If you want to get famous quickly, you have to be absurd. “What Does the Fox Say” spread throughout Facebook newsfeeds and the Twittersphere faster than open letters to Miley Cyrus. The Ylvis crew has come together with their latest, and possibly most confusing viral music video yet: “Massachusetts.”
The Norwegian comedy group road trips around Massachusetts and sings about its glory, splendor and social openness through a pretty strange, and distinctly foreign point of view. While rattling off facts about the state, such as how large it is and when the Pilgrims landed, the group starts to narrow down on the types of people that live there.
“Just because you’re kissin’ a man doesn’t make you gay/ confused,” one sings. Then a chorus of African-American singers joins in. Then a group of blonde cheerleaders misspell Massachusetts. Is it ignorant and stereotypical, or is it funny?
First of all, the video makes absolutely no sense. Every couple of bars the style of music changes, Ylvis meets incredibly random people, and for some reason the production quality is excellent. The video first shocks you, because the singing is actually in tune. They also had the money to fly over to Boston and film. Ylvis may be strange, but they’re professional.
All they’re doing is playing to the stereotypes those outside of America have of the people in Massachusetts — and the U.S., for that matter. It seems as if they see the state as a melting pot of all sorts of backgrounds, so from that standpoint, they did attempted to incorporate some sort of diversity, though most of the varied groups represented are stereotypes and caricatures.
As for the lyrics about toeing the thin line between friends and boyfriends, Ylvis does not outwardly insult queer people. Massachusetts is the hub of the liberal northeast of the U.S. This is the first state in the union to legalize gay marriage, and Norway was the sixth country in the world to legalize gay marriage back in 2009. In other Ylvis comedy videos, it becomes apparent that they’re comfortable with each other and their sexualities.
Obviously their emphasis on how most people in Massachusetts are gay is not true, but in the end, it’s a parody. They have this perspective of the U.S. because they probably know about as much about the U.S. as Americans know about Norway. Culturally, both places are different, and with that come complete misunderstandings.
Ylvis is also all about comedy. When comedy travels overseas, some of the humor is lost. Look at the Legally Blonde Broadway Show. Writers had to change some of the crude American jokes to appeal to U.K. audiences who love slapstick humor.
In the end, the video is confusingly absurd and silly, and that’s probably why so many people enjoy it. With cheerleaders spelling “Makakoko” instead of Massachusetts, you can’t help but laugh. Although Ylvis put too much effort into making a homoerotic storyline in the song, they don’t do it maliciously, and it doesn’t deserve to be given attention.