This weekend, something wonderful happened on the Internet, but it was brought down somewhat by a bunch of jerks who were simply too impatient. A while back, I wrote a post about how pirates can actually act like archivists, storing away bits of history that the proper owners are either too stupid or, in this case, too embarrassed to deal with. Well, that’s what happened this last weekend as users of the popular social news site Reddit helped rediscover a modern bit of television that was believed lost.
See, back in 2000, Nickelodeon aired a movie that was part of its Are You Afraid of the Dark series. These movies were typically cheesy horror flicks aimed at teenagers. There might be a scene here and there to make you jump, but we’re not talking The Grudge or anything. However, there was one movie, Cry Baby Lane, that actually did the trick. It scared people. It scared teens and it especially scared their overbearing parents who thought the movie was so scary that the very thing to do was call and write Nickelodeon studios and let them know what they thought of it.
And, in typical American fashion, Nickelodeon caved and promised that the film would never be shown again. They buried it in their archive and never released it any way. (Well, maybe they did. Remember, studios have a nasty habit of losing their own stuff due to a number of factors which mostly boil down to “stupidity.”) Indeed, Nickelodeon studios began to officially deny its very existence.
Kind of a dumb line to take, really, since you could see clips of it on YouTube. Yet no one seemed to have the entire thing.
Until last weekend.
A user on Reddit (nominally referred to as a Redditor.) piped up and said she had a copy of the movie on VHS. She’d recorded it when it was on and would be happy to get it copied to digital and onto the Internet. In short, she had a copy of a lost movie! This is the kind of thing that movie buffs and pop culture historians go crazy over!
But there was a dark side to all this. Redditors can be fickle and they can be, well – for lack of a better term – they can be assholes. They badgered and berated this user, called her a liar, and said she was making this up for karma. (Karma is like Whuffie on Reddit. It’s a measure of popularity more than anything.) Mostly, they were just impatient because she didn’t have a ready method for digitalizing VHS cassettes.
Now then, I’m a nerd. I’m a geek. I’ve got computer stuff all over the house. As I type this up on my laptop, I have sitting next to it a secondary laptop, an iPad, and I’m listening to music on my Android phone over wireless Bluetooth headphones. The reason I’m telling you all that is because I’m making a point that there is a bunch of readily accessible tech where I live. Yet even with all that, I too do not have a ready set of things that would allow me to take a VHS tape and record it to my computer. Certainly I could get stuff, and I could make it work, but I’m not going out to get it now. I could go tomorrow, but first I have to go to work in the morning, then pick it up on the way home, and then make dinner, feed my family… My point is, even I were to hop on such a project right now, I wouldn’t be able to actually produce anything until late tomorrow night. More probably you’d not see anything until the day after that.
Yet a few vocal Redditors couldn’t be bothered to wait that long. So, FireSaladPeach (our heroine) deleted her account. Soon after, she created another account just to update Reddit that she had finished it, and the movie could be downloaded from a file sharing website. She went on to say that she was leaving that new account active, but abandoning it.
So a lost film emerges from the ether (or ethernet) and the world is made a little richer because of it. Even if you hate the movie, at least you know it exists, and can be watched by people who remember it, and like it. In spite of an effort to bury it, it re-emerged and can be enjoyed by people who don’t care what overbearing parents think of their entertainment choices.
As a librarian and a historian of pop culture, I’d like to send out a big thank you to FireSaladPeach. In a small, but very real way, you’ve done the world a service and a favour. I’m sorry the users of Reddit were such assholes. Sometimes, people are just assholes, especially when they’re waiting for something that won’t cost them anything.