The world wide web is just over a quarter century old, but the history behind the latest head-scratching phenomenon making the rounds (and likely to soon be passé if it isn’t already) goes back centuries.
Mannequin Challenge videos are being made this holiday season by everyone from the United Dairymen of Idaho who enjoy bowling and milk in their Christmas edition of the video meme to employees of the Idaho Pizza Company who have made videos at their various locations around the state, to an edition filmed at KTVB’s 7 Cares event.
A bit of set up first: remember 2012 when Carly Rae Jepson’s earworm “Call Me Maybe” was being remade by everyone (and featured in a video for new students at Idaho State)? What about 2013’s Harlem Shake?
Although these momentary blips on the pop culture radar seemingly spring from nothing, the latest one, the mannequin challenge, actually has a pedigree. While its roots are medieval, the practice of holding a pose to cause a spectacle gained popularity in Victorian times. Before students at BYU-Idaho stood motionless as Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” played, partygoers in the 1870s raided a chest of costumes and recreated famous literary or mythological scenes in a practice called tableaux vivant.
A 300-page book was published in 1871 with suggestions on all aspects of tableaux vivant, including costumes and staging. Parlor Tableaux and Amateur Theatricals recommends five to 10 different scenes over the course of an evening.
So this holiday season, as the latest smart devices are unwrapped or boredom sets in and a member of the group suggests doing a mannequin challenge video, just remember, everything old is new again.
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