“If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then I have beheld a whole lot of ugly.”
Typically this column does not cover current events. The reasoning behind this lack of current coverage is obviously obvious. Being that this is a weekly publication, and that the columns are written almost a week prior to publishing, any currency would be expired by the time it was published.
However, some events are eventful before they become current and currenter after they’re eventful. Case in point this week’s topic—the Momo Challenge, which momentarily became the headline for every major news outlet. We won’t go into graphic detail about the “challenge” itself so as not to glorify the idiocy that is the “internet challenge.” Rather we will look at its uneventful origin as it unfolded and the direction it’s currently headed.
This week’s photo is of an innocuous sculpture created by the artist Keisuke Aisawa for the Japanese special effects company Link Factory. The piece is titled “Mother Bird,” and was on display at Tokyo’s horror art Vanilla Gallery back in 2016. The sculpture appears to be Aisawa’s interpretation of the Japanese folklore character Ubume a Japanese yOkai (ghost) of a woman who died during childbirth, which was once closely associated with birds. Yeah…okay. This thing looks like it took a header off the ugly tree (which was on fire) hitting and breaking every branch on the way down. Landed in the bushes of disgust, rolled down the hill of despair and sank into the river Styx. Which is a good thing since it was created as “horror art” because it most certainly is horrible. Digressing here, because even though “art” is defined by the observer, an artist’s vision is theirs uniquely.
Purportedly in July of 2018, close-up images from a photo shoot of the sculpture began being used as the fictitious character Momo for the “Momo Challenge.” This was a texting game that targeted teens to commit a series of dangerous tasks including violent attacks and suicide encouraged by Momo.
With the dawn of 2019, Momo upped its game; now targeting younger pre-school and elementary children. Utilizing a distorted Peppa Pig video, Momo challenged young viewers to horrific acts. This accompanied by an upbeat sing-a-long styled theme song that threatened kids and their families if Momo was not obeyed.
Within 24 hours of the challenge going viral all major news media was flooded with special reports on Momo. Schools issued warnings to parents to closely monitor their children’s online viewing. YouTube Kids accounts were closed, children exposed to images of Momo were traumatized, and parents were up in arms…all for naught. It was all bulls*** every bit of it! The whole thing was an elaborate hoax that spawned an instant online urban legend. Yes, there are creepy Momo videos out there, but there was never a social media challenge; the threat was fabricated and nonexistent from the beginning. And life goes on as it did before, but should it?
In retrospect it’s hard to pinpoint what’s more disturbing. That someone would take someone else’s art (despite its horrific appearance, we don’t blame the artist) and misuse it to create something truly terrifying? That today’s teens are so potentially susceptible to the peer pressures of social media and powers of texting? That anyone would threaten or even joke about harming children and create such nightmarish ideas? That anyone would watch or feel compelled to listen to that thing? That someone thinks it’s funny to monopolize the news media’s time for a prank? That we waste more time dealing with internet hoaxes and cyber issues than we do the ones happening in reality? That we all fell for it?
Our society has reached a level of numbness that is truly scary to comprehend. The world slips momentarily into chaos, but as long as our phones are working and it doesn’t interrupt our Wi-Fi connection, we shrug, ignore it and move along. We leave our children to be raised by the internet gods because we are too busy worshiping our own to take notice. Then we act shocked and jump to the defensive when someone lashes out online. Would this be necessary if we had paid more attention in the first place? We react by scrolling, re-posting posts, judging others by their number of likes and applying the proper emoji when necessary. Beyond that we are helpless. For we lack the ability to unplug, step back and realize how insane and foolish it has all become.
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Hope to hear from ya, until then try and stay focused. See ya!