It’s neither the collapse of culture nor an ingenious new artform, but the trend for chaos edits is sweeping the internet.
At first glance these videos shared on social media are just plain bad. They’ve no right to be gaining attention. But their very artlessness is the point.
TikTok is the natural home for these crazed, weird, incoherent sh**posts (the term for posting aggressively, ironically, and trollishly poor quality video online). Sh**posts are intentionally designed to derail discussions or cause the biggest reaction with the least effort. Sometimes they come across as ads — as this one for Amazon apparently did — causing speculation that brands were jumping on the bandwagon (Amazon denied it was real).
Writing at Vox, Rebecca Jennings notes that chaos edits “can be made up of anything the creator wants, but many share certain stylistic qualities: sped-up audio, intentionally sh**ty image or sound quality enhanced by watermarks or graininess, and disturbing or gross-out humor.”
She also lists other examples: Video of marine life against audio of gunshot sounds and the theme from Titanic, spliced together with PowerPoint transitions. A slideshow of mildly cursed images set to Aphex Twin. A series of clip art images and Jason Bateman headshots that appear to create a horror movie about wanting to have sex with Jason Bateman. An imagined vlog of opening night of Swan Lake, as told by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and illustrated by clips of Drag Race and the sounds of Nicki Minaj.
Since the first skateboarding cat videos appeared on YouTube, everyone in conventional media — that is, anyone in professional content creation — has wondered why anyone would watch such rubbish.
Well, the joke’s on them. This kind of stuff exists as antithesis to the polished, graded, precisely cut and paced videos we’re supposed to watch.
“Perhaps it’s a pushback against the tyranny of Instagram perfection; perhaps it’s simply the logical endpoint of mass availability of video editing software,” Jennings says. “Perhaps it’s because chaos alone can encapsulate what a chronically online brain looks and feels like.”
Perhaps. Jennings herself prefers another reason for why these sorts of videos and memes are enjoying a moment in the sun. “It’s because they’re sort of cool and alt, and when you publicly share a chaos edit or a sh**post, you get to feel superior to other people who might not fully get it.”
If nothing else, the randomness and energy of these videos suggests there’s a place for anarchy on the internet, and that should be celebrated.