Tag Archives: violence

Violent Barney Song Parody

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 21
Occupation: Student
Residence: Tacoma, Washington
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/11/2020
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Main Piece:

(to the tune of the Barney Theme Song)

“I hate you

You hate me

Let’s get together and kill Barney

With a baseball bat and two-by-four

No more purple dinosaur!”

Background: The performer is a friend of mine in his early twenties. He spent his entire childhood in Long Beach, California and now lives in Tacoma, Washington. He went to public school in the Long Beach Unified School District from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and his elementary school (grades kindergarten through fifth) had around five hundred kids in it.

Context: The informant hadn’t sung the song since elementary school, but he was willing to perform it for me anyways. In a traditional context, the Barney spoof would be sung on the blacktop by children ranging from seven or eight years old all the way through elementary school (10 to 11). A remembers learning it from kids a few years older, hence the dark material.  After singing it, A seemed a bit embarrassed and shocked at his parody and asked me why we all had such animosity for Barney in particular.

Thoughts: Though I did not attend the same elementary school as the informant, I can remember similar violent Barney songs. I wonder if the informant’s school had ever tried to ban them the way mine did for their violent and sometimes gory rhetoric. It’s strange how it seems so disturbing now; A and I both thought the songs were very funny as children. I suspect that Barney was a popular target because of his infantilizing dynamic and dopey voice, as opposed to other childhood PBS characters like. Elmo or Dora the Explorer. Anti-Barney humor is actually a well-recognized phenomenon, in both adult and children folk groups alike. For young children, the violent humor can be a way of navigating changing worldviews and increasing maturity—the graphic gore or death taunts are a schoolyard form of taboo humor, a way of rebelling against previously held-notions of childhood and asserting that they are more mature than parents, teachers, and popular children’s shows might regard them.

The Wedding Beat

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Indian
Age: 55
Occupation: Financial Manager
Residence: San Ramon, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/26/20
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Hindi

Main Body:

Informant: This is one that I’m positive does not happen in my part of India, in my part of the community. I had not witnessed it until my brother got married. He was getting married and my sister-in-law was from Haryana (a northern state of India). And the wedding was in Chandigarh which is a big city. So this was after the wedding ceremony but we’re still all sitting around. My brother, the groom, gets called into a room. And he walked in, and there were always these little rituals to do so I suppose he thought it had something to do with that. And I walked in after him but someone stopped me. So my brother comes back out two or five minutes later, red in the face, and he told me that they all punched him on the back.

I mean, it wasn’t soft too, it was pretty serious. I thought it was funny. It was the bride’s family that did it and they laid into him pretty good. So they brought him in there under false pretenses and there were all these women –

Interviewer: So it was exclusively the women in the bride’s family?

Informant: Yeah, only women, not men. So it’s more of women in the bride’s family messing with the groom’s family. Here’s my theory, there were many women in there who probably were abused and this was their way of getting some of their thing out. And at my wedding, and your mom is from UP which is a different state. At a similar point in the wedding, and my brother in law was standing behind me. And some women from your mom’s family came and they hit my brother-in-law, my sister’s husband. But it wasn’t like a fist, like how they hit my brother, it was open hand. It was on the back and they had some powder some turmeric on their hand so now they have a hand print on their nice suit. Funny thing, my brother-in-law starts yelling, “No you don’t hit the brother-in-law, you’re supposed to hit the groom!” Which is why, even though I haven’t heard of it anywhere else, I’m pretty sure this is a tradition in some sense.

Background:

The informant is my father who was born and raised in northern India in the state of Punjab and immigrated to America over 20 years ago. He was raised for a time in a rural village setting which is where much of our family comes from and this tradition is one he noticed being practiced in those rural, village weddings. This also happened at his own wedding.

Context:

I am back home due to shelter-in-place. One night when my family was sitting in the study I asked my father if he had any folklore samples I could add to the archive. This was one of the ones he shared with me.

Analysis:

I think this tradition comes from the women in the bride’s family fighting back at the patriarchal society they find themselves in. While done in jest, it could be argued that the women beating the groom is a warning for him not to do the same to the bride and to treat her right, otherwise he knows what’s awaiting him. Additionally, the example of a powdered handprint being left on a suit could suggest that the women are leaving their “mark,” much as a man would leave on a woman by beating her. They’re leaving a physical and a visual reminder that there is an entire family who is looking after the bride so she is to be treated well.The fact that the two examples discussed happened in different, yet nearby states, lends credence to this being a widespread tradition in northern India.

Headlight Gang Initiation

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: 20
Occupation: Student
Residence: Florida
Date of Performance/Collection: 4.30.14
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Item:

Me: “So if you don’t believe it, why not go and just try it and see what happens?”

Informant: “Yeah but if I’m wrong that’s going to be really shitty.”

