The cringe-proof dance that knows no shame has refused to disappear gracefully like every other meme.
Gangnam Style (the video that’s taken the – oh, you know what it is) is meant to be dead. Several times over.
According to Time magazine, Gangnam first died in early October, when Google’s Eric Schmidt was snapped jiving to the pop smash. “Sure Schmidt is a strategic genius behind the world’s most important internet company,” noted Time, “but he also dresses like your dad. So the minute the lanky 57-year-old software engineer busted a move, we fear ‘Gangnam Style’ jumped the shark.” Then came CNN, which wrote Gangnam’s obituary a fortnight later. “I hereby declare,” declared CNN’s Jarrett Bellini, “October 12, 2012, as the day Gangnam Style died.”
But reports of its death were greatly exaggerated. Since Schmidt’s effort, Boris Johnson has laid claim to the video, as have the boys of Eton. And Madonna. And Ban Ki-moon. And, on Wednesday, Anish Kapoor. Every time a posho or politician referenced the video, Gangnam sprang back to life – Lazarus-like – from the cyber-graveyard where all memes go to die (that’s Rebecca Black over by the mausoleum; Downfall’s by the church wall, underneath Kim Jong-il looking at … things).
No one, it seems, can stunt the popularity of Gangnam Style. Not even David Cameron, whose love for northern indie has ruined The Smiths for a generation of Mancunians, but whose association with Gangnam has only seemed to boost its popularity. For the time being, it is the cringe-proof meme, the zombie meme, the meme that knows no shame. Quite possibly, it will be danced by grannies at weddings in 2030 – the 21st-century equivalent of the conga line; the new macarena.
So can anyone kill Gangnam? In days gone by, you would have plonked the Duchess of Cornwall in front of the camera, and left her to it. But if The Killing can survive Camilla’s touting of Sarah Lund’s jumper, you sense Gangnam could deal with the Duchess prancing around like a horseless rider. Piers Morgan, too. His every movement drips with cringe, but his strong Twitter following would at the least give Gangnam another million views. Donald Trump, George Osborne, and Rebekah Brooks are other obvious candidates. But even then, one senses Gangnam’s Teflon nature would carry the song. It is like a disease that is immune to antibiotics: the lamer its company, the cooler it becomes.
So perhaps we need the opposite: someone who, like Gangnam, remains genuinely popular. Someone who, if placed in the same room as Gangnam, might burst the meme mainframe, disrupt the space-time continuum. Someone like Ryan Gosling. Oppa Gosling Style – the meme to end all memes. Quite literally, I hope.
• This article was amended on 15 November 2012 because the original said “It is like a virus that is immune to antibiotics”. All viruses are unaffected by antibiotics, which are used to treat bacterial infections.