Maybe I’m just grumpy, but I pretty much hate this new Internet-meme-ridden safety video from Delta airlines. It’s a miles-long marathon cringe, an endless procession of dead horses brought out and beaten mercilessly. Try watching it. If you’ve kept up with the Internet at all over the past couple years, you probably won’t be able to make it through. It’s just obnoxiously tired references rehashed predictably, over and over and over. I can’t, you know? I can’t.
Now, I’m no stranger to entertaining (or “entertaining”) airplane safety videos, and I totally think they can serve a purpose beyond simple marketing, which this thing is clearly meant for, at least in part. If you’re ensnared by what’s on screen, you stand a much better chance of learning how to, you know, not die in the event of an emergency. I personally find Virgin America’s safety videos laughable, and yet I cannot look away from them. They are oddly captivating, and I basically know their dumb song by heart at this point.
But this Delta thing is different—at least, for me. The first time I tried to watch it, I couldn’t even finish it because the meme bombardment was so cringe-inducing. It was painful. I wanted to look at pretty much anything else. Then again, I’m a child of the Internet age, an Internet junkie by way of destiny if not DNA. Of course I basically drowned and choked to death and died again of those memes when they first hit it big. Of course I’m sick to second-death of them. So maybe this safety video just isn’t for me.
But if it’s not for someone like me, who is it for? If you’re on the Internet pretty much at all, ever, you’ve likely been exposed to a near-fatal dose of these memes too. Meanwhile, if people who rarely use the Internet (yes, they still exist) see this thing, they’ll just be like, “What?” Because memes are about time and place. Context. Shared knowledge. Without those things, memes are meaningless. They’re like dumb in-jokes, except passed between millions of people. Slowly, as people adapt them, put their own spins on them, they evolve and change. People get to own tiny pieces of them. But eventually, they do wear out.
That brings us to the last reason Delta’s video is the audiovisual equivalent of an airplane septic tank: it doesn’t even add anything to the jokes it references. Say what you will about meme humor (it can be applied lazily; it often tends more toward “hey, remember that thing?” than actual cleverness), but the beauty of it is a slow accumulation of shared ideas and experiences. Again, it’s that in-joke appeal. However, if you’re not gonna add anything meaningful to it—especially when you’re working with jokes that are tired, dried-out husks of their former selves—then what’s even the point? So on top of everything else, Delta’s video is lazy. And I mean, say what you will about that Virgin dance video, but that shit clearly took work.
This is yet another instance of major companies not understanding how to engage with a new generation of humor, of culture. Delta, like so many others, has merely parroted a bunch of once buzz-worthy memes back at us. It’s obnoxious, painful to watch, and a bit insulting. Next time, Delta, try to actually understand the people you want to communicate with.