How will future historians assess these dark days of early 2017, with the world still reeling from what US and UK voters did at the polls the year before? In years hence, scholars of the early 21st century may credit a certain tonic for keeping depression at bay for millions of people all over the world.
I refer to a 43-second video clip of the live Skype interview of a political science professor in South Korea who was interrupted by his toddlers bursting into his home office. Their gatecrashing crashed the internet as millions of people watched it live and many more shared the video. If it doesn’t make you chuckle they test your funny bone for Osteoporotic Humour Deficiency.
Now I know you’ve already seen countless post-mortems on that top YouTube video. These include complaints about Professor Robert Kelly’s alleged patriarchy. This charge was for staying seated in front of his webcam instead of jumping up to help his wife eject his 4-year-old daughter and 8-month-old son.
Why Dad couldn’t help
South Africa’s own Trevor Noah offered an explanation as to why the prof couldn’t come to his wife’s aid. Like all Talking Heads on TV and computer screens, he wasn’t wearing pants – a theory that Noah proceeded to prove true on The Daily Show by jumping up to reveal that he was wearing only boxer shorts.
Parodies, parodies, parodies
There has been a relentless onslaught of parodies of Professor Kelly getting flustered as the BBC interviewer laughingly tells him: “I think one of your children has just wandered in.” In a Star Wars parody the interviewer tells Darth Vader: “I think one of your droids has just wandered in.”
There’s a Mom version showing a woman who is totally unfazed by her kids bursting in mid-interview. She distracts them, makes supper and even detonates a bomb while continuing her commentary without missing a beat.
Aside from welcome comic relief, there are some lessons herein – especially for older people. Let us rewind to the point right after the wife and mother (not nanny, as per another internet controversy) finally removed the toddlers. When the interview ended, the producer asked Kelly for permission to rebroadcast the video. The understandably unnerved professor replied with a question: “Is this the kinda thing that goes ‘viral’ and gets weird?”
Now that’s the kinda question I would have expected from someone much older than that father. The answer is definitely Yes. It is the kinda thing that can go viral and get weird. And often does, as the Kelly family learned when those brief moments of family interaction caught on video began to be Shared on Facebook, WhatsApp, Tweeted, emailed and broadcast world-wide.
Family Blooper to lead obit
Professor Kelly lamented that a recap of this “family blooper”, as he quaintly termed it, would be the first sentence of his obituary one day, instead of his professional reputation as a political scientist. That is the price one pays for internet celebrity.
A second lesson, also especially salutary for older people, is a warning: be vigilant and guard your personal data. Think carefully before giving permission for anyone to spread information or images on your personal life. Professor Kelly has since told interviewers that he wishes he had refused the request to disseminate that video clip.
Another lesson for the aging
There is yet another aspect of this story that has relevance for older people. This home office incident is a reminder of the increasing numbers of people all over the world who operate from home, for reasons ranging from self-employment to unemployment.
It’s not only those who have permanently left the workplace who are hanging around the house for much of the day. The numbers are ever greater in this era of early, often involuntary, retirement and semi-retirement.
I appreciate growing older at a time when there is less contrast than in the past between working and retired life. One difference is that retirees do fewer Skype interviews. As for the implications with regard to wearing pants – no comment. What’s worn at home stays at home.
Audio only is fine
Now here’s the final lesson I learned from being part of the international force that made Dad Interrupted go viral: the camera doesn’t always have to be on. It’s great to see friends and relatives on Skype calls, but audio only is also fine. And usually safer, as we have recently learned.
Watching, sharing and discussing this extremely funny video and its many parodies was a rare intergenerational and demographics-transcending experience for My Old Self. It’s not that often that I giggle together with millions internationally. It has been a welcome mood uplifter in these depressing times.
Here’s my personal favorite, of all the parodies of this now all-time classic viral video. It’s by some kids who not only satirize the action, but cleverly mock the way that Talking Heads talk as well.
Update: Disrupted Dad is back. He did another Skype interview on South Korean politics, his first since becoming an internet star. He Tweeted just before his appearance that the producer had reminded him to lock his office door.