The video in question. The language is very NSFW.
I consider myself young enough and fairly plugged in when it comes to understanding trending memes and so forth (though old and wise enough to know that “bae” is a really stupid expression), so when the furor over “FHRITP” exploded across Canada this past week, it was a touch embarrassing to admit that I had to look it up. After having done so, however, I wish I hadn’t. If you’re in the same boat I was, it stands for an extremely vulgar phrase that for reasons making one want to smash one’s head into one’s desk has been a viral video phenomenon for almost two years, and generated its creator – in perhaps the most telling and shameful aspect of the whole affair – more income than most of us will probably see in our lifetimes. Although, as you’ll know if you’ve been following this story, it’s cost the most recent enthusiast of the phrase his six-figure government job.
“FHRITP” began as a parody video mocking live news bloopers – going viral presumably because there were no cute cat videos available during the fractional slice of time it slithered onto the Internets – but has spread to the real world, giving rise to a dedicated website, customized merchandise and way too much money for its incredibly smug creator. It has also become an ongoing videobombing dare whereby assorted dudes in need of reassurance about their masculinity yell the phrase out in the background while female TV reporters are doing on-location work, and run away snickering as though they’ve just passed gas in an elevator. Shauna Hunt of Toronto’s CityNews, revealing that she is harassed with the phrase constantly, brought it to Canada and the mainstream media’s attention by confronting the “men” – term used only to reference their gender and certainly not their disposition – who’d tried foisting it on her at a Toronto FC game this past Sunday. The grinning broseph who dismisses her with the justification that he finds it hilarious and then makes a remark about shoving a vibrator in her ear is the one who was identified as an employee of HydroOne and summarily fired for violating their code of conduct.
Few tears have been shed.
Social media shaming is a fairly recent phenomenon and has claimed its fair share of both celebrities and ordinary folks over the last few years – the story of the woman who tweeted a joke about how she wouldn’t catch AIDS in Africa because she was white comes immediately to mind. Certainly this particular individual, late of HydroOne, will be stuck with a label for the rest of his life. Wherever he goes, whatever new job he attempts to apply for, this ripe turd from his personal history will only be a nanosecond Google search away. I don’t even want to address the frankly inapplicable issue of freedom of speech that his (sparse) defenders have raised but to say that freedom of speech does not include freedom from the consequences of that speech, and before we drag out the Charter of Rights we might want to remember that this wasn’t an activist protesting against a repressive government, this was a guy who in a moment of extremely questionable judgment that I can’t imagine was his first, chose to act like a sexist jackass on live television. It was his choice. He has to live with it. (Noticeably absent from the individual in the aftermath is any sort of public apology.)
(UPDATE 5/21/15: He has written to Shauna Hunt and offered an apology, which she has accepted but is keeping private.)
My question is why. Why do this at all. Why glom onto an utterly tasteless joke whose appeal lies in the basest elements of our nature? Why present yourself to the world as someone who derives glee from the disrespect of women? Because he thought it was funny? Because he imagined high-fiving his fellow bros at the bar later with the legendary tale about how he stuck it to that prissy blond reporter bitch? Yeah, okay. How would that elevate his life in any imaginable measure? Would it assist him in finding a soulmate, paying off the mortgage, advancing his career (oops!), helping the less fortunate or contributing to the welfare of his community?
I suspect the reason can be traced back to the 15 minutes adage of our old friend Andy Warhol, who made his observation back in an era when obtaining fame usually required a certain amount of work or talent. There was of course the plain dumb luck of becoming associated with a freakish occurrence that made the news, but the vast majority of us seemed to be fine with realizing that celebrity would remain the unreachable domain of the “other.” Not so today, when the news cycle and the massive over-saturation and over-availability of content has created a climate whereby it feels like everyone else is getting some without doing much of anything, so I want my share – regardless of the fact that I don’t merit it because I’m really not that special. Fame used to be a side effect of great achievement; now it’s a singular goal in a culture consumed by narcissism and fixated on immediate gratification without the corresponding expenditure of effort. How many young kids of our time, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, reply “famous”? And how many are so desperate for a touch of limelight that they’ll grasp at every chance, deliberately in the worst way possible? The guy who created “FHRITP” has already grabbed his piece of the fame pie for inflicting this toxin on the public, lowering the bar just that fraction of an inch further.
“FHRITP” guys are the latest in that rather sad group of sexually frustrated, anonymous, talent-bereft, unremarkable men clutching vainly at the tantalizing, dangling glowy tendrils of fame with this new glimmer of viral hope because the appeal of crank calling radio stations and yelling “Baba Booey!” went out with MySpace. They are attempting to salve deep feelings of irrelevance and meaninglessness for fleeting moments by demeaning successful women like Shauna Hunt and her colleagues who have worked incredibly hard to achieve their positions in an industry not exactly known for being overly generous to folks who aren’t hetero male. Is that something to celebrate or defend? No one stands up for the man who yells fire in the crowded theater, nor should they. Every man who does his part to renew this meme’s poisonous life by shouting it at the nearest camera for a larf instead of telling the other ones doing it to shut their filthy misogynist mouths and get a collective life, is a statement on how much harder the rest of us need to work to prove that we can be better. How we need to shout way louder that this garbage isn’t funny and we’re going to turn our backs on the morons who think it is. Some of my fellow men may not like being lumped into the same category as the douchenozzles in the video above, but, to stay silent is to condone.
To find any kind of personal satisfaction in “FHRITP” or like behavior, either spread across the world or in private, is to betray oneself as not having evolved above the mentality of the bratty baby proudly waving around his dirty diaper. If that’s how you want the world to see you, fine – you’re more than welcome to that corner, and may you find some sense of peace in the very lonely life you’re going to have. I don’t buy the notion that as men we can’t rise above the tendency of our brains to go for the juvenile antic over the reasoned thought every single time. Nor do I accept that getting a laugh requires treating someone else – especially a woman – as a willing and wanting receptacle of whatever vile, degrading phrases or actions we see fit to dump on her. As Aaron Sorkin once wrote, “more and more we’ve come to expect less and less from each other.” We should aspire to more of a legacy for ourselves than a gender-embarrassing collection of jerkwad comments that we know we’ll eventually regret.
I’m sure there’s one particular person in that video who already does.