Eight things killing the Harlem Shake

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The Harlem Shake burst onto the scene last week, but already the poor meme is showing signs of looming death.

We’re not saying the Harlem Shake will surely die, but unless some things change, it’ll soon fall out of public favor. Here are eight reasons:

8. Sports teams are doing it


Seeing your favorite sports teams or athletes participate in a meme isn’t terrible in and of itself. Some of our favorite memes involve athletes (see: Yao Ming face). But if the meme is being driven by the team’s marketing wing rather than the athletes, then please don’t do it. The Dallas Mavericks’ rendition is a great example of a terrible Harlem Shake:

7. They’ve become too extravagant

One of the elements that made us fall in love with the Harlem Shake was that many of the early videos seemed organic. That element is gone from most of the new videos.

Watching one person wear a mask, get down next to his or her unsuspecting buddies and start an impromptu dance party seems natural, random and funny. Watching an official university mascot dance terribly in front of an entire student body for an event that probably took a few days to organize is like watching a pep rally.




6. Grandparents are doing it

I actually really enjoy this Harlem Shake version of people at a retirement community. It’s hilarious watching senior citizens get down like that, but at the same time, these are our grandparents. Remember when they joined Facebook? It instantly became no longer cool. Yes, it’s nice to have another person hit “Like” on your profile picture, but it becomes super annoying as soon as they make a comment about how much they love you on a completely unrelated status.

5. Even people in the videos don’t even care anymore

If you don’t want to make a Harlem Shake video, then don’t make a Harlem Shake video. Suddenly it seems everyone feels the need to cram their versions of the meme with at least 100 people in the shot. That’s led to a lot of new videos featuring people who don’t want to be there, and no one wants to watch someone get down who clearly just wants to get home.

Just look at any of the people standing still in this one:

4. Don’t go all film school


This is a Web meme, not a short film. That means you shouldn’t overedit your video or move the camera. What makes the Harlem Shake funny is that a regular-looking scene suddenly becomes a party. So the entire basis of the meme is lost if you move the camera or edit in special effects. The Mavericks are once again a great example. And the decision to use two totally different camera positions makes this UCLA video one of the worst:

3. Even Midwestern ad agencies are doing it

All things stop being cool when they (a) become commercialized and (b) go mainstream. So when an ad agency in St. Louis makes its own Harlem Shake, the meme has gone about as mainstream as the stream goes.

2. It’s not funny anymore

A firefighter, Spider-Man and a chicken doing the Harlem Shake was LOL funny. Watching “Harlem Shake v8 (New Media Strategies- Soon to be MXM Social Edition),” below, isn’t. Make your video funny by being creative and unique. If all you’re making is the same joke everyone else has already made and sticking your office, school or organization’s name on it, you haven’t done enough.

1. The “Today” show has done it


The “Today” show has become notorious for killing memes at this point, as The Daily Beast points out, and Matt Lauer & Co. decided to make a version of the Harlem Shake too. And the problem is not just that they did it. It’s that they did it, they didn’t care, they tried to be too extravagant, they mashed it up with Valentine’s Day and it was terrible.


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