Facebook Live is the social network's latest new toy, a doodad that allows users, be they brands or meatspace entities, to stream videos on their pages. Think of it like television, except on Facebook.
The fascinating thing is that no one really knows how to use Facebook Live, meaning that for the moment, the possibilities are endless. It's not hard to imagine it becoming a venue for performance artists—Andy Warhol 's Blowjob seems well-suited for FB Live, as does something like Chris Burden's Shoot. ("If ten thousand people like this, I'll shoot myself in the arm.") For now, though, FB Live is dominated by the sort of gee-whiz-look-at-this-are-we-having-fun-guys stuff that millennials (or whoever is on Facebook) seem to eat up. Its first major success was when BuzzFeed employees wrapped rubber bands around a watermelon until it exploded, thus " proving half a million people would watch some of a Mythbusters episode if it was on."
It naturally follows that advertisers would take to FB Live as well, but nothing can explain the Monopoly page 's game of Hungry Hungry Hippos between Mr. Potato Head, Mrs. Potato Head, and the Monopoly man himself (a.k.a. Rich Uncle Pennybags). It's part avant-garde video art, part commercial, and wholly disturbing.
The video opens with a shaky close-up of the hippos. In the background, an ominous hum (a fan? a generator?). The camera peels back to reveal life-sized versions of childhood's beloved mascots in a bright pink room, waving as you would wave if you were held in a North Korean prison and told to wave. There is no door visible, only a window, and the blinds are down. Are these mascots hiding from the world, or being hidden from it?
The Potato Heads high-five, then spin in a circle and high-five again, and again. Mr. Potato Head appears to make the rock on bullhorns with his gloved index and pinky fingers. The contestants shake hands, and Pennybags does a jig, accidentally slamming into the closed blinds. No one talks, and the foreboding hum continues. Pennybags brushes the dirt off his shoulder.
The Hungry Hungry Hippos games starts, and it immediately becomes clear that a) it actually isn't that fun to watch people play HHH, and b) the game was not designed to be played while wearing novelty fake-cartoon gloves. Mr. Potato Head begins slamming his whole hand on the board like an animal, with no strategy, sending hippo food across the table and onto the floor. Mrs. Potato Head appears to shoot him a look that says, "Don't you dare pull this shit again." No one speaks. There is no background music. The cacophony of plastic slamming on plastic roars above the generator. For some reason the game stops, the potatoes do more dancing, and Pennybags gestures frantically toward the board. There are still plastic marbles to be eaten!
The game resumes. For 30 seconds, Mr. Potatohead slams his gloved hand against his hippo's head, sounding like a deranged metronome. The game ends even though there are still pieces of hippo food remaining, and Rich Uncle Pennybags seems to have won. He begins to "raise the roof," jumping up and down as the cameraman focuses on other things, like the floor.
Is this a clever new edgy brand of marketing? Is it edgy to make people sort of stressed out and afraid of your mascots? Did someone let those people inside the costumes out of that pink room? Are they playing game after game of Hungry Hungry Hippos? If so, do they get health insurance or whatever? Will Monopoly keep making videos like this, a la the Onion's Sex House? Will FB Live become a home for strange, oddly formal abstract films made by junior-level marketing employees with budgets of under $100? The answer to those questions is yes, yes, I hope so, I hope not, they should, I hope so, and please, let that be the world we live in.
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