The Out-of-Touch Adults’ Guide to Kid Culture: the Disastrous Willy Wonka ‘Chocolate Experience’

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The themes for this week examination of what’s going on with kids is failure and fiasco. There’s the ever-expanding story of the disastrous Willy Wonka rip-off in Scotland, a dubious theory about the history of America’s “culture wars,” and Reddit making a doomed attempt to monkey-wrench AI. There is a success to even the scales, though: a YouTube deep dive into the Barbie cinematic universe.

The second level of Wonka-Gate drama

I’m sure you’re already aware of the drama around “Willy’s Chocolate Experience,” the Willy Wonka-like “immersive experience” that went terribly, hilariously, Fyre-Festival-wrong in Glascow, Scotland. The imbroglio has so captured the imagination of the world that a second level of drama is emerging, beyond the tales of the ripped-off parents and horrified children who attended the event. The internet’s curious amateur investigators are digging up every detail of the Wonka-nightmare, and here are some of the treasures they’ve uncovered.

  • The actress who played “The Unknown,” an unsettling, AI-generated villain created for the Willy experience that has no connection to Willy Wonka, has spoken out about her experience playing the part. Her name is Felicia, she’s 16, from Glascow, and this was her first acting gig.

  • Actor/comedian Paul Connell, the actor who played Willy McDuff, has gone public as well, but he may regret it. A woman claiming to be a former student of Connell posted then deleted several videos accusing him of engaging in a romantic relationship with her when she was 16 and he was 22. (This news really darkens the “isn’t this wacky?” vibe of the whole experience.)

  • As you might have guessed, some of the actors who worked on the Willy Chocolate Experience say they have not been paid the amount they were promised, and they may sue the event’s organizer.

  • A Scottish production company has announced it is working on a horror movie centered on The Unknown. Whether anyone will remember this whole thing when the film is released in late 2024 is an open question, as is the issue of who owns the rights to the character of The Unknown.

  • If you’re looking for a costume for Halloween, you could do worse than dressing as The Unknown. Here are links to all you need to be the king/queen of trick or treating.

What does “neurospicy” mean?

If someone describes themselves as “neurospicy,” they’re calling themselves “neurodivergent” in a cute, slang-y way. Since it’s not a real word, the term doesn’t refer to any specific mental illness, but can refer to OCD, autism, depression, or really anything. It’s almost always used to refer to oneself instead of others.

Are we trapped in 2014?

There are a growing number of people online who think we’re trapped in 2014; not in a literal “Time is a conspiracy!” way, but culturally. The idea of “The Long 2014” is that that year marked the start of the current “culture-war,” and we have not moved past it in a decade. Ten years ago, the argument goes, a cultural argument about inclusion kicked off with GamerGate. Back then, people on the “lets not be assholes to people” side were derided as “social justice warriors” and now they’re called “woke,” but the arguments have not changed, and we’ve been rehashing and repeating them on endless loop since, never making progress.

It’s an interesting theory, but a product of people who lack historical perspective. It’s young people confusing their own awareness of a cultural trend with the trend’s beginning. The truth is, we’ve been having versions of these same arguments in different forms for a lot longer than a decade. Back in the 1990s, people who were in favor of social justice were derided with the term “politically correct,” instead of “woke,” and before that, they were called “women’s-libbers,” “bleeding hearts,” “abolitionists,” “suffragettes,” and any number of other invectives that basically mean the same thing. Like William Faulkner wrote back in 1951, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Why is everyone on Reddit saying “Bazinga”?

If you’re noticing the word “Bazinga” popping up in confusing ways on Reddit memes, you’re not witnessing a resurgence of fandom for The Big Bang Theory. Instead, it’s Redditors trying to confuse artificial intelligence. Recently, it was revealed that Reddit will be working with Google to train Google’s AI using comments from the site. But in the past, ChatGPT has gotten “hung up” on words if it has no context for them, giving gibberish responses when asked about them. So the idea is to repeat “Bazinga” in different context, completely randomly, with no explanation, in order to trip up the AI.

Sadly, it’s not likely to work. The words that confused AI in the past were things like “SolidGoldMagikarp” or “TheNitromeFan,” Reddit usernames that were frequently posted, but without definitions. But “Bazinga” already has an established meaning, (ie: “that annoying, manufactured catchphrase from The Big Bang Theory.”), and even if it didn’t, Redditor’s usage of the phrase isn’t actually random. AI is smart enough to figure out that “Bazinga,” in a certain context, can mean “a word redditors use to try to trick artificial intelligence” and will probably be able to add its own “random” usages too.

Viral video of the week: I Watched Every Barbie Movie Ever Made

YouTube’s most important contribution to our culture might end up being videos that take a deep dive into pop cultural detritus that would otherwise go unexamined. It’s always good when people ignore the things that people tell you are “serious” in favor of things they’ve decided to take seriously. Like this week’s viral video, where YouTuber Ted Nivision watches all 42 Barbie movies in order to “develop a concrete and airtight theory on what the true lore of the Barbie Cinematic Universe, also known as the BCU, is.” Clocking in at nearly two hours, this video really goes deep, incorporating a classic “strings connecting papers on a whiteboard” organizational structure, and actually coming up with a workable framework for the BCU.

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