Learning to love the loop.
Gifs are a powerful delivery vehicle for Relatability—a cruise missile of quickie empathy. In a more ancient era of the internet, blogs like What Should We Call Me carried the banner of gif-based “you too??” (Shoutout to Gif Party, which I think was even ancient-er.) Gifs became popular as emotional shorthand.
BuzzFeed eventually cornered the market on this practice, filling their posts with cartoonish reaction shots of reality stars. Along with tweets and Vines, gifs embody the triumph of ease and simplicity on an internet of limitless choice.
I don’t want to push my luck with the analogies, but the BIRD WHO LOVES TO SLED has a lot to teach us about simplicity. This bird isn’t searching for bugs to eat. She’s not waking up early, or at least not early enough to make a whole adage about it. Or maybe she is waking up early, but it’s not for the bugs. It’s for the sledding. Which she mastered despite her literal bird-brain.
Seriously. This gif captures the joy of play. And teaches me that I horribly underestimate animal intelligence. Thank you, sledding bird. Thank you for using your inexplicable mastery of tools not for evil, but for chilling.
At this point, gifs provide the majority of my exposure to animals. What more could I need?
We only see one duckling take the plunge. I want to see them ALL. The incompleteness of the gif fosters its charm and rewatchability. Here we have a true SLICE OF INNOCENT JOY. Maybe right after the gif, the ducklings started arguing about duck politics. Maybe two of the ducks are right about to destroy both of their duck marriages with a duck tryst, right there on the slide. A waterslide of tears. But we don’t see any of that, because gifs are PARTIAL. We love gifs for the ROMANCE OF THE FRAGMENT, a phrase I stole from a Times piece about museum conservators. (That’s their name for the allure of broken statuary!!)
Back to the gif: who built that fucking thing? Who is building waterslides for ducks? Can that person build me a playhouse? Can they be my spouse-benefactor? My winter girlfriend? Great. It’s perfect because, this time of year, presumably the ducklings have to grow up, fly south, balance their checkbooks, accept that disappointment is unavoidable, etc. Not me, though. I’ll be living in my McDonald’s PlayPlace-penthouse on Central Park West, which my reclusive genius wife is going to build for me, using the skills she picked up as a duck starchitect. But I won’t be idle in my wealth, or ever feel unfulfilled. I’ll be artistic about it. SUPER artistic. And I’ll have so much personal integrity, somehow, too. I’ll be like Scrooge McDuck, except diving into a vault full of virtue. And gold.