Meet the Hanslick Girls: Gwen, Eleanor and Dania. Created by writer Zach Barr, they are a trio of friends who are always out experiencing the best of entertainment. Be it plays, films, concerts, exhibits, or restaurants, they’ve learned that the arts are best when experienced together. They may not have the same opinions, but their conversations tend to make for an entertaining read. Recently, the Girls discussed the artistic merit of one of the most famous video sharing apps, on the one-year anniversary of its fall. Let’s hear their conversation…
Dania suddenly shot up from the couch.
“Vine’s been dead for a year!”
Eleanor glanced over. “Huh?”
Dania turned her phone towards Eleanor. On the screen, Facebook was notifying her of what she had posted a year ago:
“R.I.P. VINE IN ALL OUR HEARTS. IT DIED FOR OUR SINS. 2016 IS THE WORST.”
“Oh yeah,” Eleanor recalled. “It was right before Halloween, I remember.”
“It was devastating,” Dania said. “Where else am I going to get all my six-second Cole Sprouse tributes now?”
“YouTube, turns out,” Eleanor said. “That’s where the vine stars moved to.”
“It’s not the same…” Dania sighed. She turned back to her phone, switching from Facebook to Vine Archive, the surprisingly intricate platform dedicated to preserving every Vine uploaded to the app since its 2013 launch. Dania had filled her Favorites playlist with all the biggest hits: the one about changing the music, the one about having priorities, the one about the Endive – or the Spongebob vine with the same joke.
“Hard to believe it’s been a year,” Eleanor mused.
“Feels like longer,” Dania said. “I mean, YouTube has hundreds of Vine Compilations, people are still uploading them now. It was a cultural icon.”
Eleanor smiled. “I’m not sure I’d go that far. I mean, it was a video app for comedians and the occasional musician. I think one of the guys from PENTATONIX had an account.”
“Yeah, I remember,” Dania said. “They did that ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star‘ remix. They’re cool.”
“I don’t know.” Dania sat up, scrolling through vines. “Some of them are really, really impressive. Like, remember when the whole deal with Vine was that you couldn’t edit them?”
“Way at the start,” Eleanor said. “Where half of the vines were just a guy running up a wall, or a child being tickled.”
“Yeah, right?” Dania said. “But also, there were all the clever editing tricks. You know, because they way video recording worked, where you filmed until you needed to cut away, and you couldn’t go back. Like, the Will Sasso lemon vines, where all the editing was super quick and choppy. It’s like, before you could do everything in vine, people worked around the limits of what they could do.”
“I definitely remember trying to sync music before,” Eleanor said. “Like, when you had to start the music early and then try to hit ‘record’ at exactly the right moment to get the song included.”
“I’m always a bigger fan of the vines where you can see the screen they’re recording. Bo Burnham did that several times. And have you seen this one?”
Eleanor stood, leaning over the couch to peer at Dania’s phone. On the screen was a Nintendo Mii with the face of Shaquille O’Neal, vogueing to the opening strains of “Welcome To The Black Parade.” It was a simple vine – less than a thousand loops, only 13 revines – and yet, the absurd comedy went another layer deep with each repetition. Who had created the Shaq Mii? Why was he programmed to dance? What made the author notice that he danced to the exact tempo of My Chemical Romance’s biggest hit? And did the melancholic piano chords reveal some dark sadness behind the cheery exterior? The caption, “Shaq ‘ s personality,” implied as much.
Altogether, Eleanor was surprised to find herself smiling as the Mii posed on a loop for the third time. She walked back to her chair.
“Vine is so weird!” She cried. “Like, what is the point?”
“It’s just funny,” Dania said. “It’s absurdism, like all the internet’s comedy. I mean, there’s nothing inherently funny about filling your cup with twelve different drinks, but there’s comedy in the fact that – I guess that’s it, it’s funny because someone took the time to film it and edit it. As far as you can edit it. There’s always a story there.”
Eleanor considered this. Dania had a point – the best vines in her memory always left her wondering about the circumstances before and after it was filmed. Is the small girl okay after getting a Strike in Wii Bowling? Was Zach actually arrested for kicking too much? And of course, What happened back at that Krispy Kreme?
“It’s meta, a little,” Eleanor conceded. “I don’t know if Gwen would consider it meta, but you know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” Dania said. “You want to know what happened to those people in Thomas Sanders’ stories. After a while, Vine became more about six-second finished stories, instead of six-second observations about life.”
Eleanor hummed approval, and a silence settled in the room. Eleanor, engrossed in a book, suddenly cast her eyes to the wall, stifling a laughing smile.
“What?” Dania asked.
