Identifying the Running Man’s Place in Cultural History
Because watching history unfold has never been so entertaining.
By Sara Marie Seidel, University of Colorado at Boulder
When I first saw it, I was sitting in my car scrolling through Twitter.
I was either burning time or avoiding what I was supposed to be doing (most likely the latter), when I came across a video that my younger cousin had retweeted.
At first, I was hesitant to click on it. This particular cousin had let me down earlier with the Damn Daniel video, but considering I can’t lose afford to lose touch with pop culture just yet, I reluctantly clicked on the link. For some reason, I busted out laughing as I watched a football team dance like that poodle did on its hind legs.
There are few things I’m certain about in this world, like if dark clothes go in warm water or cold water, but one thing I know for sure is that the Running Man challenge broke the internet and I’m forever grateful for it. I honestly feel like I’m in debt to the YouTube and Vine Gods for delivering us such weirdly fantastic Running Man videos. They’re even better than Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” but only because I have yet to locate that on the internet. (I wish I was kidding, if you have any tips on its whereabouts let me know.)
The Running Man challenge is a dance better than the nae nae/whip, Harlem shake, stanky leg and dougie, because it channels the original running man move. It’s just a quicker version that involves the dancer acting as if they’re standing on hot pavement, thereby forcing them to spastically tap their feet (not too sure why the arms spastically move too, but I dig it). I personally attribute the original move to the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” but hey, everyone remembers where they were the first time they saw the Running Man dance.
Like all other viral phenomena, I had no idea where the original video came from. I looked everywhere, and trust me, typing “Where did the Running Man challenge originate?” into your Google browser doesn’t get you very far. As it turns out, I had to turn to someone younger than me for answers: my little brother. He answered my question within seconds, which made me feel a little out of touch with Twitter, but surprisingly happy that I didn’t know the answer, because then I’d have to reevaluate what I’m doing in my spare time.
My brother told me that the Running Man challenge is typically credited to two University of Maryland basketball players, who danced around their locker room to Ghost Town DJ’s song “My Boo.” The Terps rose to viral-video fame by posting the videos on their Instagrams, which led to the dance spreading like wildfire.
After my brother explained the original video, he then rocked my world. “The basketball players didn’t invent it,” he informed me.
“Two high school boys did. [The basketball players] just copied it and their video went viral.”
And now no matter how hard I try and put them out of my mind, my heart won’t stop aching for those two high school boys who didn’t get the recognition they deserve, their poor video buried under millions of remakes, impossible for anyone ever to find. If, however, you’re determined to see the original video, prepare yourself for at least a week of mining YouTube, or just give up and accept that you’ll probably have to call in the big guns, a.k.a. your 14-year old cousin who’s addicted to social media.
Part of the Running Man’s popularity stems from its ease of application. The move isn’t some complicated manipulation of the human form (R.I.P. the Jerk move), or even a routine that requires studious examination to learn the entire sequence (R.I.P. “Crank That”).
I’ve even seen videos where grown policemen do the Running Man, and while I’m not saying that policemen can’t dance, I actually might be saying that…
I’ve watched countless remakes, each just as funny as the next, but my favorite is probably the corgi version, an internet gem that made actual tears of joy fall from my eyes. I could probably go without seeing the NCAA teams, work crews and families make their own videos, but I can’t go without seeing the cute animal ones, damnit.
With all these videos now crowding the social media sphere, I can’t help but wonder what the fate of the Running Man challenge will be. Are we going to do it forever now? Will aliens rifling through our old Instagrams find loads of puppy-dog faced selfies next to all the Running Man challenge videos we posted? Or, is the Running Man challenge going to fizzle out like the dougie and the cinnamon challenge? (Though the cinnamon challenge fizzled out for obvious safety reasons.)
If we’re lucky, the eccentric dance move will stay around as long as planking did. If we’re extremely lucky, our kids will do it at their school dances. I mean, considering we still do the lawn mower (though partially as a joke), I can see the Running Man challenge reaching people as far as 2050.
Imagine: A school dance where people don’t awkwardly rub their bits on each other and grind their braces together; a bar where, again, peoples’ bits are kept to themselves and dance moves are plentiful. It would be like “Footloose,” minus essentially everything but the dancing. The future of the Running Man challenge is in our hands, people. We can’t let it be the one that got away.