Why Local Flash Mobs Make Us Feel Crappy About Miami
Is the below video a dancetastic flash mob or an ad for the Ikea in Sunrise? That store is crowded enough without the added publicity. (If someone doesn't already know where to buy disposable Swedish home décor, let's not tell them, okay?) Hats off to choreographer Jackie Vilarino of the local Dance Tech Studios for the mob's moves, but this video leaves a bitter taste in our bloggy mouths.
Yes, the Ikea "flash mob" is a fun break from everyday ennui. But it's tainted with branding and commerce, and it makes living in Miami seem a little bit crappier. Read on for the video and an extended compliant.
What makes this blogger a flash mob expert? I was one of the original
mobbers in the flash mob wave that began in New York City in 2003. This
may sound like a brag, but there's actually a lot of shame here. You
see, as it turns out, the series of flash mobs I so obsessively
participated in were just research for a Harper's editor's article on
the mob mentality of hipsters. Le sigh.
But screw that guy. The truth is that when we were clandestinely meeting up
and confusing the public for no higher purpose (for one, we all piled
into Macy's and stared lovingly at an oriental rug), it felt
invigoratingly random and subversive. If such a flash mob were done
today in Miami, it'd be the employees of the department store singing "I
Love This Rug!" to a Katy Perry track.
Here's how the 2003 flash mobs went down: you'd meet at one of a handful
of bars based on your birth month. Slips of paper would be quietly passed
around listing the location of the flash mob, the time, and any
For the last one I went to, we all queued up outside of
St. Patrick's Cathedral for a mere five minutes and when the clock
struck 7:29 p.m, we split. Passersby asked the hundreds of us in line what we were
waiting for, and we responded spookingly en masse with "Tickets for the Strokes."
Ok, so that Strokes bit should have been a giant tip off about the whole
"hipster research thing." But frankly we were all giddy with the
excitement of spontaneous organizing and we had no reason to be skeptical about
an ulterior motive. Plus, even the Harper's editor realized that these flash mobs had meaning for the participants despite his conclusions about sheep behavior:
There was, however, one successful element of politics in the flash mob-a vague and dark thing, a purely chaotic impulse that (surprisingly enough, for a fad born of the Internet) was tinged almost with Luddism. It could best be seen at the very moment that a mob came together: a sort of fundamental joy at seeing society overtaken, order stymied; at silently infiltrating this pseudopublic space, this corporate space, these chain stores and shopping malls, and then rising at once to overrun them.
We all thought we were flash mobbing for the sheer chance of a Guy
DeBord-style Spectacle. We weren't promoting an Improv Everywhere
troupe, we weren't selling Swedish bookshelves, and we weren't
advertising a local dance studio.
In contrast, these sponsored flash mobs feel like a giant corporate lump
in our throats. Get it together, Miami. Stop trying to sell us
something and just show us an inspired, good time.
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