Freaky "Friday"

Novelty wears thin as teen's harmless YouTube song draws the haters.

By Jere Hester
|  Tuesday, Mar 22, 2011  |  Updated 4:31 AM EDT
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The reasons some folks love "Friday," the viral pop hit spawned by a YouTube video starring a 13-year-old girl, are the same reasons others love to hate it.

The song, with inane lyrics that offer a primer on the order of selected days of the week, is peppy, Auto-Tuned pop silliness wrapped in a bubble gum video filled with as much cheese as saccharine. So, not surprisingly, "Friday" hit a Gaga- and Bieber-like 30 million hits on YouTube Monday, drawing the teenybopper crowd as well others who apparently watch to mock the unintentional parody of all things pop.

But the love-it-or-hate-it novelty is wearing thin, amid some vile rhetoric hurled at young Rebecca Black, whose only sin is singing a goofy song that some kids her age seem to enjoy and a wider demographic delights in being annoyed by.

We're basically seeing the old novelty song/pop confection phenomenon play out – only with the hyperspeed of the Internet age in which anyone can post a video and become famous as quickly as getting pilloried. With the speed has come an increase in viciousness, as some online commenters apparently feel free to wish harm – and worse – on a child.

The song and the singer are fair game for satire and criticism, which are to be expected, even if there are reasonable arguments to be had over whether the online bashing of a kid for sport is a productive use of anybody’s time. But we’re at the sad point where we also can expect out-of-bounds personal attacks by cowards who use the anonymity offered by the Web to reveal themselves as haters.

In a recent interview on “Good Morning America,” Rebecca came off as a reasonably levelheaded, if starry-eyed kid (she pines for a duet with Justin Bieber, who also got his start on YouTube), with relatively thick skin and a decent enough voice (she sang a few bars of “The National Anthem,” sans Auto-Tune). But she’s clearly concerned by the cruelest of the comments against her, particularly one that, she reported, suggested she “go cut and die.”

"At times, it feels like I'm being cyberbullied," she told The Daily Beast.

Whether the over-the-top rhetoric is indicative of a growing dysfunctional culture of cyberbullying or just the unfortunate rantings a few frustrated cranks is impossible to know. But it's disturbing, any day of the week.
 

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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