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The Dhar Mann Initiative
Check this guy out
I wish I had something substantive to say about this guy, but I don’t. In fact, when I watch his videos, I find myself absolutely wordless. Imagine, like, a guy that—OK. Imagine just, like, an absolute moron. That’s this guy. A pure, sweet, innocent soul with rocks for brains, making heinous morality plays on YouTube that get 5 million views each. This is Dhar Mann.
The point here is that these need to be seen to be believed. I don’t have anything interesting to say this week, just something insane to share. Please watch this guy’s stuff. Here are some choice ones:
This one is amazing. All the actors in this guy’s universe are pure ass, but this one features some especially grade-A stuff. My Mann eventually tries to illustrate what is, genuinely, an insidious moral: that being a gamer is a worthwhile career path.
I think if you watch enough of his videos, you’ll realize that Dhar, maybe 60% of the time, actively comes away with an awful take. His version of morality is, at a base level, on par with a 9-year-old’s, but we also often find him inadvertently championing some genuinely stupid shit. And it’s because the basic structure of his videos is this: dude starts off with a convoluted premise, one that we can all see—miles ahead—what point he’s trying to make, but then in the process of painstakingly staging the worst Aesop’s Fable imaginable, the end result is a piece of social commentary that’s actually only applicable to that specific scenario. Does that make sense? Here’s another classic:
You’d think this one would eventually make a point about cops here, but no. No it doesn’t. It makes a point about alcoholism. I think. (Note from Ritam: The amount of times “his own kind” was said in this video makes me want to throw up.)
This one is batshit crazy:
Wow. You kind of have to sit with that one for a while.
And if you’ve made it to the end of any of these videos, you’ve been blessed with a “HEY DHAR MANN FAM” from Tha Gawd himself. So take the weekend, kick back, and mainline like 30 of these. It’s what he’d want.
God, this is unfathomably bleak. The SARS-CoV-II winter has left me in a general state of permanent despair; watching Dhar Mann videos has heaped existential confusion on top. This is morality without politics, without framework, without precedent. Nothing about these videos make sense to me; to call them short films is an insult to the entire medium of “short” things. They feel unending, characters caught in a danse macabre of inane details and mundane repetition until every neuron in my brain screams out for sweet release. In short: these fucking suck!
When I think about morality stories, I think about the Panchatantra, the Jataka Tales, and Aesop’s fables. As a child, I would listen to cassette tapes called “Karadi Tales,” stories supposedly read by an old, wise bear (voiced by Bollywood legend Naseeruddin Shah). The theme song on these tapes absolutely whipped:
I’ll tell you about enemies, of greed and jealousy;
I’ll tell you about friendship, love, and harmony
All of these different children’s folk stories have a few things in common. First, their lessons are generalizable. This is the fundamental thing that Dhar Mann seems to completely whiff on. Either you take the broadest possible interpretation of his work, which all just comes down to “Don’t judge other people for their choices,” a stupid and false moral, or you hone in on hyper-specific takeaways—wow, maybe it is bad to assume that a man isn’t a millionaire by the way he dresses! Both paths are fundamentally unsatisfying and leave you feeling you haven’t actually learned shit. Because you haven’t.
The other thing that these ancient tales have in common is that they are fundamentally interesting. They’re about gods and kings, princesses, animals, forests, other primordial forces. They have stakes and consequences, real ones. Their lessons are obvious and they genuinely work as teaching tools because they’re memorable! The Boy Who Cried Wolf ends with a boy being eaten by a wolf. That is an order of magnitude more exciting than the Karen Revelation that seems to be the basic Morality Unit of a Dhar Mann video.
The most popular Dhar Mann video has 23 million views. The population of the planet at the time of Aesop’s Fables was something around 150 million people. 15% of the human beings on Earth in 500 BCE have watched a video called “Gold Digger Dumps Broke Boyfriend, Then Regrets Her Decision.”
My last gripe with these videos has to do more with the way that cosmic justice is doled out. Maybe this is an issue with all these morality folk tales, but it seems to be that the offender Lives To Regret It each time, because they lost out on some sort of material reward. Why does the Gamer Son have to make money? Why does the Black Man With A White Son have to have adopted him away from tragedy? Why does the Broke Boyfriend have to become rich? These things are wrong regardless of any perceived future reward—it’s wrong for someone to question whether a Black man can raise a white kid regardless of circumstance or how good the father in question actually is. Anyway, it bothers me that some smooth-brained freak kid out there might watch all these things, like some sort of corporate training for Living Life, and come away with the takeaway that doing wrong things is okay if you can avoid material consequences.
This guy is going to live in my brain forever.