We Like Turtles, Too

The Washington Post hearts YouTube

It’s always amusing to see how serious newspapers find ways to write about the elements of pop ephemera or celebrity culture that would seem to be beneath their purview. The usual route is to go meta, clothespin firmly clamped to nose - how was Paris Hilton’s jail term written about, exactly what type of cultural figure is Anna Nicole Smith, etc. But in many cases, the attempt to remain above the fray while still writing about it ends up looking a little pathetic - like someone covering his eyes with his hand but still staring through his fingers.

Case in point is today’s Washington Post. There’s a story about a bizarre little YouTube video that has been viewed half a million times. It’s the one of Jonathan Ware, a little boy at a county fair, painted to look like a zombie, who is approached by a local TV correspondent and asked how he is enjoying himself, to which he responds, cryptically and creepily, “I like turtles.” Well the Post finds the attention this clip has gotten to be “the purest possible form of inanity — meaninglessness squared.”

But apparently not inane or meaningless enough on its own, because the journalist then describes the few seconds long clip with the care of a French cultural critic, Baudrillard meets YouTube: “When the camera cuts to the kid he is staring blankly at the lens, delivering what one online commentator described as ‘a 1,000-yard stare,’ which itself is kind of hysterical because, you know, he’s got his zombie on…. Jonathon does not need to mull this one for long. Jonathon turns to the reporter and says, in a voice that is both flat and emphatic: ‘I like turtles.’”

The journalist then tracks down Jonathan and adds to the inanity of the situation by focusing the venerable Washington Post’s gaze on the 10-year-old - all the while, of course, finding it terrible amusing and ridiculous that this much attention has been heaped on him in the first place.

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Gal Beckerman is a former staff writer at CJR.