Lady Gaga in Afghanistan

Viral videos are usually easy to forget, says Cailey Hall in The Atlantic, but there's something haunting about clips showing soldiers trying to have a little fun in a war zone

Lady Gaga.
(Image credit: Getty)

"YouTube sensations don't usually stick with you," says Cailey Hall in The Atlantic. But, four months after it went viral, there's something "haunting" about a video of members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan "rocking out" to Lady Gaga's "Telephone." And the same goes for the clip featuring "camo-clad" guys lip-syncing Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby," and other music videos posted by soldiers on the front lines. Americans have grown weary of reading about Iraq and Afghanistan, but we can't tear our eyes off these "low-budget, high-enthusiasm" clips — the "Telephone" video has piled up 5 million views. The footage makes you laugh, but it's also "almost heartbreaking" — from the youth of the soldiers to their improvised sets with "trash bag curtains" and plywood walls. "With all the 21st-century technology at our disposal, and news reports about 'advanced' warfare techniques like drone strikes, it can be easy to forget that the humans actually fighting these wars" are "kids," living in rough conditions, far from home. Here's an excerpt: (Watch a video of the 82nd Airborne performing Lady Gaga's "Telephone")

These videos may not be as "real" as the shaky camera footage of embedded reporters (most recently on view in Restrepo), but they somehow feel more immediate. Yes, movies like Restrepo and The Hurt Locker make a concerted effort to depict soldiers in their down time, goofing off ... But watching these videos, we get to be in on the joke. It's the closest many of us get to being allowed into the soldiers' world. ...

The descriptions accompanying many of these videos amplify both their charm and their pathos: "just because we are a group of military police doesnt mean we dont know how to have fun"; "The[y] were very bored so they wanted to entertain themselves"; "Marines trying to have some fun while in a War Zone." And that's the part that really hits home: These are kids in a war zone and, just like kids in far more carefree circumstances, all they want to do is have some fun. They're not creating these movies to make a statement or to explore what it means to be a soldier, but in their artless pursuit of fun, they tell us a lot about who they are and how they manage to keep going even in the face of unpopular wars and their own uncertain futures.

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