A public service announcement-style video on You Tube features a number of gay men taking selfies. It presents them with a mournful song in the background, and tells us how many selfies per day are taken by gay men, and how long each takes.
We are urged to feel dismay at their plight, as if for animals in distress – and the video’s made-up charity, the gAySPCA, is a reference to animal welfare. So what does this video add to selfie-discourse?
Firstly, it maintains that people who take selfies are to be laughed at, referencing what I argue is a prevalent cultural norm for mocking subjects because of their photographic habits.
Secondly, it relies on the popular understanding of selfies as above all not masculine. Selfies are for girls, because they’re vain and trivial – and here, gay men are being included too. In fact, the number of examples we see of selfies, from dogs, cats, squirrels, inanimate objects and so on, it seems the only way they are kept marginal and devalued is by being repeatedly presented as effeminate, and ridiculous.
Thirdly, the video – albeit humour – perpetuates the prevalent understanding of what selfies ‘mean’, psychologically.
Usually, this relates to narcissism, but here we see that the message relates to insecurity – the selfie-taker is therefore presented as problematic, and an object of pity. By watching this video, the viewer is being positioned in a superior position to the folorn subjects of this faux-concern. The video claims to be helping gay men who “cannot leave the house until their daily selfie has received enough likes”.
Overall, the video constitutes another example of discipline, in that it encourages an explicit understanding of certain people as pitiful, as a result of their cultural practices.