Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Reacting to reactions.

After over three decades of being a Sherlock Holmes fan, I find it quite amazing that I keep having several "first times" of late. Things that didn't exist in the world before keep cropping up, and as Sherlock Holmes spreads his influence so widely across our culture, when a new thing comes along, he is usually there. And, then, many months after that new thing is there, I finally stumble across it.

Thanks to YouTube, we now have this thing called the reaction video. I first ran into this phenomenon when my friends' kids had me looking into "Slender Man" to see what they were talking about a new video game many months ago. The point of the game was apparently to make you jump, and YouTube was chock-full of videos of people's jumpy reactions when Slender Man suddenly appeared out of the darkness.

Videos focus on the watcher, while what they're watching appears inset in the corner of the screen so you can see what they're seeing as they react. A little casual Google research doesn't easily turn up where such videos started happening, but they've certainly become a part of internet culture. And thanks to that, yesterday morning I found myself watching a four minute video of someone else watching Sherlock Holmes.

Watching a video of someone else watching Sherlock Holmes. Life had suddenly become an M.C. Escher painting. If I took video of myself reacting to the reaction and put it on YouTube, and someone else did the same, and on and on, things could get really strange . . . although I expect the reactions would get more dull the further away from the original, like copies of copies.

There's a temptation from the cranky old person side of the room to see these reaction videos as one more omen of society's downfall, that we've become so distanced from our fellows on the internet that now we have to watch emotions on video. But I think there's more to it than that -- we've now crossed a threshold of technology where we can communicate wordlessly across great distances. Watching the young lady in the video starting to weep over Sherlock's death in "The Reichenbach Fall" couldn't help but cause my own eyes to tear up, the sort of sympathetic response that usually happens face to face with friends or with a well done movie. But here was a normal person communicating their feelings about Sherlock from who-knows-where with the simplest of means of expression possible.

The great thing about such a reaction video is that Sherlock Holmes is still touching people's hearts enough to bring such a thing into existence. Not sure if I'm going to make such things a regular stop on my internet wanderings, but I was glad Howard Ostrom linked this one up on WelcomeHolmes just to know they're out there.


  1. Now that I know about 'reaction video' I will do like Sherlock Holmes and the Solar System... try my best to forget it.

  2. This one might be worth filming reaction shots for:


  3. As a matter of fact, yesterday the Internet was full of "Game of Thrones" reaction videos -- those who had read the books and knew what was coming had their cameras and/or smartphones out to capture the response of we naive Bambi watchers who hadn't a clue. I didn't see many simulcasts of exactly what each was watching, but it was easy to guess. It's definitely a "thing" these days.

  4. And it's all self-centered, narcissistic, and ego driven. I hate to break it to all those who record themselves for the world to see as they watch television, but -- and I cannot emphasize this enough -- it's not about you.

    Coming soon -- reaction videos to reaction videos -- hosted by Simon Cowell.

  5. Aaand here we are: the actors reacting to the fans reacting to the trailer of The Hobbit - The Desolation of Smaug