Online Fight Videos; Performance or a Crime?

Violent fight videos online have become extremely popular through sites like Youtube and Worldstarhiphop, and for good reason. If done correctly, these videos can be as an entertaining as our favorite shows and films. The reason for this is simple, they feel authentic. Regardless of how excellent the final product can be, most media we consume feels very staged. To get every angle, line, and shot correct, there has to be extensive planning. As the consumers, we have become very accustomed to this sort of method, and for the most part we like it. However, when we get a sense that something is real or spontaneous, it sparks our interest even more. When it comes to this concept there are two examples that immediately come to mind, freestyle hip hop and based on a true story films.

Freestyle rap is an interesting sort of authenticity, because what is being discussed could be completely fabricated, but how it’s being said can not be. What excites the listener about this off the cuff rhyming is simply the rappers talent. When we hear a great hip hop song or verse, we enjoy the wordplay and perhaps the story being told, but we know that it could have taken years to prepare the song. On the other hand, when we hear a freestyle verse we immediately have to acknowledge the quickness in which the artist puts together the words in coordination with a beat that they may have never heard before. This sort of display of raw talent with no safety guards is appealing to us as listeners. However, often times this sort of thing can be just as planned as a normal hip hop song. When we see a “freestyle” video often times the artist knew exactly what melody was coming and had a list of rhymes prepared just like a normal song. With some cleverly placed stuttering and a focused demeanor, it can appear as spontaneous as it is supposed to be.

Similarly, films based on true stories are becoming increasingly popular among consumers. These films take a story or a piece of history that is factually true, and exaggerate many aspects of it. Often times new characters are introduced, and sub-plots are included that really have no place in the story. This is all done to make it more appealing to consumers, and by the time the film is released the specifics can be very different that what actually happened. Regardless, the “based on a true story” seduces the viewer in a way, especially if the story seems particularly shocking.

Online fight videos make us of both the seemingly spontaneous layout of freestyle rap and the limited authenticity of based on a true story films, however they incorporate a third strategy that makes them even more entertaining. The third method is including severe violence, something that isn’t easy to stage at all. Online fight videos often incorporate a fight among some very tough characters, with some very real injuries and consequences. The reason violence is so effective in this genre is because you can’t effectively fake it with amateur film making equipment. In this videos, the violence we see is real, and that’s exciting. Of course we can see authentic violence in a boxing or ufc match, but those have a number of safeguards involved. A paramedic is usually standing by at a match, and there is obviously a referee. In these brawls we don’t see a medical staff and aren’t aware of any code of conduct. What we see is authentic violence, however it isn’t quite as out of hand as it appears to be. Often there isn’t a disagreement that causes these fights, in fact there can be a common interest between the opponents that sparks the brawl. That common interest is notoriety.

The fighters, the producers, and the other individuals in the film all are featured in the final product, and the really authentic looking one’s can go viral. More often than not the fighters know that they will be hurt, but they will only take it so far. The fighters are engaging in some level of criminal behavior when they take part in these brawls, but the videos are as a whole a performance. The individuals involved are fabricating authenticity just like a disguised freestyle rap or a based on a true story film. The question is, does performing this very harsh type of violence take it too far?

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