- 2.19.10 - 5:20PM
- - by
- Nick Douglas
Epic Beard Man -- Why It's the Fastest Public Fight Meme Yet
Is Epic Beard Man a liar? See our new post!]
On February 16, 2010, two guys got in a fight on a bus in Oakland. Another passenger caught it on video. Results: One bloody nose, and instant internet history.
The video, shown after the break, is officially titled AC TRANSIT BUS FIGHT I AM A MOTHERF***ER (named for the words on the fight winner's shirt), but the meme has also spread under the names "Amber Lamps" (for the loser's slurred request for an amulance) and "Epic Beard Man" (out of support for the winner).
Fight videos attract crowds. A San Francisco bus fight last October earned nearly a million views on YouTube (and a couple million for copies). A 2007 fight on the NYC subway got 441 thousand views. Fifty-five thousand views for this train fight, nearly 800 thousand for this one. Even a camcorder pointed at TV footage of a fight in India racked up 73 thousand views.
But in three days, the Oakland bus fight has logged over two million views, again not counting hundreds of thousands of views for the multiple exact copies on other accounts (a stupefying if sometimes useful YouTube phenomenon) and followups. It also inspired video remixes, mashups, YouTube replies, spinoffs (there's a cult around a hipster girl silently watching the fight), and surprisingly impressive drawings like the one above. Why all the attention over just another public fight?
Very NSFW language.
1. People love a fight. We've seen how popular the genre is. Conflict is fun. The most-seen nature video of all time is an animal fight: Battle at Kruger, the 36th-most-ever-watched YouTube video. And here was a fight with aggression from both sides.
2. Race is a prickly subject. Not for 4chan, where the fight first got popular. The two men argued about whether the white one was being racist toward the black one. The black guy made the first violent move, but the white guy blew him away with at least nine punches. On 4chan, the party line was that an innocent white guy had beaten an uppity black guy (but in far crasser terms). In some cases, 4chan really is just a slimy, disgusting place. The site's viewers threw around racial slurs. The 4chan-influenced meme-documenting site Encyclopedia Dramatica only slightly watered down the racism, so their coverage of Epic Beard Man is NSFW.
3. Watching this fight is cathartic for everyone, but especially for those of us who've been trapped on a bus or train with argumentative or violent people. The guy who shot last year's San Francisco bus fight said it best: "Just another day on MUNI." Public transit passengers feel helpless and unprotected from the public outbursts they see each day on buses and trains. Everyone wants to see that anger boil over and resolve. Even if that just means that someone gets a bloody nose.
For more history and analysis, as well as more videos of the guys in the fight and the lady who recorded it, as well as video and photo remixes and commentary, see Know Your Meme's definitive page on the Epic Beard Man viral video.
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