Harlem Shake Meme Spreads across the Web in China
February 21, 2013 | 2,333 |1
The formulaic simplicity of producing a Harlem Shake video has obvious appeal in a country that, by its own admission, struggles with creativity. But the meme also appears to have tapped into China's diaosi (or loser) mentality - a self-effacing rejection of rigid social norms and expectations that has caught on among Chinese youth in recent years.
The above video is one of the more popular Chinese takes on the Harlem Shake, produced by employees of Shanghai-based online men's magazine Neonan, has been widely advertised on Sina Corp.'s Weibo microblogging platform as the work of "insane losers." Many have simply taken to calling the Harlem Shake the "loser dance."
Unlike the Gangnam Style parody phenomenon of 2012, which seemed to really gain traction in China only after it had already laid waste to the rest of the global Internet, the latest viral music video craze has managed to catch on with the world's largest population of Internet users not long after conquering banned-in-China YouTube.
Here's the Wall Street Journal's Josh Chin, who unearthed this video among others and explains the trend:
The Harlem Shake - or Halin Yao, as it's known in Mandarin - is based on an electronic dance track of the same name by Brooklyn-based producer Baauer. Each roughly 30-second video begins with a single person dancing alone to the music (typically wearing a helmet) while others in the room sit idly by. Then the bass line drops, the video cuts and suddenly everyone in the room is convulsing, shimmying or thrusting suggestively, often with the help of props.
That's not to say slacker twenty-somethings have a monopoly on the genre. In this version, two grannies get in on the act:
A number of critics have suggested the Harlem Shake meme (the original Harlem Shake is a dance born New York in the 1980s and popularized in the early 2000s, its short, catchy, and easy to produce and customize) might already be dead in the U.S., though China could very well inject some new life into it. Searches reveal more than a dozen Chinese Harlem Shake videos so far, including this one filmed in a pharmacy.