When Cyberbullying Goes Viral: Teen Rebecca Black’s “Friday” Video
In the past month, a video of an original song by an eighth grade girl became a YouTube sensation, being deemed by many “the worst song ever.” The song, which is called Friday, was put together by Ark Music Factory, an independent record label in Los Angeles, which says its goal is uncovering new talent.
I initially heard about the song through classmates who were singing the chorus mockingly in the hallway. They insisted on showing me the video. My immediate reaction was, I will admit, laughter. The music video and song seem to be poor imitations of mainstream pop-songs, and the melody of Friday is suspiciously reminiscent of Justin Beiber’s song, Baby. The video is dotted with middle schoolers, which adds a definite element of ridiculousness to the entire act (seeing fourteen year olds pretend to drive cars and watching an already developed fourteen year old girl dance with their pre-pubescent male counterparts only drives home the awkwardness of preteendom and the video).
The lyrics of the song are also laughable as they include lines such as, “Gotta be fresh, gotta go downstairs, gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal” and “I see my friends! Kickin’ in the front seat, sittin’ in the back seat, gotta make my mind up, which seat can I taaaaake?”
Finally, Rebecca Black’s voice has come under a lot of criticism for its nasal quality, something that is probably a result of the immense autotuning that’s been done to her original recording (other videos of Rebecca Black singing acoustically demonstrate that she is a talented singer). So, clearly, Friday is full of opportunities to make fun the artist, video, and song.
But, as bad as the song is, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me why the video has fostered such overwhelming repulsion on the part of so many people. Comments on the video are essentially all negative, and some go as far as saying “This makes me want to vomit,” and “Rebecca Black should go cut herself and die.”
Yes, the video is funny, in the way that looking at old pictures of yourself in middle school might be, but nothing in the video makes me feel disgusted or hateful. At first I wondered if the intense reaction could stem from watching young teenagers partake in typically older actions (like driving a car or talking about “partying”), but there isn’t anything in the video that is offensive; there are no sexualized scenes or references to drugs or alcohol.
Finally, it came to me. There is something upsetting about a young girl expressing herself so openly. Rebecca Black is clearly the star of her video, and the content of her song, while written in a very “middle school girl” kind of way is not very “middle school girl.” In contrast to the other Ark Music Factory pop princesses on youtube, Rebecca Black’s song doesn’t talk about butterflies, or boys, or crushes, it talks about partying, waking up early, and being excited that the weekend has arrived, gender neutral topics.
In many ways, Black’s song reminds me of a Ke$ha song through the eyes of an eighth grade girl, and I would argue that, like Ke$ha, Black is somewhat unusual and in a genre of her own. It’s this uniqueness that seems unfamiliar and scary to viewers.
Finally, Rebecca Black is confident, something we don’t see eighth grade girls depicted as frequently. Once again, this characteristic stands in stark contrast with the other Ark Music Factory middle schoolers, who seem somewhat innocent, insecure, or shy in their videos.
In an ABC interview with Black, she responded to criticism of her song thoughtfully and confidently. She seemed unfazed by the hurtful attacks and in this way, Rebecca Black, while a victim of cyberbullying, is also a heroic example of how to handle such a situation. As much as I hope I don’t have to hear Friday ever again (whether it be on YouTube, the news, or coming out of my friend’s mouths), I commend Black on her strength and surprising individuality.
Fiona Lowenstein is a high school junior, weekly guest blogger and Girls Leadership Institute alumna. Read more of her work here.