In Florida, if you see an old, beat up car driving on the freeway at night with it’s lights off, don’t flash your high beams to signal it. According to the informant’s high school friends, members of gangs purposefully drive around in these conditions to bait high beam flashing. Once someone flashes their lights to try to tell the gang car to turn its lights on at night, that person is marked. What this means is that the members of the gang will drop back and follow the person to their destination. Once there, the gang member(s) shoot and kill the person. It is a form of gang initiation.

 

Context:

The informant said this was the distinct scenario his friends described. He said they had heard it for a few years and heard of at least one instance of it happening. While he himself saw no truth to the urban legend, he stated he would not like to go looking for trouble by driving at night and flashing his brights at cars.

 

Analysis:

This is an urban legend and fear that seems to be very widespread. I personally have heard similar instances of this story in Los Angeles, with variation. It’s well-recognized by many states, and almost entirely shown to not have truth behind it. While it’s hard in some cases of road or gang violence to determine exactly what the inciting event was, many reports have been issued saying this type of initiation ritual is not real. It’s a pretty strong example of how something like an urban legend actually puts a lot of people in danger — should someone be driving around without lights on, they endanger other drivers at night. Not reminding that person of their lights being off because of a fear like this could very possibly result in negative consequences for that driver and other people. For information on more instances of the story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headlight_flashing#Urban_legend

Tic-Tac-Toe Children’s Game and Song

--Informant Info--
Nationality: African-American
Age: 8
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/27/2012
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

My informant showed me this game in the context of our Forms of Folklore JEP class. She claims to have learned it from her friend, a fellow second grader. She calls it “tic-tac-toe” and usually plays it at school, on the playground at recess and lunch and after school. She says it is played with two people. My informant says she likes and does it because it is fun. She especially likes to be tickled, during the “spider” portion. She also says she likes being able to push someone else around, though her teacher disproves. She says she tries not to hurt others, though, because it is not a good thing to do.

Material:

Each participant has both hands together, palms touching. Then, they sing “tic” and swipe the back of their hands against each other. They repeat this motion in the opposite direction and sing “tac,” and do so again while saying “toe.” They then clap their hands, and say “hit me.” Then, they move their right hands above their left, and clap their partner’s hand, saying “high.” They clap their own hand again, again saying “hit me.” They then move their right hand below their left to clap their partner’s hand and say “low.” They then interlace their fingers and turn their palms to their partners. They then touch their palms to those of their partners three times, saying “hit me three times in a row.” They then put their left hands in front of them, palms up, with their right hands curled into fists. They bring their right fists down upon their left hands three times (much like rock, paper, scissors) and say “tic,” “tac,” and “toe” for each downward swipe. They then each choose a symbol to represent with their hands (again, like rock, paper scissors), a fist for “rock,” a flat hand for “paper,” and the index and middle fingers pointed with the rest curled in for “scissors.” They do this until one person has accumulated three “wins.” (To win one must trump the other’s symbol with the winning symbol–paper beats rock, scissors beats paper and rock beats scissors). The person who accumulates these wins, has won all around. He or she turns the other person around, make’s a cross on the other person’s back, juts his or her elbow into their spine three times and then interlaces his or her fingers, and shoves the person from behind. There is also an optional “spider” move that would go between the elbow move and the shove, which consists of tickling the back of the other person’s neck. You can see the game here: TIc-Tac-Toe: Game And the winning ceremony here: TIc-Tac-Toe: Winning Ceremony

Analysis:

”Tic-tac-toe” seems pretty typical—it is a variation on rock paper scissors that has an introductory game. However, this introduction mirrors the conclusion, the winning ceremony. In the introduction the players ask one another to “hit me high/hit me low/hit me three times in a row.” This is a precursor to the end of the game. Once one person wins he/she makes a cross on the other’s back and hits the other “three times in a row.” Then, the hand motion of interlacing fingers occurs again, as the winner shoves the loser from behind. These repeated elements bring forth the most important part of the game: the violence.

Considering the neighborhood in which this piece of folklore was collected and in which my informant lives (the USC surrounding area), it is not terribly surprising to note the prevalence of violence. Even at this young age, my informant and those that play this game with her are aware of the violence surrounding them. Simultaneously, this is a school setting and so violence is strongly discouraged. The way my informant negotiates between these aspects of her environment is interesting. She says she likes being able to shove her fellow students, but also tries not to push them too hard because she believes that hurting others is not a good thing to do (reinforced by her teacher’s disapproval of the game). Furthermore, she also enjoys being on the receiving or losing end. She says that she enjoys having the “spider” crawl up her back. Though this is intended to be scary, she finds it enjoyable. This could indicate that she is in some way playing with fear—that she knows that she will be shoved, elbowed in the back and that a pretend spider will crawl up her back, but she will not be afraid. This mindset takes the fear away from the game and from those things that are intended to incite fear. This could indicate some need or desire to control one’s own fear–a need or desire to deal with surrounding violence by asserting one’s own control over it.

