Updated: Jul 4, 2019
Trolling is a new art that is still in its early days. Trolling is the challenging of expectations of social norms. We already live in our postmodernist meta time. We all wear things ironically and speak with sarcasm. Most of the things we say we treat like “as if I’d ever really say that” or “as if I’d ever really do that”. But we’re doing it. We talk in memes and references a lot of the time. Trolling is taking that meta level of existence to another level. Trolling is a fine art. It’s an acquired taste. It’s an esoteric performance art. Its method acting taken to the next level.
Like comedian Andy Kaufman. People didn’t understand him in his time. People don’t understand him now. He was in character all the time. To the point where when he told his family he was dying from cancer they thought it was a joke. He was in character in talk shows that needed you to play a different type of character. Talk shows were the ultimate close up of what society tries to be. It’s good looking rich people in suits and dresses talking eloquently and promoting their future endeavors.
Andy Kaufman would go in and deliberately destroy the social etiquette and norms that are staples of late night talk shows. He would have snot running from his nose, he stuttered, he acted as awkward as possible. He acted abnormally normal to prove a point. That late night shows are bullshit so he would take it to the extreme and expose the bullshit from within. Because everyone’s nose runs but your nose isn’t supposed to run on a late night show. You’re supposed to look perfect and act perfect.
It reflects our environments through classes and work spaces and just life in general. We’re supposed to dress a certain way, talk a certain way and act a certain way. Andy Kaufman exposes that while being hilariously himself. It’s what Joaquin Phoenix did on Letterman in 2010. He made sure to act as non charming as possible. He dissed the crowd and the shows host. He responded with one word responses, was awkward and stuck his gum underneath the table. He didn’t meet any of the expectations that are set for an Oscar nominated superstar.
It’s what attracted kids to Odd Future. They were cool cause they were a joke their fans were in on. It was so meta that they swore to each other that none of them could seriously freestyle at radio stations. As they got older their music became more honest and sincere and they’ve individually abandoned the meta gimmicks and serious free styling rules for the most part. But that’s what attracted people to them. It’s what rappers Lil B and Ugly God do. They were crossing lines we didn’t know existed till we saw them crossed.
We’re all scared of how people will see us or what they’ll say, so we won’t do certain things and we won’t act a certain way because we’re enslaved to the idea of other people’s opinions. Like most art forms in their beginning trolling won’t be appreciated now. It’s not meant to be understood but it is challenging thought. It’s playing and toying with your expectations of reality. It’s a view outside of our social matrix.
Kanye West is a troll but I think he’s an example of trolling used on a large scale for good. I think Kanye knows how big his platform is so he says outlandish things to bring relevance to him so that he can spread a positive message. Because the negative headlines are the ones that spread the fastest. I heard some profound things from him in both the TMZ interview where he said slavery was a choice and the Trump interview in the White House. Both are very controversial moments and headlines. And Kanye knows that. But if you watch the full versions he’s talking about media programming, montessori schools, black ownership, African proverbs, prison reform and many other conscious messages. Clearly the way to get the most attention is to troll the media to get the most possible press, even if it’s negative. It’s also creating performance art spectacles that we’re talking about around the world. As well as being a good promotional tool.
I think the only thing trolling can be compared to is pro wrestling. Pro wrestling operates under kayfabe. It’s the story line that the audience is being fed that the wrestlers and promoters were putting on. The wrestlers were forbidden to break character in front of audience members. It doesn’t exist as much anymore cause the internet made it possible for audience members to find out pro wrestling is scripted. There are still characters and moments that uphold kayfabe while tearing a hole through the 4th wall, kind of like how our modern day trolls do it. Like when wrestler CM punk was given a mic to air his grievances about the company and be in a storyline where he is leaving the WWE because his contract is expiring. His contract was expiring in real life and he did have grievances with the WWE that he did air. It was a weird moment for fans where we didn’t know what to believe. Was this real? Was CM Punk actually gonna quit? How much of this is scripted? That’s how these trolls make reality feel in the context of the social matrix.
We all put on this front. From how we dress ourselves to how we conduct ourselves. We are a whole presentation with a lot of prep time. Women take hours to put on their nicest clothes and their make up. Men spend thousands to buy the nicest yeezys and the best Louis belts. We spend hours picking out clothes, grooming and fixing so we can look and be “our best” by someone’s definition. We don’t put that much prep time to be at home and see our family and friends. But when we gather socially it’s a play we’re all starring in.
That’s what drove me to battle rapper Daylyt. Daylyt is one of the best rappers in the world today. Few people can put the pen to paper the way he does, including most mainstream lyricists. Daylyt didn’t get mainstream recognition for his pen until he started going on Vladtv and playing this strange character. He came off as shy, awkward, stupid and somewhat insane. He would say strange things but he’d have a serious face. But underneath the bizarre comments their was a hint of truth that only few understood at first. As his platform grew he became more serious and open about his message but before that it was social media antics (such as shitting on a battle rap stage) with a little bit of medicine mixed in with the food. It’s the antics that bring people to your content and they leave having learned something they didn’t know before through your buffoonery.
It’s a brilliant way of spreading your philosophy as an artist. Even if it’s not trying to be educational trolling is educational. Trolling teaches us about the shackles we have placed on us that we don’t even realize. These expectations that we have of ourselves and society has for us that we don’t realize exist or know who created them. We just choose to follow these rules because at some point someone thought that’s how a proper human being should act or we saw someone doing that on TV or Instagram.
At some point someone thought sandals were offensive footwear so people aren’t allowed to wear them in the workplace. We all just follow these strange belief systems that we’re not even aware of until we see a Jim Carey interview where he’s jumping around the room and breaking glass cups and acting as cartoonish as possible. You think how could anyone act like that? But why can’t people just act like that? Why is that frowned upon and your version of social being not? How do we all know that it’s frowned upon? If we didn’t notice that rule, how many rules are there that we believe without thinking about it? and are they holding us from progressing as a species?
Why was Joaquin Phoenix being an honest and reserved human a moment for all of mass media? We all feel like that some time. We all feel like there are days we don’t wanna talk to people. Where we’re quiet and reserved. But because that’s not what’s expected from a celebrity or person in the 21st century it was all over the news. People truthfully being themselves is so strange that the media machines matrix is shocked when people are normal. And that’s what trolling does. Shock the matrix and give us a look to the other side. I think trolling is the gateway to answering a lot of questions about our social etiquette, how highly we uphold it and what it really means to us. Can I still get that job if I have my hair unkempt and my beard patchy? No I have to put on a front so you can hire me. I have to speak in my job interview voice and wear my job interview clothes because I have to meet a certain social etiquette criteria before these corporations deem me fit to be one of their employees. There's more in play than just merits and talent. The best resume won't always be hired, sometimes its the more likable person. It’s in all aspects of life where we have to put on a show. It’s not always negative but it is always present. And trolls seem to be Neo in these situations. In an era of curated perfection, the trolls have turned the system on its head. They’ve figured out a way to hack the matrix and still get the rewards. One day trolling will be seen as the fine art it really is. Just like any new counter cultural movement, trolling is going to be at its best when it is facing the most detraction. Our social media worlds incentivize trolls because they're the hero we need right now.