Culture & Leisure

Weird is cool

Non-mainstream performances are no longer seen as ''strange'' thanks to the help of the internet that nurtures the soaring acceptance of weird stuff

With more than 500 million views racked up on YouTube, UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon and Chinese dissident artist Mr Ai Weiwei riding the invisible pony, the weird horse-riding dance brought by Korean rapper PSY with his great hit Gangnam Style has become cool.

Perhaps no one has expected the weird dance to go international, but netizens has made it so popular that you cannot deny the Gangnam Style is something.

From the strange dance of Bad Romance to the infectious Gangnam Style, people have become more open to this kind of style; some are even addicted to it.

Experts think the internet has helped make weird things popular. "Young adults tend to be online a lot. That's why many of the bizarre trends are able to go viral in recent years," says Mr Leung Hon-chu, principal lecturer in sociology at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Music producer Mr Ben Chong Tung-yan, who rose to fame because of his weird songs, such as "Eating Ice Cream", notices the non-mainstream is making its way across the internet.

"(There are) huge changes in the past five years because of the Internet, particularly the video-sharing website YouTube. People now have the ability to explore new things on their own,'' he says. ''This has made the local industry accept more new stuff.''

Record company executives now check the click ratings and views as proof of popularity of songs, he adds.

But the internet is not the only spot where strange styles like that get widely circulated.

Mr Abe Kwok Chun-kei, 30, former president of the Wuhua Hall Student Association of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, has witnessed how weird street performances turn into a trend.

From miming while walking on a tightrope to jiggling tennis balls while dancing, each of the executive member of the association has to come up with an act to perform. They do not mind if people think they are weird because they are performing to please themselves.

Mr Kwok says that odd performances, trends, music or dance moves are popular because people find them funny despite their quirkiness.

"It was hard when we first started juggling on the street because street performances weren't as popular as they are nowadays," Mr Kwok says. "We had policemen asking to check our identity cards and shopkeepers telling us we were scaring away their customers. It wasn't until about three years ago when people started to accept us as performers. Now even the older generations are starting to appreciate our talent."

Though some of these performers do not care about what others have to say about them, some passers-by indeed enjoy street performances of strange styles.

"I think some of the acts are hilarious. I enjoy watching those odd street performances because they allow me to have a good laugh. It is a good way to spend time in this busy city," says Mr Lai Kim-ming, a spectator on Sai Yeung Choi Street in Mong Kok.

Meanwhile, the fear of not catching up with the trend and what society thinks is popular may also lead to a growing acceptance of weirdness.

"Most people watching the video on YouTube are expected to like it, since it is accompanied by a glowing recommendation," says Ms Lily Chau See-wah, a psychology student at New York University.

"There is a sense of conformational bias which confirms our existing beliefs that it is a good song because of how big of a hit it is," Ms Chau says, "The same thing goes with all kinds of weird things that have gained prevailing power in the world."

She says some people pretend to like popular culture because they do not want to "look like a loser" or go against the "misperceived social norm".

"I don't tell people I dislike Gangnam Style. I keep my comments to myself. It feels like others will attack me if I post them on my Facebook," says Mr Lai.

But more weird things are expected to show up in the world even though some people are not into them. "I think people are just scared to admit they like this non-mainstream trend which is taking the world by storm. Since the internet plays a big role in society nowadays, people will be more open to new ideas," Mr Chong says.

 

Reported by Rachel Leung

Edited by Roy Chan

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.

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