Flash Mobs – I just don’t get it

I don’t understand the relevance of the flash mob.  The very idea irritates me.  Why?  I love music.  I am as entertained by dance as anyone.  The phenomenon, its appeal, eludes me, and I think I’ve figured out the reason.

According to Wikipedia, “a flash mob (or flashmob) is a group of people who assemble Photo Credit - Denver Librarysuddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression.”

The happening gives the appearance of spontaneity, but really it is carefully orchestrated.  Bystanders (if you can believe what you see in YouTube videos) look on in astonished wonder as the performance unfolds around them.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love public art, even when combined with a healthy measure of civil disobedience.  A talented graffiti artist, for example, whose intricate works of art materialize overnight in ordinary public places would delight me (if it wasn’t my building, that is).  But in that instance the spraypainted wall is left to discovery.  People can see the work of art, appreciate it, be surprised by it…or not.

On the other hand, a flash mob forces itself on its audience.  It’s as if the non-participants have been tricked into walking onto the set of a game show.  In one moment they are waiting for the bus, and in the next they are they are required to stop going about their business and take in the spectacle happening in front of them whether they like it or not.

It’s almost as if the flash mob is doing something to the audience.  The bystanders are drafted into participation.  After all, the flash mob is all about the audience; otherwise there would be no point.

That’s what I don’t like.  There is something presumptive about it, some element of “watch me, watch me, lookit what I can do.”

I’ve never seen a real flash mob in person.  It’s quite possible I would feel differently if I did.  But until I do, and am overcome with wonderment at the privilege of being a witness to such an event, I will find the concept annoying.

Sometimes people just want to go about their business.  They don’t want to get sucked into someone else’s melodramatic theatrical agenda.  They just want to get on the bus and go home.


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