During the height of the COVID-19 quarantine, when the economy had shut down, causing my directing gigs to evaporate, I spent hours sitting at my laptop, watching something called Zooping, or Zoom pooping. One of my Facebook friends, Tod Perrin, a professional listicle writer living in Brooklyn, had created Zooping, basing it (according to his Vice interview) upon “The Suffering Channel,” a novella from a writer I’ve never read, bandana boy himself, the hipster god (except among the hashtag MeToo crowd—more power to them), David Foster Wallace. (I haven’t even pretended to read any fiction since that Foundations of American Literature class my sophomore year of college, the less said about that pretentious, brain-numbing class, the better.)
Anyway, Zooping involved people worldwide, sheltering in place in their houses or apartments or trailer homes, competing against each other on that video-conferencing app Zoom, trying within a five-minute time limit to create the largest and most artistic bowel movements on the porch, in the cat’s litter box, in a breadcrumb-style trail around the house—anywhere except in the toilet, even a transparent one. We viewers had to see the finished product emerge unobstructed (as in Wallace’s novella, apparently); then we would vote on-line for our favorite dumps (firmness counted—no diarrhea, please), the winners moving on to the next round. No prizes of any sort—just fourteen minutes and fifty-nine seconds of Internet fame. The wimps running this competition (wimps relatively speaking, considering the biological function shown) forbade political content, meaning, as their Facebook page put it, you couldn’t “let loose” onto, say, the American flag or the Confederate flag, the latter flag specifically banned anyway under the “no hate speech or hate symbols” stipulation, which must have disappointed certain of the trailer-home residents. You couldn’t indulge in sacrilege, either, goddammit. Nor could you give yourself, or let someone else give you, an enema on- or off-screen. You could use laxatives, though many viewers (including me) considered those the equivalent of performance-enhancing drugs and thus a form of cheating. Even stuffed full of Ex-Lax (or not), some Zoopers would choke during those five minutes, resulting in, at best, a few rabbit droppings. But the very best Zoopers—oh, the wondrous sculptures they would bring forth unto the world, modern-art delights more accessible than the (metaphorical) crap you see in museums.
The championship game, Zooper Bowl I, pitted Russ Fenley, thirty-two, a self-described “metalhead for life, yeeeahhh” from Newark, versus Samantha Bates, twenty-nine, a Kansas City native who called herself “the girl next door—to the nuthouse, hee hee hee.” Russ, after his trademark grunts and groans, accompanied by his trademark contorted facial expressions that I thought made him look more intelligent or at least slightly less vacant, produced something he titled Soft Serve Mountain, right onto the floor, in the middle of his somewhat barren living room. (You could see tumbleweed-sized dustballs in one corner, not that my domicile, an apartment on the outskirts of the outskirts, would win any interior-design awards.) By contrast, crouching above the pink-to-the-nth-degree rug in her bathroom, Samantha looked almost peaceful as she silently crafted an untitled piece, beige and thin, about a foot-and-a-half long, resembling a spiral, speckled with corn (as befitted her Midwestern status).
She won in a close vote, 14,697-14,612. Russ could have demanded a recount but didn’t; even he must have recognized the aesthetic brilliance of her creation. “I’d like to thank my butthole, without which I wouldn’t have come this far,” she remarked on Zoom afterwards. “You can say ‘butthole,’ right? Well, I just did.”
Weeks later, most Net-heads have no doubt long forgotten her, and Russ, and Zooping in general. But not I. Now that I’ve started directing again, I’ve vowed to keep the irreverence of the Zoopers in mind, having fun, appealing to the non-snobbish, not that all this will eradicate racism or sexism or economic injustice, of course. Nothing can eradicate anything, I guess, though I would think that, considering my snobbish and reasonably comfortable background. Hashtag FauxPoor.
Copyright © 2020 by David V. Mattthews
June 25, 2020 (revised July 11-12, 2020)