Do you hear the people sing? Singing the songs of angry men!” – Les Misérables.
A revolution starts with a spark, a small flame to ignite a peoples with a common goal. In this case, a Facebook event is all that was needed to round hundreds of inspired young adults to sacrifice their Friday afternoons for a common cause: dance.
Temple students gathered around the Bell Tower on Feb. 15 to recreate the famous Harlem Shake videos, creating a sea of costumes and fist pumping that clearly said, “We’re mad as hell, and we’re not going to take it anymore!”
The same devil-may-care attitude can be viewed at your leisure in a plethora of other Temple-related Harlem Shake videos. Everyone from the men’s gymnastics team to dental students to the Temple University Fencing Club to Hillel to those random people in Temple Towers has taken part. Truly, this is a revolution the likes of which have never been seen before.
But the Bell Tower event stands alone, towering above the rest due to its monumental symbolism and sheer numbers.
With over 47,000 views as of press time, the revolution has spread like wildfire. And for anyone who can look past the first thin layer of potentially intoxicated students throwing their bodies around like rag dolls, the deeper message that lies within is very apparent: Who said young people aren’t involved?
Yet to what oppressive force can we attribute this phenomenon? With so much going on, it’s clear these YouTube pioneers were making a statement about something. You can’t just gather that many people together for the sake of dressing like an insane person and dancing like the world’s about to end. Right?
What about President Barack Obama and his policies? Could it be a manic celebration of his recent reelection? Or maybe a backlash against the direction he’s taking our country?
It all seems to add up, but the real issue is a matter of specifics. What policy of his is this revolution examining? Could this be in support of his stance and recent proposals on immigration? One could envision the sea of diverse students dancing together as a representation of us as one nation, accepting of all ethnicities and backgrounds.
“I think it says nothing at all about immigration,” junior engineering major Joseph McGovern said. “I think everyone who’s here was already in the United States.”
OK, so maybe it’s not about politics. But it has to be about something, right? Maybe this video will be a defiant rejection of corporate culture. After all, we’re too independent and free thinking to conform to the trends promoted by big companies. A Temple student, who to protect his identity decided to go simply by “Tim,” commented on this possibility.
“Um,” said Tim, “I don’t know. Maybe it’s about like overplayed pop music that’s exploited by record companies.”
We’re getting closer, I can feel it. However if this is the case, our cause has been hijacked. Since this movement began, the song that accompanies the video, Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” has slowly risen the charts and now sits atop Billboard’s Hot 100.
Oh, the cruel irony, to find the inspiration of a movement lying in bed with the enemy. Despite this, we must not lose faith. Something this big, this influential, could certainly have more than one meaning.
What am I missing though? Does the transition from a single dancer to an army of dancers symbolize a dire warning of overpopulation? Do the repetitive dance moves of each individual act as metaphors of the dangers of slipping in to a soul-crushing routine, begging us to go out and live for the day? Most perplexing of all is the slow motion fade toward the end. Could that be saying something about our slow decline behind emerging superpowers such as India and China?
Alas, the answer escapes me. I have come to the conclusion that whatever happened that Friday afternoon is too complex, too powerful to be fully understood. And although the direction of this movement is not clear, we can say for sure that it is a bold expression of our Wayne-and-Garth given right to party on.
Daniel Craig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.