrassed themselves, which I've argued is excluded in the internet usage of the word cringe. Or it can mean embarrassment for someone who isn't embarrassed themselves, in which case we say we're cringing at them. Now if someone who's part of your ingroup is embarrassing themselves, and by proxy embarrassing the ingroup that includes you, you feel ingroup cringe, which can involve both vicarious embarrassment and a kind of self-cringe. And on the contempt side, contempt for someone who shares traits in common with you, particularly if they're traits you have contempt for in yourself, can develop into morbid cringe, which is that obsession with a lolcow, that addiction to contemptuous gazing at a dark mirror in which you see reflected everything you hate about yourself, or about your ingroup. Now I want to end this video by reflecting on whether cringe is good or bad, healthy or harmful. And I do think that in some situations, cringe is good. Embarrassment serves a social purpose, it helps us interact smoothly with each other by telling us what not to do. And empathizing with other people's embarrassing stories can be cathartic, it can make you feel closer to other people, more alike, less alone. I also think a moderate amount of self-cringe is very healthy. It shows you're self-aware, and you care at least a little bit what other people think. You know I've met people who never cringe at themselves. And, let's just say they're not my kind of people. They're narcissists who think super highly of themselves regardless of how they're actually coming across. But I think partly out of fear of ending up like one of those people, I've overcompensated, and I cringe too much, both at myself and at other people. It's a habit that is making me hate myself, and it's making me unfairly contemptuous towards others. And when I take a look around the Internet, like I've done in this video, I find that I'm not alone in this situation. And it's not cute. So, how do we cringe less? Well, the cliché solution is self-love, which our culture places a lot of value on, self-love and self-esteem. You know, I don't care what haters and losers say, I'm a bad bitch, I look like a supermodel, I'm a genius. We're encouraged to hype ourselves up in this way. But it doesn't work. Because it's not realistic. You don't look like a supermodel. And you're not a genius. And when you realize that, you fall from one extreme to the other of what Chris Fleming calls, "The self-esteem Tower of Terror." So you go from self-love to self-hate. But self-hate is also a distortion. Recently I was listening to a David Foster Wallace interview, yeah, I know, cringe, and he attacked me mercilessly and unprovoked. He said, "There is a lot of narcissism in self-hatred." How dare you notice that. I'm in this photo and I don't like it. But it's true. Time spent cringing at yourself is time spent obsessing over yourself. And it's hard not to because humans are animals, so our perspective is egocentric by nature. But we can learn to appreciate that the world is bigger than us. I mean, I've heard rumors. In that book we started with, "Cringeworthy", Melissa Dahl advocates not self-love, or self-hate, but what she calls "Self-indifference." She says, "Self-indifference is the relief "of realizing that you are simply not that big a deal." So yeah, I was cringey in the past, and I'm still pretty cringey now. But you know what? Everyone else is pretty cringey too. And the world is probably gonna burn down in 50 years anyway so, I don't know if I would call this good news but, if it's any consolation, Nothing matters. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. Nothing matters. (dreamy ethereal music)

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