Bros Icing Bros is the latest ubiquitous internet meme — if you’re not yet familiar, it involves people forcing each other to drink the revolting sorta-alcoholic beverage Smirnoff Ice, sometimes at risk to their jobs or personal safety. Here’s a primer. A man named Joshua Heller is proposing a vérité documentary on the subject, and even though he’s joking, I’m going to take him at face value. The word “vérité” has frequently been abused and attacked; never, though, has it really been taken at such value.
The whole idea of “vérité” has been subject to attack and dispute from its inception. (For instance, the Wikipedia entry cites both Harmony Korine and Michael Moore, neither of whom come even close to “relaying the facts,” at least on purpose.) Nonetheless, it’s true that few people have tried to sum up the collective zeitgeist of any country through a documentary. You’d think that frustrated novelists would get on it; the tale of a generation awaits, and it involves fruit-flavored malt beverages. Yet no.
The footage below doesn’t really tell you anything other than that, shockingly, California is lower on bros willing to be iced than New York. It’s fascinating for several reasons, not least because the whole idea of dudes forcing each other to drink Smirnoff Ice at a moment’s notice and in a variety of inappropriate location does, in fact, smack of Harmony Korine — it encourages degradation without purpose. Here’s Heller’s video:
The vérité ideal is to show footage of How Things Are that maintains the illusion of not being mediated. “Bros icing bros” is obviously ephemeral nonsense, but it speaks volumes about the number of males out there so frustrated and annoyed by their jobs that they’re willing to gamble all that away. It’s not supposed to be pathological, but it is.
And I know Joshua Heller was making a joke, but someday someone’s going to want archival footage from this year. Watching footage of “bros icing bros,” it seems almost like “Fight Club” without the satire. There’s a bunch of pissed off dudes in this country not getting represented on-screen, and a stunt like this is one way they could be.
Watching footage like this (artless, full of rage even as it pretends to be innocuous) makes me wonder about the gap between everyday white-upper-middle-class experience and what’s getting recorded in nonfiction film.
Calling it “cinema vérité” is obviously intended as a joke, but in a way it’s true: once you know people do this at work (see above), you have to wonder how angry people are. And you have to appreciate user-enabled footage a bit more: this is passing, but it’s as zeitgeisty as it gets.
[Photos: “Bros Icing Bros: A How-to Documentary,” Joshua Heller, 2010]