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Choral Grief: On the Existential Despair of Watching the Super Bowl as the Left Shark

I knew that the Super Bowl would be full of funny moments, but it was also important to confront the possible end of a meme.

by Kyle Kramer
Feb 8 2016, 5:41pm


Photos by Ry T. Charque

I have no idea what’s going on. Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. But now I am no longer the big kahuna. I am not even the little kahuna. I am but a shark, washed upon the shores of irrelevance. Or am I? I have no idea what’s going on!

That’s just how I feel!

Back in the day, we watched TV to be razzled and dazzled by the spectacle. Today, in the Information Age, with software eating the world, we watch TV in the hope that we might see something funny that we can share with others to make them laugh and have a good time. Ha ha. LOL! Maybe we will “caption this pic” correctly and it will go viral and we will have our 15 minutes of fame.

This, viewers, is the noble “meme”: always present but hard to catch. If an event has no memes, did it even exist? Perhaps not. That’s why, in the year 2016, we have a picture of the famous basketball player Michael Jordan crying that we can put on any picture to make a “viral moment” even if the event doesn’t have “organic viral reach.” Technology is truly a marvel. As they say, there’s an app for that!

For Super Bowl XLIX, the meme was staring us all in the face. That’s why, the day after the Super Bowl, I tweeted “the left shark… totally me.” As of this writing, three people agree enough to “RT” and another 36 “like” this statement. That is true viral potential! Those were salad days for the left shark, every meme another viral success. I’ll never forget a picture I once saw that said “Left Shark: Inspiration for all humanity.” That’s a good quote! I shared it.

Why did people connect with the left shark? Because nobody has any idea what’s going on in life, and the left shark, which didn’t dance the way it was supposed to dance in the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show starring Katy Perry, was just like the audience. You have to love when you can relate online. It’s like Minions, or, as a Minion would say, “Shhhh I’m hiding from stupid people.” Classic!

Anyway, by the end of 2015, a lot of people were saying the Left Shark was over. And it was true that many new viral sensations had come along. Now people rode around on light up scooters called “hoverboards” and did dances like the “dab.” Worst of all, another Super Bowl was around the corner, and the Left Shark was probably doomed. I mean, Coldplay was playing! Who can compete with that? Everyone loves “Clocks.” “Viva La Vida?” More like “Viva La Memes-a.” Also Beyoncé, Queen Bey, and Bruno Mars. Uptown Funk Gonna Give It To Ya! Love that song. It’s on my Pandora.

Nonetheless, I showed up at the Super Bowl party dressed to the nines, like a real Left Shark. I brought snacks to share with all my friends. Once you pop you just can’t stop. I hung out and had a good time with friends, which is one of my favorite hobbies.

I knew that the Super Bowl would be full of funny moments, like maybe the Carolina Panthers would do their signature dab dance. I practiced my dab, too. The left shark dabbing? Sometimes you have to evolve with the times to make a good meme. Disrupt or be disrupted. If a shark stops swimming, it dies. Whoa, that just got dark!

During the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show, I watched Chris Martin and Coldplay take the stage. I’d read an article where one of the show producers had said “I think there are a few pieces that have the potential to become viral moments,” so I was on the lookout for good viral moments. Perhaps I could “pivot” and embrace a new meme in 2016. But there wasn’t much. Coldplay didn’t even play my favorite song, “The Scientist,” about a brave marine biologist who finds love under the sea. Instead they played the song “Paradise,” which is about existential malaise. Not hard to find something to relate to there as an aging Left Shark meme enthusiast, I guess, but not really what the Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show needed, in my opinion.

Bruno Mars did give us that uptown funk, and Beyoncé slayed in formation. The problem with Bruno Mars and Beyoncé, from a Left Shark perspective, is that they are too good at what they do. The only memes you can make about Beyoncé are ones about being a boss and being successful. Instead, I had to contemplate what it meant to not succeed: As they played a montage of classic Super Bowl performances to the tune of “Fix You,” they showed American heroes like Bruce Springsteen and Michael Jackson. But they did not show the Left Shark.

As the second half continued drearily, with the fun, good team losing, I thought about what it means to be forgotten and dwelled on the grim reality that much of life is not a Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show that launches laughs and good times but rather a reef upon which our hopes and dreams are continually dashed. The meaning of the left shark is that we should all be ourselves. But most of us aren’t Beyoncé; we’re just another voice in the great Greek chorus of the internet, saying “WTF” and “OMG” and “hashtag same” along with the rest of the world.

But there is hope, too. Because, even though the half-life of a meme is shorter than ever, there’s at least one simple truth in life: A left shark suit is funny. When I was dressed in my Left Shark finest, I brought a smile to my friends’ faces. I laughed with friends, which, as previously mentioned, is one of my hobbies. I felt like a kahuna after all. Sometimes, in our hopes to go viral, we forget the most important viral phenomenon of them all, love. As I always say: live, love, laugh.

Kyle Kramer tweets about the Left Shark. Follow him on Twitter.