Saturday, January 3, 2009


There is a YouTube channel called failblog which is dedicated to the biggest possible failures. At first I laughed my ass off by watching some of those videos, but then I started to think that there might also be something very interesting there. After all this is a precious collection of what is know as "actes manqués" in psychology (parapraxis), which are the equivalent in action of what a Freudian slip is in conversation. Where it becomes interesting is that such failures are, according to standard psychanlaytic theory, expressions of subconscious pulsions, and as such it is possible to make sense out of them.

Let us watch a few examples and you'll see what I mean.

First a very awkward frisk by a policeman who is probably repressing his homosexual tendencies. It's called "Frisk Fail" :

What is very striking is that the gesture of the policeman does not look at all like an inadvertent slip but rather like an intentional pass. The policeman is overwhelmed by a subconscious desire and loses touch with admissible behaviour. When he realises what he did and his conscious self takes control again, he certainly cannot believe it and apologizes repeatedly.
This interpretation is corroborated by the discussion that they are having, which resembles some kind of seduction game :

Cop -- Spread your legs for me please... I see you're shaking, I make you nervous/That makes me nervous.
Guy -- It's cold outside.
Cop (laughing, at ease) -- Yeah? It's cold? ...

The policeman is trying to relieve the tension in this delicate situation, full of sexual implications, but when the guy acknowledges his sensitivity to the cold like a shy girl adorably shaking in her first evening dress he's getting so loose that repressed emotions take over and push him to make the fatal move.

Now let's look at this other failure, also of sexual origin I'm afraid (most of them probably are---but not all !---which misled Freud to think that sexual repression alone could account for the entirety of human behaviour).

The failure here is unbelievable : how could she fail to see the pole just in front of her ? There is apparently something big going on here ! But there is not far to look for to find it (some YouTubers also suggested it in the comments of this video in fact). She is obsessed by her sexual frustration in her little village in Alaska. When she's faced to a symbol of her object of desire (a phallus), she fails to recognise it. (Notice the similarity with the cop video...)

Now the "Best Man Fail" :

The obvious thing to say here is that the best man is probably secretly in love with the bride, to the point that he does not even admit it to himself. His subconscious then forces him to do what he should have had the guts to do in full possession of his senses : throw himself at her feet to tell her his love and interrupt the wedding...

But what I find more interesting here is that there is a controversy in the comments of this video (like for many other videos on failblog) about its authenticity [I always find that very disappointing, not being able to trust something as a piece of reality, but I have to live with it you know; after all everything is fiction, etc.]. Someone is writing that the best man is acting like a bad actor in a Bollywood movie when he shouts "Nooooo!", and another that everyone is behaving totally unnaturally. And it is indeed quite weird how they all repeat "Oh my god!" one after the other... However, I do not think that this video is a fake, but that it is an illustration of how we Americans are preconditioned to behave in a stereotypical manner in our everyday life.

Here comes a video that amazed me deeply, "Proposal Fail" (you might enjoy it more without the sound first) :

This girl, unless her great emotion and the pressure of the crowd, is still able to swim against the tide, and to do it with the grace of an angel. I was moved to the soul by her lovely body language : the sparkle in her eyes and the little lateral movement of her mouth just before she starts speaking, her hand gently laid on her unfortunate lover's raised arm while she speaks, the other protecting her genitalia, her quiet precipitation and awe once she's spoken...

Alas, alas ! This girl was not for real : the proposal was a prank, as guessed by the reporters, and confirmed by a commentator who remembers reading it in the paper the next day.
(See here for a genuine reaction -- note the larsen effect at the crucial moment...)

I thougt I'd also show an example that is not related to any kind of Freudian bullshit :

Actually I failed. Notice his reaction : "Oh ffffffff.. Shit. Oh my god." This guy manages to repress his impulse to say "fuck", but only to replace it by another similarly vulgar word, namely "shit". The "oh my god" comes only after, once the first emotion has passed. No doubt Freud would have concluded that his sexuality is repressed, and expresses itself in a scatological way...

Sorry for this tasteless post.