WorldStar: Reckless Fights or Raw Participatory Art?

I was in eighth grade walking out of my fourth period class at 12:30pm for lunch when I heard a shrill shriek coming from the quad. I quickly ran the fifty yards down the hallway to see what the commotion was as I heard many people yelling “WORLDSTAR!”. What I saw was two girls hitting, slapping, and pulling each others’ hair, surrounded by at least fifty people recording the whole thing. One girl fell to the ground and loss consciousness before I could step in to stop the girls from hitting one another. I was able to get between the girls and campus security finally came to assist but I could not help but wonder why people did not step in. Were they scared for their own safety or did they want to get the next WorldStar real life street fight video?

Eighth grade (2009-2010) was when most of my friends started to get cell phones with video capabilities and viral videos were growing in popularity on video streaming sites. Specifically, WorldStar Hip Hop is a content-aggregating video blog, often classified as a “shock site” due to the explicit nature of the street fights posted to the site. Founded in 2005, the site averages 528,726 unique visitors a day and when the fight videos are shared on other sites the amount of viewers is easily in the tens of millions (Alexa Traffic Report, 2017). I believe that in my previously mentioned situation in middle school my fellow peers were interested in gaining fame by posting the fight video to WorldStar because many of them did so and tried to share it on many online sites. At first I could not believe this, I felt that this was wrong on so many ethical and legal levels (maybe because I had never seen any of these videos before) but I felt that these videos were disturbing and could not be art at all.

I still believe that these reckless fighting videos are dangerous and that if you feel comfortable stepping in or at least yelling stop rather than taking a video you should, but one could look at these videos as a form of participatory art (riding the fine line of shadow space of crime). Since there is no legal obligation for individuals without a special relationship (police officer, lifeguard, etc) to step in, many choose to opt to videotape these amateur street fights. I talked to one of my friends who actually is an aspiring filmmaker and has actually recorded some fights he has witnessed. He explained to me that these videos are so popular because so many individuals love to watch the uncensored violence. In his words, “this stuff is real, raw, no Hollywood bullshit… just real life”. He views it as a true form of participatory art, many of these fights happen at random times between real people and he seeks to document these interactions of real people as subjects in his own art project. This clearly is in the shadow space of art and crime because it is watching battery and assault occur, therefore people like my friend must be sure to not instigate or start the fight for the art piece, which would cross over to the criminal side.

Our culture has also played a major role in increasing the popularity of these WorldStar fight videos for two major reasons: people crave real experiences and people are surrounded and infatuated by violence. First off, in the 21st century many individuals are critical to speak out against people for going with the “establishment”, i.e following all the rules and doing what you are told. This new culture creates a market for the truth and real geninue experiences when more and more people retreat to safe places online. Also, our culture in the media, video games, movies, and so much more crave violence. Murders, fights, and other crimes are always on the front page and every night on local news broadcasts. Millions of individuals play violent video games daily such as the successful franchises of “Call of Duty” and “Halo”. Viewing these WorldStar videos as art is an interesting lens to approach these shocking videos. Based off our new culture, many crave these experiences and enjoy watching a true raw video, not because they want people to get hurt, but because they want real experiences.

Overall, it is clear to see that although these videos are reckless and dangerous in nature, the aspiring filmmaker who edits and posts these videos can pitch it as art. It is a fine line to walk between art and crime but if it is demanded by society (obviously there is a high demand) then these filmmakers just like artists, are responded to the demand by supplying these real videos. Do you think these are just stupid fight videos or are they a form of participatory art that captures the real life experience of the human interaction?

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