USC Digital Folklore Archives / Digital
Digital
Game
Humor

Spoon Full of Cinnamon

Context:
My friends and I were discussing the ongoing popularity of Internet challenges and where this all came from. It is clear that people do just about anything for some Internet fame. One of the earliest challenges that we could remember was the cinnamon challenge which we recalled to be happening at the end of our middle school experience. The challenge involves putting a tablespoon of cinnamon in your mouth and trying to swallow it without drinking anything and then posting a video of it on the Internet. It came to massive popularity in the early 2010‘s but quickly lost it after the realization of possible health problems.

Piece:
W: “remember when D—- and I did the cinnamon challenge?”
Me: “hahah yes! And you almost threw up”
W: “yeah that sh** made me sick, I can’t believe we even did that. Why?”
Me: “I don’t know, seemed like a good idea at the time I guess hahah, I’m pretty sure I recorded it.”
W: “where did that trend even come from, I swear Everyone and they mom did the cinnamon challenge.”
Me: “I saw it on YouTube, I think it was some kid I subscribed to.”
Wyatt: “I remember Miranda sings doing it.”

Discussion:
It was at this point that I realized that we had stumbled upon some folklore. Although just about everyone knows about this challenge I wondered who may not. We also mostly wondered where this originally started. Was it YouTube? Or was it somewhere else first? After some short investigating I discovered that the first documentation of the cinnamon challenge was in December 2001 but the idea made its way to YouTube in 2006. The massive popularity that we all remember was in January 2012 but only lasted about half the year then fell off again. I would consider this an American folklore for people born just before the start of the Internet age and after.

One of the earlier attempts:

Digital
Legends

The Girl with the Red Dress

Background: The informant learned this ghost story in Taiwan, his home country.

Context: This story was performed in an Architecture studio, for an audience of two, in order to pass time while working on projects.

“You drive or walk around in this mountain and you see a small girl with a red dress walking around. The first time that you see the girl is if you are recording a video while hiking, and you go over the video you will see the girl with the red dress in the video. If you look closer, the girl has the face of an old woman. In Taoism there is a belief in reincarnation, so people believe that she died in an accident and is looking for someone to replace them so that they can be reincarnated.”

I believe this ghost story is told by people as a way of affirming Taoist beliefs, and shows a curiosity towards what happens in the afterlife, and how the process of reincarnation in Taoism might work.

Childhood
Digital
general
Humor

Dan & Phil Fandom Inside Jokes

Abstract:

This piece is about an incident-turned-meme that is widely known inside the Dan & Phil fandom about Phil falling off a stage.

Main Piece:

“L: This is a thing everyone in the Dan & Phil fandom know about. On their most recent tour, Interactive Introverts, their first or second night – one of the first few nights, Phil one of the two main people, fell off the stage and into the audience. Someone saw it and now there are jokes about it and everyone knows about it. Like someone turned it into a Valentine’s Day card.

M: They made memes about it?

L: Yeah, like “i’ve fallen for you like Phil fell off the stage.” Like that kind of thing.”

Context:

The informant is a 13 year old girl who is part of a Youtuber fandom for the youtubers Dan and Phil. She regularly keeps up with their videos and social media posts. She even went to their latest tour and bought their merchandise. She has kept up with inside jokes in the fandom, such as this, that have become memes that only those in the fandom understand. She has stated her affinity for the pair comes from their approach to comedy and reliability.

Analysis:

This type of obsession reminds me of obsessions with boybands like One Direction or even earlier boybands like NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys. When One Direction was in their hayday, it was common for fans to have inside jokes about the specific members. The informant’s affinity for Phil over Dan also reminded me of this aspect of fandoms as well. It is common for a fan to prefer one member of a band over the others and almost “claim” them as theirs. This is more common in fandoms surrounding boybands or other musical groups than comedy groups. The fact that memes have been created from one specific moment and have lasted for awhile show how powerful the fandom can be.

 

Digital
Game
Humor

The Game

“In high school, my friends and I were always playing The Game and messing with each other. Every time you think of The Game, you lose. So the only people always winning the game are the people who have never heard of it. I think that we liked the irony and parodoxical nature of The Game. Also, school was really boring and The Game never stops. It’s endless entertainment. Except it’s also so infuriating. Most of the time when you’re actively playing The Game, you’re just trying to remind your friends that it exists to make them lose. It’s a game you play for other people as much as yourself.”

