Yes, the potato salad Kickstarter is an incredibly stupid joke that the Internet has deemed worthy of over $40,000 (£23,300). But it's a joke that targets the shallowness of social media panhandling in a fun way. That's why it's worth celebrating.
Zack Danger Brown's Kickstarter began by asking only for $10 (£5.80) to make a potato salad. He promised to say the name of any backer who contributed at least $1 (£0.58). It's the exact kind of weird thing the Internet loves and the project caught people's attention. Blogs reblogged, people shared, it went viral. The guy ended up surpassing his goal by a wide margin, and now the plans have expanded to include custom hats, a giant pizza party and probably a concert or something.
Of course, as with anything popular on the Internet, the backlash was inevitable. As the story has grown, commenters became less charmed by the project and more offended that people would throw money around so callously, as though the money contributed to the project was somehow siphoning it away from dollars that would have otherwise ended up in an orphan's pocket.
Look at this potato salad. Photo via Flickr user La Melodie
The AV Club described the project as "a harbinger of the Fall of the Ironic Empire". Commenters were displeased with being trolled, turning their noses up to see people spending money "ironically".
The notion is that this is not a "real project" and isn't deserving of being able to raise money on Kickstarter. Only serious artists with serious projects should be allowed to raise money.
This is far preferable than some narcissist's album or short film. After the silliness, it’s an excellent takedown of Kickstarter entitlement, how absurd consuming content has become and how absurd value measured in our society has become. The joke would be much crueler if Brown decided to use his new money to fund some web series about dating in LA.
They call it 'tater salad'. Photo via Flickr user stu_spivack
The common argument for the value of Kickstarter is that it funds projects that would otherwise not gain support through traditional methods. Well, the potato salad Kickstarter demonstrates this: When else in history could someone have made $40,000 (£23,300) for potato salad? Projects like this are the heroes of Kickstarter. The villains are people like Zach Braff or Zosia Mamet who could get funding through other methods if they tried even a little bit.
This is the kind of entertainment that we’re moving toward – weird, conceptual, immediate. Besides, at least it's not vicious or racist unlike the Daquan meme that started trending around the same time. The only crime the potato salad Kickstarter commits is making you want potato salad.
Yum. More potato salad. Photo via Flickr user Steven Depolo
Another popular backlash sentiment is that since all of this money was raised for a joke, the money should be directed to a better cause like a charity. Donating to charity is actually explicitly against the rules of Kickstarter, which enhances the absurdity.
We often unknowingly give money to stupid things. Sometimes you just like the way a t-shirt looks, and then find out that money went to some crazy jerk who wants to oppress people. Or a chicken sandwich. Or a lobby full of hobbies. This isn’t the first or last time someone will make an absurd amount of money unfairly.
Every reasonable person should be in support of funding stupidity when it’s fused with joy. This stunt reminds me of Kurt Braunohler's hilarious Kickstarter project last year in which he raised over $6,000 (£3,500) to get an airplane to skywrite "how do I land?", but then this guy isn't a professional comedian like Kurt Braunohler either.
I reached out to Kurt to get his take: "I have conflicted feelings, let me try to separate them out," Braunohler said. "On the one hand, I think it's great because it's dumb, and came from a real place. I also like how the scope has increased since it began. Looks like he's gonna have a giant potato salad party. That's stupid and fun. On the other hand, I hate it, because I think potato salad is fucking gross."
Of course, if it turns out this is all just a ploy by Big Potato Salad to engineer some clever viral marketing scheme to seduce the money out of my pockets, then I rescind everything.
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