Sterling Box Cutter

--Informant Info--
Nationality: American
Age: Nineteen
Occupation: Student
Residence:
Date of Performance/Collection:
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

Interview with informant:

“Well there’s a crazy guy in our town, supposedly. In the mall in Sterling, Virginia there was this guy who would apparently walk around with a box cutter, and he would just—walk around with a box cutter—with the blade in so you couldn’t really tell that it was a weapon. And when he walked past women he would open up the blade and slice their butt. He would just cut their butt. He would just cut their butt and keep walking. And no one ever found out where, like, does he exist? Where he is? He just cut peoples’ butts. So. And that’s about as interesting as it ever got.”

This is a pretty disturbing piece about what might just be a violent sexual deviant. If something like this happened even once, no question it would get spread around to everyone who would listen. It’s got sex, violence, a strange and menacing pervert; the whole package. It’s also possible a woman was cut in some other way and blamed a person, or someone just made it up as a joke. Whatever the case, I doubt this rumor actually stopped anyone from going to any malls. Cautionary tales don’t quite outweigh the consumer impulse.

Anti-Joke – Why was the little boy crying?

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Taiwanese American
Age: 17
Occupation: Student
Residence: Newport Beach, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 8, 2012
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Chinese

Why was the little boy crying?
Because he had a frog stapled to his forehead.

My informant told me this joke after I had been venting about how bad my day had been.  At this point, she told me this joke.  After she delivered the punchline, I was at first taken aback by how violent the answer was. But then, I started to laugh at how far out and unexpected it was.  I asked her where she heard this joke, and she told me that she had heard it from school.

This joke is an example of an anti-joke.  An anti-joke is characterized by having the question be one that can have many different answers to it.  Another characteristic is that the punchline is usually not funny.  However, the unexpected nature of the punchline is really what makes the joke humorous.  This form of jokes probably developed as a way to add a twist to the stereotypical jokes that are out there.

FOAF Story

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Caucasian American
Age: 34
Occupation: Waiter and tobacconist
Residence: Huntington Beach, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 17, 2011
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Conversational German, Latin

The names in the following FOAF story have been censored to protect the people involved:

“This story involves my friend M—’s friend C—. He was a, uh, they used to hang out at his place on Thursday nights, a large group of them, and they were doing this one evening and they went over to the pizza place that was right around the corner, uh, and this was part of their normal traditions. Each night that they went he [C—] started flirting with this one, uh server that worked there. And then one night he said, ‘Okay, that’s it, guys, I’m gonna make my move.’

“So they said, ‘Okay; good luck.’

“And he said ‘All right. Here are my keys—house keys’—they were hanging at his place—‘If I don’t come back, hey, uh, hide them in the planter.’ Okay. So they go back, hang out at his place for a couple of hours, hide the keys in the planter, and take off.

“M— sees him two days later and he said, ‘Hey, what’s up? Y’know, what happened? Uh, you didn’t come back. Did you go out with her?’

“And he [C—] said, ‘Well, I sh—I didn’t want to take her back to my place ’cause you guys were there. She wouldn’t tell me why, but she said she didn’t want to go back to her place. So we got a hotel room.’

“‘What?’

“‘Yeah, we got a hotel room right away.’

“‘Okay, and then what happened?’

“‘Well’n, started makin’ out, she took off her clothes.’

“M— said, ‘Okay, so—ha—y’know, what was it like?’

“H’said [C—], “Oh, she—great, great breasts.’

“‘Cool. What about the rest of her?’

“He [C—] said, ‘Well, y’ever, you know, uh, remember those pictures of people’s lungs when they smoke?’

“[M—] Says, ‘You mean enphyzema?’

“H’said [C—], ‘Yeah, yeah, y’know’z all black, and bubbly, and stuff?’

“[M—] Said, ‘Yeah.’

“H’ed [C—], “Well, i’ looked like she smoked with her vagina.’

“[M—] Said, ‘Holy crap! What did you do?’

“’Ed [C—], ‘Well, I just stared at her tits.’

“‘Okay . . . so . . . then what happened?’

“Hed [M—], “Well, we were goin’ at it, she was on top of me and she had her head back and she was really into it and she was just, uh, had her eyes closed, and then she suddenly pulled back her fist and screamed, —You son’uva— and then she opened her eyes and she looked at me and she said —Oh my God, I’m so sorry! For a second there, I thought you were somebody else.—’

“M— was like, ‘Oh my God, man, what did you do?’

“‘I’ll tell ya. As soon as I finished up, I got the hell out of there.’ Yeah.”

The informant tells this story “generally when people are discussing the most horrific sexual experiences that they are aware of—this story gets carted out.”

The informant is not certain of the veracity of the story but likes it anyway: “Um, I think that it’s fantastic, uh, and amusing, uh, and horrifying all at once. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I do know that it is a wonderful tale.”

The story, besides serving as a way to horrify people, could be considered a warning of the dangers of sex—STDs especially. Then, too, it might be a metaphor for the fears of the virginal about what it will be like to have sex. C—’s reason for telling the story to M—, if it was not true, was likely similar to the informant’s reason for repeating it—it makes a good horror story.