Context: The informant went to high school in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and graduated in 2010. He learned this game online.

Interpretation: This game illustrates the idea that “ignorance is bliss.” The most successful players are those who do not know they are playing. It is also deeply ingrained in Internet culture, and is an excellent representation of the principle that people on the Internet do things “for the Lulz” alone rather than for some greater purpose. The goal of this game is to annoy one’s friends as much as it is to keep oneself from losing. Furthermore, it is an example of how games that start or spread mainly online can make their way into everyday life in-person.

 

Digital
Game

Don’t Drink and Drive

1:

This drinking game is played using any game from the Mario Kart franchise. A race is setup that contains only human players, no computer players. All players begin with a full drink (most frequently a glass bottle of beer). Before a player crosses the finish line of the race, their drink must be completely finished. The main obstacle to this, however, is that players may only drink while they are pulled over to the side of the road and completely stopped-in-place.

2:

The informant has played this game with friends in the past. He says that there are two main strategies that people tend to employ, either chugging the entire drink at the beginning of the race, or chugging the entire drink at the end of the race. He believes that stopping to drink more than once during a race would lead to too much wasted time over the course of the entire race.

3:

Mario Kart has been a staple of Nintendo game consoles for decades, and it makes sense that college kids would mix a party game they grew up with and had a “muscle-memory” sort of ability to play it with alcohol. The colorful graphics and clear iconography of Mario Kart are pleasant and readable, which are also highly important to someone who is more-than-buzzed. Because Mario Kart also famously “rubberbands” players who are falling behind by giving them powerful items, the game is rewarding and fun to players who are playing poorly as well as players who are playing well.

Digital
Game

Drunkey Ball

1:

This is a drinking game that is played at parties around USC utilizing a gamecube game, Super Monkeyball 2. All players take an individual turn trying to complete a level (Super Monkeyball 2 is a game about a monkey inside of a perfectly spherical ball rolling across perilous surfaces with the constant risk of falling off. It is up to the player to rotate the stage, causing the Monkey to move). If a player falls off the stage, they are required to take a “small drink”. If someone completes a stage with more than half of the time remaining (this normally means 30 seconds remaining of an original 60 seconds) then all other players have to take a “large drink”. The game can theoretically continue on until all players complete the final stage, but more frequently the players sooner run out of alcohol or become too drunk to continue.

2:

The game is played and taught by the informant, though it is unclear who originally started it. The informant played Super Monkeyball 2, along with other multiplayer gamecube games, with his sisters while growing up, and as such is quite skilled at the game even while drunk. He brought the game to at least two parties in order to play Drunkey Ball with friends who are as equally enthusiastic about it as he is.

3:

It makes a lot of sense to me for this fast-paced multiplayer game, especially with its emphasis on turn-based play and reaction-based challenges, for Super Monkeyball 2 to be adapted into a drinking game. It also makes particular sense in the context of the parties that they are played at, often hosted by IMGD (Interactive Media Game Development) students in USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. This group of people tends to promote weird, old games like these, and supports their being played at parties.

Digital
Folk Dance

The Floss (Viral Dance)

How to Floss

Context:
Sitting with my grandma, younger sister, mom, and uncle. My sister, M, is 16. We started discussing Fortnite dances and how popular they have become, particularly the Floss dance.

Piece:
Me: “You can’t go anywhere without seeing a kid doing the floss dance.”
M: “Yeah, we were just at the Phillies game with dad and almost every kid on the screen started doing the Floss”
Grandma: “Flossing their teeth on the screen”
Me: “No hahaha, it’s a dance. It was online first, some kid was doing it at a Katy Perry concert on stage and then it blew up. Now it’s in that game Fortnite.”
M: *Starts doing the floss*
Me: “Yeah… I can’t even do it…”

Discussion:
I’m sure that thousands of people have had this same conversation because of how popular the dance craze is amongst the youth and their parents always having to ask them what they heck they are doing. The origin of this dance started with “the backpack kid” on SNL performing with Katy Perry in May of 2017. The internet quickly captured the moment and immortalized it in a meme and spread it like wildfire. By September 2017 the “Floss Dance” had earned its name and made its way into the game of Fortnite, an international sensation video game. At this point, everyone under the age of 15 was practicing the floss dance at their home, trying to perfect the arm movements. Every parent around the world was confused as to why their child was flailing their arms in such a way, until they did some research and learned the terminology. Now, “The Floss” is a common household reference and more people know of it than don’t.

