When I’m casually browsing the internet, I end up on YouTube. And, when I’m browsing videos on YouTube, I often end up watching ‘fail’ videos. These are usually compilations of amateur footage shot on smart phones showing people having accidents or getting things wrong. They come from all over the world (the majority of road traffic collision footage seems to come from Eastern Europe and Russia), but a lot of the videos come from the United States. Effort appears to be made to exclude footage of incidents resulting in serious injury and/or death.
‘Fail’ videos are also extremely popular and make You’ve Been Framed seem like a twee revenant of a primitive age. FailArmy, the leading ‘fail’ video provider on YouTube, currently has 10,358,386 subscribers, and that figure doesn’t include casual viewers like me who aren’t quite comitted enough to actually subscribe to the channel. In recognition of this milestone, FailArmy released The First 10 Million || A Thank You Fail Montage on 26 March, 2016.
I think the real reason that ‘fail videos’ appeal to me so much is that, aside from often being genuinely funny, they offer a contrast to the usual airbrushed and sterile images of people we’re used to seeing in social media. In an era when users, especially people in the public eye, go to great lengths to present an idealised version of their lives to their followers, there is something genuinely refreshing in seeing someone make a fool of themselves and laugh it off.
The opposite of the ‘fail’ video is the ‘win’ video, where people’s stunts and attempts go right, often spectacularly so. ‘Win’ videos tend to be less humorous but much more uplifting than ‘fail’ videos, and hopefully serve to counteract certain criticisms of the genre. Interestingly, FailArmy also hosts ‘win’ videos on its YouTube channel.