By Annalise Mishler
Two llamas and a dress walk into the Internet. The Internet says, “Hey llamas, hey dress. Come on in!” (The llamas and dress don’t respond because they unfortunately do not possess the ability to speak). However, the Internet soon gets bored of the llamas and the dress and blames the media.
Confused? Allow me to enlighten you. Last Thursday, two llamas from a retirement home in Arizona escaped from their corral and ran all over the city as a live feed captured the event. Millions of people watched as two llama dodged the humans attempting to catch them. It was llama mania. #LlamaDrama.
Before the media even had a chance to interview these llamas (yes, they were eventually caught and yes, they literally were interviewed), a poor-quality photo of a dress had already begun to go viral. Some saw the photo and claimed the dress was white and gold while others saw it as black and blue. I was convinced it was white and gold — the next day I looked at the same photo and could only see black and blue. It truly is a mystery to me. #TheDress.
These two random and hilarious top news stories are causing the media to receive a lot of backlash. Several are speaking out saying that the media only focuses on trivial things and that these stories were both “fluffy.”
I happen to think that we needed some fluff in this past week. What many around the country are calling a media fail is actually a journalistic win. Sure, it’s necessary for the media to cover the serious and hard-hitting issues. It’s fine that many of the stories are rather depressing because as a nation we should all be informed, at least somewhat, of what is going on around us.
But it’s also fine that for a few days we, as a country, bonded over two llamas and a very frustrating dress. With all the heavy issues such as legalizing gay marriage, marijuana and guns, it was refreshing to sit back with other human beings and put aside all different opinions and personalities to laugh at a couple of short-lived Internet sensations.
Are the stories irrelevant? Maybe. They won’t affect your commute, your taxes or your safety (unless you happen to be a pedestrian trampled by a llama or your casual dress color argument turned into a physical fight) but they will surely provide you with entertainment. The existence of these frivolous stories does not negate the existence of the stories with a little bit more substance; rather, if you read a “fluffy” piece that has you captivated, you are more likely to remain on that news website and read a few of the more hard-hitting pieces.
Websites such as the Huffington Post exercise this concept: the seemingly unimportant but mindlessly entertaining pieces tend to go viral, thus directing traffic to their site and increasing their chances of viewers reading the hard news.
Maybe the media is being criticized for focusing on a story that holds no real importance to us as a society — being accused of wasting their time on something foolish and trivial. But it cannot be denied that last week, millions of people simply laughed at the ridiculousness of llamas running amok; they had intense debates regarding the color of a stupid dress; they took a break from the stress of their everyday lives.
The media is merely a reflection of the things that society views as interesting or important. These two stories were covered nationally because the public was genuinely interested in how the stories would unfold. Will the llamas be caught?! Why is this dress changing colors before my very eyes?!
No matter how much one may speak out against the multitude of news outlets that decided to cover these stories, if they took a step back they will recognize that they are doing exactly what the media wants them to do: they’re talking about it. Negative or positive — they’re talking about it. The media hit the nail on the head with these stories. They knew that these two stories would go absolutely viral because let’s be honest: we all love a little mindless humor every now and then.
Annalise Mishler studies journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.