Digital
Legends

Creepy LA Hotel Death (Elisa Lam)

Context:

The subject is an Asian woman, born in China, who has lived in Los Angeles for most of her life. I asked about Los Angeles urban legends and she told me this story. I’ve seen this story online and only online before, so much of the story is in the video which appears on several websites. This is a good example of online folklore.

 

Piece:

“Remember there’s that happened a couple years ago. There’s this girl, asian girl who disappeared in a hotel in LA. And then like weeks later they found her body in like the boiler room in like a big can of water where like people shower from. People were either saying that she was possessed and like kill herself, cause like theres footage of her, I need to look this up, it’s very recent, couple years. She went inside the elevator and she was like talking to like invisible man inside the elevator and she was like kinda wandering around. And then like she walked out and no one see her ever again after like that elevator. They found her dead. So no one really figured out how she got from point A to point B. I read it online when it just came out. Yeah, the internet. It wasn’t official, like LA times, but it was some sort of news website, I would like to say Buzzfeed. Really creepy videos online. It turned into this whole mythical, like she was possessed.”

 

Here’s a Buzzfeed video of the incident: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48jBi86ih5Q

Digital
Legends

3:00 AM Challenge

Instructor: Can you guys think of any legends or ghost stories that you learned at home or from friends?

(There were multiple responses from varying students, however this post focuses on a single student’s response)

 

Daisy*: “Does the 3 AM challenge count?”

Instructor: “well, that depends. What is the 3 AM challenge?”

Daisy*:  “It’s a youtube challenge. You have to stay up all night long, until three in the morning. And then you do normal things and they get weird, like, the lights turn off, or you get chills. Lots of people do it and make a youtube video of it”

Instructor: “Have you done the 3 AM challenge?”

Daisy*: “I did it with my cousin. It was hard to stay awake, but at 3 AM we went to make food, and my cousin went and cracked the eggs and he came back and told me that one of the eggs turned black when he cracked it, and at 3:01 it was back to normal.”

Instructor: “Why do you have to do it at 3 AM?”

Daisy*: “I think it’s because that’s when the devil comes out at night. So he is the one that makes all of the bad things happen.”

ANALYSIS:

This challenge is one of many that have cropped up among young youtube users and on other social media platforms over the past 5-10 years. However, this one is unique because it’s focused on a paranormal occurrence, rather than some sort of physical challenge (ie; the cinnamon challenge). All of the students in the class were seemingly aware of what this was, and many of them had varying accounts of either participating in the challenge or knowing someone who did. A quick youtube search under “3 AM Challenge” yielded an astounding 144,000,000 results, the most popular of which were centered about themes of demonic possession, and paranormal sightings at 3 AM. While the reasoning behind the precise time of the activity remains unclear, it is evident that many believe that it has a demonic of dark influence. There is no evidence that 3 AM has any significance in the bible or any other major religious text, however this seems to be a more recent adaptation of the concept of “the witching hour” which has historically taken place at midnight. What is most interesting is that even though this challenge seems rather frightening, none of the students seemed afraid of it, and most were boasting about how it “Wasn’t that scary”.

 

* The informant is a minor and was a participant in the JEP Program at USC. Daisy* is an alias to protect the student’s privacy.

Digital
general

Abandoned Subway Entrance

Context:

The subject is a white gender non-conforming individual from Brooklyn, New York. This legend is interesting because it begins online but then enters the real world.

 

Piece:

“There was an abandoned entry to the subway that was like near my house, it looks like all the other brownstones because it’s like.. But it’s boarded up, like all the windows are boarded up. And if you go in you can go — you can go from that building right into the train station which is wild because if you walk by it, you’re like “oh it’s another brownstone”, like you won’t even notice. I think I googled it, I think I was on the internet and was like New York City secrets and some sketchy website and I was like wow that’s right near where I live.

 

[geolocation]