The Fail Video Manifesto

Do you get pleasure or amusement out of watching the misfortunes or accidents of others? If the answer is yes, then you are slightly twisted. But there are few people who aren’t a little twisted in some way because millions of people watch what is called fail videos. I like to think of a fail video as a video that captures something that goes wrong or something that happens to someone that is not intended. These videos capture people’s mistakes and even just unfortunate things that happen to people that are out of their control. These videos can also serve to help the old self-esteem. Feeling down or in a bad mood? Watch a fail video and see people who probably have it a little worse than you. Everyone is going to mess up in someway sometime and probably multiple times so why not watch how other people do the same?

These videos can appeal to a wide spread audience. If you don’t enjoy watching a skateboarder attempting to do a “cool” trick and accidentally hurting himself, you could always watch a news anchor lose his cool on air.  There are pretty much endless ways to fail and as a result, there are endless ways for a fail video to be created. The camera just needs to be rolling at the right place at the right time. If you want to be the one to create this video you can walk around with a camera hoping something goes wrong in front of it, or you could go places where the chances of a fail are increased. An example of this could be a Saturday night party where kids probably get some fueled confidence to try things that they can’t do but all the sudden they think that they can. Alcohol has been the source of many fail videos that have been created and probably will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

Who doesn’t enjoy watching some arrogant person being brought back to reality when he or she attempts something that they “know” they can do but actually can’t? How is it not funny to learn that someone who looks like they have their life completely together and is invincible is actually still human? Whether it is a little tumble or a mishap to a minor degree, it is nice to be reminded that were all still human. Sometimes fail videos are not to a minor degree though and that’s where it gets tricky. If you look at the annual fail compellations, many of the ones included in the videos are fails of people attempting to do something that other people know won’t work out. The reason why they are being recorded is because if the person completes the task, it would be cool to see, but most of them are pretty idiotic and what is captured on camera is their complete failure and typical physical injury.


My favorite fails aren’t particularly the bad injury ones.  I enjoy ones more like what I described earlier about a news anchor fail. It is amusing to see people who you would never expect to mess up, do so. While some people can watch the serious injury fails, I believe that is where the larger crowd is lost. Part of the amusement comes from knowing that the person committing the fail is ultimately alright and that it is acceptable to laugh at them.

Watching people mess up and make mistakes has been long in tradition. In my earlier posts, I described how characters like Charlie Chaplin and the Three Stooges exemplify this. Watching people mess up is currently still popular as thousands of fail videos are uploaded and watched every year. As long as there are people and video recorders, fail videos will always be created. There is no sign that people are going to be perfect anytime soon so the hope and possibilities of fail videos being created is infinite. In fact, it is growing. Most phones and all different types of technology have cameras on them; increasing the chances that one’s fail will be captured digitally. So if you’re a fan of these videos, as I am, we have a lot of future fails to look forward to.

The Fail Video as a Genre

The fail video has evolved slightly. Many of the beginning videos were single videos of one person failing in some way. As it grew in popularity, people started making compellations of different fails into one video. This made it easier for people to watch many of them at once. The fail video can be connected to many different genres such as sports, instructional, news, and basically any other that includes someone messing up. Almost any video has a potential for failure and if one occurs, then it becomes a fail video.

It seems as though the fail video will continue to be popular. There doesn’t seem to be too much further potential for it as it is already well known and there isn’t much room for it to evolve into something else. Sometimes there are waves of particular fails that people get interested into. One specifically is people failing the cinnamon challenge. The cinnamon challenge when people attempt to swallow a full spoon of cinnamon without coughing it back up. Almost everyone who attempts it, fails to do it. The failure is typically amusing as people are unable to control their reactions of trying to swallow cinnamon and they are usually extreme. People do not watch these videos to actually see people swallow cinnamon, but they watch them to watch the various ways people fail at it in a funny way. Some of the funniest ones are when people who look put together or tough completely lose it attempting this challenge. The cinnamon challenge video went through a phase of popularity a few years ago when many people would watch them. This inspired more people to attempt it themselves and post their failure on the Internet.

The root of the fail video is people messing up at pretty much anything possible. Most of the time the people failing are caught completely off guard and their vulnerability is exposed. These videos will always exist because people will always mess up. Humans will always make mistakes because that is in their nature. Looking at past trends of people getting amusement out of watching others fail and the fact that it is so popular today, it seems as though this genre will always exist. One thing is certain; there is an infinite amount of material for it to continue. There are variations of the fail video that go through waves of popularity, such as the cinnamon challenge, but ultimately it seems as though people will continue to gain amusement from failure. Personally I enjoy watching the different types of fail videos that exist and hope it continues. I watch the yearly compilations that are made and spent an unhealthy amount of time watching people fail the cinnamon challenge. I have embarrassing moments of my own and like to be reminded every now and then that other people do as well.