“I was just thinking…” Eleanor said. She raised her hands, to set the scene. “‘It’s gonna eat you.”
She began lowering her arms, curving downwards. “Oh my God, Sylvia. Oh my God!”
Dania joined in: “Oh my God! Oh my God, Sylvia!” Eleanor shrieked, like the small child in the vine. Both of them laughed, sinking into their chairs.
“Ugh, that one is amazing,” Dania said. “Oh, wait wait wait. Hold on…”
She stood, and turned her back on Eleanor. The room was quiet. She began wiggling her shoulders up and down, and spitting out a rhythm through her teeth. After a moment, she whipped her head around – a toothy, Joker-like grin spread across her face. Right around the moment when the vine would have looped, Dania stopped, noticing Gwen standing at the edge of the room.
“What are you doing?” Gwen said.
“It’s that vine!” Dania said. “The ‘who is she‘ vine, with the ponytail and the sunglasses. I need sunglasses.”
“Ah, right,” Gwen said, as Dania dug around for sunglasses. “I remember. Hasn’t vine been dead for a while now?”
“One year,” Eleanor said. “Exactly. Dania got a Facebook notification about it.”
“No kidding?” Gwen watched as Dania re-enacted the vine again, now with sunglasses. “Birth of a thousand memes, and gone but yesterday.”
“Barely yesterday, at this point,” Dania said, slumping back into the couch.
“They live on,” Gwen said. “What do you always ask for on your taco, Eleanor.”
Eleanor sighed, but obligingly replied: “FRE SHA VACADO”
“Yep,” Gwen said. “Also ‘Why You Always Lyin’,’ and the ‘what are those‘ trend – honestly, it was a Vine that created a new phrase.”
“What, ‘Do It For The Vine?'”
“I was thinking of ‘On Fleek.'”
“That’s right!” Eleanor said. “I forgot about that. And a word created by a woman of color, too, Kayla Newman.”
“Vine always crossed racial lines,” Gwen said. “After all, two of the biggest stars were probably KingBach and Rudy Mancuso. Not to mention the Korean girl with her cat, whose vines were all nonsense.”
“True…” Eleanor said with hesitancy. “Although to be fair, vines did perpetuate a lot of racial stereotypes. Considering what got popular, especially within KingBach’s vines. The whole ‘black dudes can’t swim’ joke, lots of toxic masculinity…”
“Not untrue,” Gwen admitted. “It wasn’t always a trove of political correctness. Still, a medium where anyone could get famous, and anyone did. The app was enough of a meritocracy that the most talented people – the people who knew how to set up a scenario in a second, and subvert it two seconds later – they usually rose to the top.”
“But still enough of a viral-tocracy that random people could get their weird vines famous,” Dania added. “Consider the little girl who wanted to be famous. And then became famous!”
“Vine Famous,” Gwen clarified. “Whatever that means, in the grander cultural pyramid.”
“Well, some of the stars made it to YouTube,” Eleanor said. “And most of the vines live on in compilations.”
“Compilations aren’t the same, though,” Gwen mused. “Part of the joy about Vine was how they looped endlessly. You watch something like the girl dancing with the bag on her head, and there’s work gone into syncing up the music to loop endlessly. I remember vines so funny that I let them run for minutes.”
“Like the one with the towels on their heads, the ‘Around The World‘ vine.”
“Right? Or that one with Chris Christie,” Dania said. “Where he looks like his soul died.”
“Right!” Gwen said. “The entire 2016 election was a dream for people on vine.”
Eleanor’s face contorted into a forced grin. “I’m just chilling…in Cedar Rapids.”
“Everything involving Ted Cruz was funny,” Dania mused. “Man, that feels like forever ago.”
“It would have been swept away if not for Vine,” Gwen said. “It captured those tiny moments in life that get lost, and admired how strange they are. Vine encouraged a culture of people not taking themselves so seriously, and embracing a world of killer beach umbrellas, gummi money, wild dancing, and whatever is happening in the vine where the elderly people are working out in the park.”
“But there was a sort of skill to it,” Dania said. “It’s the app version of those Lays potato chips that are flavored to keep you eating more. So you open the bag – or, the app, here – and suddenly you wake up in a haze after watching a trampoline vine for the fortieth time in a row.”
“Not a bad comparison,” Eleanor agreed. “And vines never get stuck in your teeth.”
“They get stuck in your head,” Gwen said.
Eleanor looked to Gwen with agreement.
“Who’s that Pokémon?” Dania asked.
“IT’S PIKACHU!” Eleanor responded, whipping her head around.
Dania smiled. “It’s Clefairy!”
Image Source: The Drum