The Out-of-Touch Adults’ Guide to Kid Culture: Why’s ‘The Black Phone’ so Popular?

The Out-of-Touch Adults’ Guide to Kid Culture: Why’s ‘The Black Phone’ so Popular?
Screenshot: Blumhouse/YouTube, Fair Use

This week, kids and teens are watching the trailer for upcoming horror flick The Black Phone, opining about Willy Wonka’s outfit, and signalling with red flags. What does it all mean? You decide.

Viral video of the week: The Black Phone trailer

Sometimes a movie trailer just hits different, like the trailer for upcoming horror flick The Black Phone. Nearly two million people have watched the trailer in its first day on YouTube, even though it’s not the latest entry in a popular franchise (like the Scream trailer, also released this week) and its biggest star is Ethan Hawke.

So how has this particular trailer cut through the clutter and gone viral? (It looks creepy, sure, but so do other horror trailers.) This one resonates with a childhood fear we hammer into kids’ skulls: If you’re not careful, a man in a van will take you. It works perfectly with its barely pubescent stars, young enough to be helpless. Plus, Ethan Hawke’s villain, The Grabber, looks positively sinister, like a twisted mash-up of Lon Chaney in London After Midnight and real life serial killer Richard Ramirez.

Woman discovers another body buried in her sister’s grave

Speaking of things that are scary, TikToker Jessica Tawil (@jesstawil) made a gruesome discovery this Halloween season. In a video, she says she was visiting her sister’s grave and found another body buried on top of it.

In a follow-up video, a presumed representative of the graveyard offered the non-explanation that “every grave is different,” while reportedly failing to tell the family who was buried on top of their loved one and why. In a final video, the cemetery had flattened the grave and (maybe) removed the errant tenant-corpse. As you’d probably expect, Tawil said her family has hired a lawyer. If you’ve seen Poltergeist, you know how this ends.

All the videos you’re not seeing on TikTok

If you’re concerned about what TikTok is doing to keep the service safer for kids, this week TikTok released a report detailing the content they’d removed between April 1 and June 30, 2021. According to the report, a total of 81,518,334 videos were yanked by their automatic content moderations system — about one per cent of the total videos posted during that time period. The content moderation system is designed to zap videos that violate TikTok’s policies on “minor safety, adult nudity and sexual activities, violent and graphic content, and illegal activities.” Read the entire report here.

Fan reaction to first Wonka photo is mixed

This week the internet got its first look at actor Timothée Chalamet styled as Willy Wonka for upcoming prequel, Wonka…and they have opinions.

The verdict is mixed. A large contingent of online fans feel that the new Wonka is “sexy,” while others think he looks like a muppet. The idea of the costume seemed to have been to combine parts of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka look with parts of Johnny Depp’s version of the character, but the result ended up looking uncannily like Gonzo in The Muppet Christmas Carol.

TikTok’s fake lug nut challenge

Our sister-site, car-obsessed Jalopnik, reports on a dangerous new TikTok challenge: The Lug Nut Challenge. To participate, people are encouraged to loosen the lug nuts on someone car and see what happens. (Spoiler: It makes a lot of noise and eventually the wheel falls off.) But like the “Slap a Teacher” challenge I’ve talked about before, the Lug Nut Challenge doesn’t seem to actually exist.

Despite reports from news sources about loosened lug nuts, Jalopnik’s deep dive thought YouTube and TikTok turned up bupkis — no videos of jokesters loosening nuts or even videos encouraging other people to do it.

This trend has the potential of spreading widely. As more people hear about it, more people will check their tires, find loose nuts, and spread the word that they are victims of the trend — even though lug nuts can loosen on their own.

What’s going on with the red flag meme?

If you’ve been seeing a lot of red flags in the comment sections of Twitter, TikTok, and Friendster, here’s what’s going on: To the kids, the red flag emoji conveys a judgement that a statement indicates the speaker is a pile of garbage. This is usually in terms of a dating, like, “if a date says this, it’s a red flag.”

It started relatively seriously with examples of red flags like “holes punched in the wall.” But it quickly became a jokey kind of thing where a person might post something like “I hate Radiohead” followed by some red flags.

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