Below is another yearly compellation of fails and a failure at the cinnamon challenge.


The History of the Fail Video

The history of the fail video is tricky territory to explore. Because there are so many of them, it is hard to search for what was the original one. This leaves the possibility of discovering the original fail video unknown. Fail Videos have been on YouTube for as long as I can remember, but that doesn’t mean much. There have been such a wide range of videos posted that have become so popular that users have put together compilations each year and title it the best fails of a particular year. This trend of combining the best fail videos over the span of a year into a single video started in 2005, this however does not mean there were not fail videos before that. There were many. Their increase in popularity not only drove people to make these annual compilations but as I mentioned in my previous post, an entirely separate website called Fail Blog was created for them.

While finding the exact first fail video is pretty much impossible, for people have been exposing the misfortunes of others on the web since it was possible to do so, one can explore what influenced these videos and similarities in the past. Ever since film and visual media were invented, people have gotten humor from watching unfortunate things happen to other people. An old example of this is Charlie Chaplain. Part of why he was so popular is because people found it hilarious to watch bad things happen to him. While these bad things were never so serious as to take the humor away from it, watching him fall or get hit by something was part of the appeal of his act. Continuing on, one can look at popular shows such as The Three Stooges. Basically their entire act was about getting hit, hitting each other, falling, and a number of other unfortunate things happening to them. The three stooges were tremendously popular and still remain amusing for people to watch today as getting entertainment from watching the misfortunes of others has been around for a long time and will not go away anytime soon.


While there are flaws with connecting Charlie Chaplain and the Three Stooges with fail videos, one being that we know when we watch the first two we are seeing actors and its not real as opposed to fail videos which painfully are, if you strip them down to the core there is a real similarity in the type of humor that people can get from watching all three of them. Part of me is ashamed to be comparing the greatness of Charlie Chaplain and The Three Stooges with the Fail Videos but I’m doing it to just look at a basic kind of humor that many people are drawn to.


Below are links to videos that people created showing what they believe to be the best of Charlie Chaplain and the best of the Three Stooges. I also added the best fails of 2013


The Fail Video Manifesto

Who doesn’t get amusement out of another person’s mistake? Mistakes are a human characteristic and everyone just likes to be reminded once in while that other people make them too. Some people like to be reminded more than once in a while. There are endless opportunities for people to gain amusement from other people’s mishaps, for the Internet holds thousands and thousands of videos revealing where and when other people fail. There is even a separate website dedicated to the fail video. It is called Fail Blog. These videos are meant to bring amusement to the viewers.


There are many characteristics of the fail video. The fail video does not narrow itself to one type of mistake, but it encompasses most things that can be targeted as human error. Many fail videos aren’t even human error, but they are also people who wind up in unfortunate situation that are out of their control. A common fail video is physical injury. For the video to be amusing, the injury has to be unfortunate, but it also can’t be too horrible that the amusement is taken away if the person is too seriously injured or possibly dead. Many fail videos include people falling or getting hit by something unexpected. There has to be something relatable about it that the viewer can identify with. Everyone has fallen at an unfortunate time and knows the embarrassment that comes with it. It is amusing for others to see when it happens to other people beside themselves.


Another type of fail that can bring amusement is when people, who are normally so put together and we expect to never mess up, make mistakes. An example of this is when newscasters mess up. Maybe they say the wrong word, curse, or have a break down on air. It is amusing to the viewer because we see that even these people have moments of vulnerability and they too are in fact human. There are also fails were the video displays mistakes that people can really relate to. This can be exemplified by different driving fails. The video will usually show a more extreme mess up, but most people who drive have messed up in some way and can identify with the video and gain amusement from it.


Another amusing and common type of fail is when people mess up while trying to show off in some way. Many times people are being videoed in order to show off some sort of trick or skill and it goes horribly wrong. This is amusing because it brings humility to the arrogance. It brings people down to an equal level who are trying to take themselves too seriously. There are also fails when something that is supposed to work just doesn’t and makes people mess things up. This can be any sort of technology. It reminds us that even things that aren’t human can make mistakes and that the viewer is not the only imperfect thing out there. The typical producers of these videos can be anybody. It is the person who just happens to be behind the camera when the fail happens. For all the fail videos out there, there are all different types of people who create them and upload them to the web for our entertainment. This is dangerous, for hours can be spent unknowingly getting sucked in to watching the misfortunes of others.