To be inspired by success is normal, but Deepak Thomas was inspired by ‘Fail’. Taking a page from the international Fail Blog that chronicles boo-boos and gaffes, the Pune-based visual designer invited contributions of weird photos, bloopers caught on camera, oddities from India, desi engleesh signboards, and other mashups for his indigenous Failblog.in.
Fail is no longer just a verb on the internet. And Merriam-Webster or Wren & Martin may not quite approve of its use as an interjection, but that’s the new designation it has earned. Fail is a meme; an internet fad that — simply put — stands for that glorious lack of success which has the clueless genius to be uproariously funny.
Examples include the photo of a dog trying to eat out of a dog-food poster captioned ‘Scent fail’ and a hoarding condemning child obesity sharing space with a billboard advertising McDonald’s captioned ‘Publicity Fail’. There are Fail groups on Flickr and Fail videos on YouTube, all of which have one commonality — to elicit schadenfreude.
The origins of Fail’s new avatar can be traced back to the Japanese arcade game Blazing Star, famous for its Japanese-to-English translations. On completing a level, the game flashes: “You beat it! Your skill is great!” and on losing, you are teased: “You fail it! Your skill is not enough! See you next time! Bye bye!” Cultish folk soon adopted ‘Japanese speak’, and ‘Fail’ became a winner.
After its informal addition to the lexicon of netspeak, Fail officially arrived when blogs such as Failsalon.com, Shipmentoffail.com and Failblog.com started archiving amusing spelling errors on signboards, videos of drivers’ gaffes and animals in funny faux pas with the word ‘Fail’ superimposed on them.
In no time, various degrees of Fail evolved: Epic Fail is the comparative degree, while Utter Fail is the superlative form. So fails that are unfathomable are utter fails and those that make you facepalm (netspeak for putting your palm on your face to express exasperation) are epic fails.
After Facebook and Twitter arrived, there were websites dedicated to expose fails that took place on them too. Sites like Facebookfails.com, Lamebook.com, Failbook.com ask users to share screenshots of activity on the network that is high on mock value. So now there was a platform to share that amusing status your professor updated, which was riddled with spelling errors, and not laugh at it alone.
Lamebook’s ‘About’ page invites people to marvel at ridiculous posts that range from family members sharing too much personal information to cringeworthy conversations between lovers, to bizarre and hilarious photos they upload on the social networking site. All these websites give you an assurance: “Don’t worry; the names and faces are blurred to protect the guilty.”
Even the Twitteratti are not spared. There is Twitter–fail.com and Failtweet.org dedicated to serving up failed tweets that will guarantee ‘unfollows’. Failtweet’s slogan reads, “People say some stupid stuff, that’s a fact. Now with the Internet and Twitter, they tweet a lot of stupid stuff. We find the best and post them for everyone to enjoy’’.
The Twitter Fail Blog on the other hand, claims to be the voice of reason on social media and is on a mission to expose the hilarious and pitiful tweets of those who automate their posts; use it to push advertising and/or run scams. Also, every time Twitter faces a downtime, that iconic image of a whale appears on the screen. And although its original title is ‘Lifting a Dreamer’, it has been renamed by frustrated tweeple to FAIL Whale.
Finally, this story would be incomplete without the mention of those magnanimous souls who upload their own fails to stop others from failing similarly. They are known as the LFMF community and tag every post with #Learn From My Fail.
POSTERS TO PRONCE MASALA
In India, Fail debuted on Twitter and is used to tag new events and newsmakers of notorious repute. Suresh Kalmadi, A Raja, Ashok Chavan and mobile networks have the dubious distinction of being associated with #fail the most. Even Thomas who created Failblog.in (The Abode of Indian Fails) says it was the regular sighting of fail on Twitter that makes him use ‘hash fail’ even in normal parlance. On his blog, you will find a collection of paradoxical photographs. There’s an image of a ‘Genuine Fakes Leather Store in Goa’, a dirty BMC poster that propagates cleanliness, and an ad that reads “Wanted Salesgirl: Male/Female”. Users can vote for their favourite “fails” — and as of now, a Ghajini poster has the most number of votes. Reason: It has Asin flaunting a haute couture outfit with a wardrobe malfunction that has been hastily saved by a humble safety pin. The caption reads, ‘Ghajini Fail —Recession, Honey! We all had to make adjustments’.
Other photos include menus studded with spellos. Imagine eating chess sandwich, pronce masala, mattan fry, amlet, bonlas chikan, and drinking pineple juice.
Another example of FAIL is an advertisement by a matrimonial bureau listing a phone number that promises a “guaranteed love marriage”. Thomas monitors and filters contributions because, “Sometimes very obvious mistakes are not-so-funny’’.
Similarly, www.failsrus.wordpress.com, started by two Indian students who want to remain anonymous, also posts screenshots of ‘awesome fails, without fail’ including the online activity of that species called the Orkutiyas, users with poor grammar and spelling skills that usually showcase their ineptness on networks where they can be easily ridiculed.