October 12, 2012

Evangelization by video

I’ve been creating short promotional and comedic videos for about seven years now. Some of my work is on YouTube, and I was quite proud when I saw one video recently reached more than 1,000 views and had garnered a few “likes.” But this feat turned out to be quite a joke in the wake of the recent announcement by Guinness World Records regarding the music video Gangnam Style by Korean artist PSY.

Gangnam Style is a phrase referring to the lavish lifestyle of people in a district of Seoul, South Korea. Filled with poppy colours and lavish cinematography, the video features PSY’s signature horse-riding dance move in various places such as a beach, a parkade and a spa. It portrays the Gangnam lifestyle as total fun and extravagance.

On Sept. 22, this K-Pop video became the most “liked” video in YouTube’s history. Of the 330 million views it has received, 3.2 million people felt inclined to hit the “thumbs up” button because of its emotional effect. Clicking “like” may not be a difficult task, but the fact that so many people agreed to like the same four-minute video is remarkable. I believe it is an interesting case study for us Catholics. If we had a flashy music video promoting Catholicism that three million people liked, it could be a huge tool for evangelization. Can or should we try to replicate such a feat?

In his TED talk about viral videos, Kevin Allocca, the trends manager at YouTube, said that videos go viral based on tastemakers, communities of participation and unexpectedness. Tastemakers are influential people who take a point of view on a particular video and share that with a larger audience. So in PSY’s case, American rapper T-Pain tweeted about the video on July 29, and it took off from there. More and more celebrities and media outlets informed the public (community of participation) of its existence until it became a global dance phenomenon. And Gangnam Style definitely fills the criteria of an unexpected video with its random locations and abnormal activities.

Imagine a Catholic music video equivalent promoting the Pope, the Eucharist and our Blessed Mother. Would it take off? Perhaps, if it were unique enough and if a celebrity decided to mention it on his or her Twitter feed. But viral videos are a fad and will only stay popular for a certain period of time. Just think of Double Rainbow by Paul Vasquez or Rebecca Black’s Friday. Sure they were uber-popular for a while, but ultimately were replaced by the likes of Gangnam Style. And such will be the case for each viral video. The novelty eventually wears off.

So having a video alone will not evangelize; we need to have people reach deeper into their sometimesunacknowledged desire for faith and become enamoured with the love of God. However, getting the masses interested in the faith through something like a unique video is a good way to start. Since Gangnam Style went viral, millions of people all over the world have been introduced to Korean pop culture. And maybe, with a bit of creativity and effort, the world could also be introduced to and find it in their hearts to “like” some Catholic Style.

(Boston, 24, is a third-year fine arts and drama student at the University of Calgary.)

Published in YSN: Speaking Out