We come not to praise 5SF, or to bury it, because it was already dead.
In 2008, ten long years ago, 5-Second Films launched to a meager audience of slack-jawed fratboys and comedy nerds who fervently wished they could be fratboys. Crude, quick, and hit-or-miss, the site seemed destined to languish in obscurity forever - a fully deserving fate for a comedic outfit so white, so male, and so thuddingly obvious.
But because kismet is a cruel mistress, she sought to bestow some measure of notoriety to this fledgling group of limp dicks, and so 5SF gained a sizable following who couldn't wait to tune in each weekday for another unpopped kernel of comedy corn. To their credit, 5-Second Films were nothing less than reliable: They never missed a single day to upload, and to disappoint us yet again with more faint stabs at generating laughter. At their very best, a 5SF gag about abortion or babies or penises (great minds, these gentlebros) could have you exhaling a small amount of air through your nostrils, the only recognition that a joke was ever registered. If you could collect all the nostril air 5SF has ever been responsible for generating from us, it could possibly push a toy boat across a thin puddle.
Five years. They kept at it for five long punishing years. Then their boundless sense of entitlement led them to believe they were worthy of making a movie, so they asked their fans for cash, called it Dude Bro Party Massacre III (because what else would these Chads and Brads make a movie about, if not a love letter to their own withering genitalia and empty, embarrassing butt-joke camaraderie?) and lo, the world saw fit to never see it, pretend it never existed, and 5SF was finally banished to the dustbin of internet comedy history. See? Good things do sometimes happen.
They still upload intermittently, if only to impotently clutch at the memories of a youth that has long passed them by, but one 5SF series that inexplicably still gets a lot of attention is their Cinco de Mayo series. And that's where we come in.
The first installment "Don't Thinko de Mayo" (a title which helpfully doubles as instructions for their entire ouevre) is simple enough. Two white guys (what else is new) are sitting in their Los Angeles apartment when one turns to the other, having come up short on researching the origins of Cinco de Mayo. "Brian, what's the history of Cinco de Mayo?" Jon asks, and in short order, several beers materialize out of thin air in Brian's hands.
"Shut-the-fuck-up," Brian responds, a new word and beer for each jump cut, and then our two stunt doubles for cookie dough are off to the races: Chugging brews, pounding fists -- you know, the kind of physical activities you hope eventually lead to their heart attacks in a nursing home.
"But wait," you might say. "The joke here is about their white cluelessness. They don't even bother to learn anything - they jump straight into drinking. It's a joke about how Americans have repurposed a day commemorating the Battle of Peublo into another excuse to drink. It's not funny in any way, shape or form, but it's not actually a gag at the expense of Mexicans." I hear you. You want to believe in the goodness of people.
Sadly, you would have made the mistake of giving these violently unfunny, self-important geniuses too much credit.
In the very first shot, even the Wikipedia entry has no clue what the day is actually meant to celebrate. This, in effect, lets the white characters off the hook to crack open as many brewksis as they like, because when the internet doesn't even know, then who cares, amirite Brosef?!
The joke is actually put back onto people of Mexican heritage. "Your holiday isn't even worth mentioning on the largest information database in history," 5SF is saying. "But we'll gladly blast The Mexican Hat Dance, incongruously, as we repeatedly smash a fist into our own face for fun."
It's a despicable, sneering twist of the knife, delivered by lily-white upper middle-class douchebags. And the series only gets worse from here.
Because what this ode to white supremacy really needed was some brownface, our plucky Brad and Chad are back at it again in the third installment "The History of Cinco de Mayo." One-upping the wikipedia gag from the first episode, the actors insert themselves into what is ostensibly the Battle of Pueblo, sporting thick mustaches (hilarious!) and having no clue what day it even is ("Qué dia es hoy?" "Callate la pinche boca," goes the Sorkin-level dialogue, predictably mangled by their gross white tongues). And sure enough, they jump right into drinking, because that's a wonderful characterization to slap on another culture. "Not only does Wikipedia forget what this day was about, your own ancestors who fought that day don't even remember. And they drank heavily, too."
This was filmed and put online for everyone to see. It hasn't even been flagged for offensive content. But then, I guess you'd have to flag 5SF's entire library of films for being so offensive to the concept of Humor, and no one has that kind of time to spend on a dead channel.
Much of the Cinco de Mayo saga progresses in the same tiresome, predictable fashion: Someone asks a question, another whitey yells a very funny swear word, beer is consumed, someone punches himself (it's telling that the one time women are allowed to have a voice in this series, "The Herstory of Cinco de Mayo," it's because they need someone to be pregnant. 5SF's braintrust clearly has a very deep understanding of the multifaceted lives their mommies...I mean, women lead). But just when you thought these Apatow-wannabe relics realized it wasn't 2008 anymore, and appropriation was no longer cool, along comes the final turd in the punchbowl - or the last raisin in the White People Potato Salad, if you will.
Yes, it's an Akira reference, for all you hip 2010's teens living out there on the cutting edge of comedy. Two fucking white guys, fucking standing around as white guys do (do white men in Los Angeles ever have jobs? Or do they just inherit land and money until their entirely-too-prolonged death), yelling at each other in another pathetic attempt at a different language, as beer cans hover all around them. One of them explodes for reasons unclear, and the resulting mushroom cloud is shaped like a sombrero. That's right, it's a two-for-one special on racism, mention "Lighten up, it's just a joke" at the counter and get 20% off all purchases of White Fragility.
This is the legacy of 5-Second Films. A long, excruciating set of chances to improve, to get better, to learn and be inclusive, and swan-diving into failure every step of the way. Helpfully, Vine came along to wipe them off the map, putting the power of quick-hit jokemaking in the hands of a truly diverse array of young people. No longer was snarky comedy the sole domain of sub-par sheet-white improv troupes obsessed with their own boners. Today, empowering comedy comes from every corner, with fierce strong voices on Twitter shredding the white male establishment and leaving nothing but their fragile whimpering Caucasian tears.
But though 5SF technically escaped the savaging they deserved, they got another delicious kind of justice served to them: A lame, quivering fade to black, a dissolving of relevancy and purpose, howling for attention all the way. Attention that will never come. Money that will never fall in their laps. And the creeping discovery that they were never in the cool club, speaking truth to power through comedy. They were the power all along, a doughy, ivory beer gut pumping noxious farts that we all had to smell for an unbearable number of decades. And now they are powerless to respond, powerless to ever get back the mojo that they never really had in the first place.
Sorry, Chads. If you're feeling like you need a good cry, go join a hedge fund. Or get addicted to opioids. We don't really give a shit either way.
All images in this article belong to 5-Second Films.