On September 28, 2008, the video A Word for Kevin was uploaded to YouTube. The artifact phenomenon has now accumulated more than 2 million views, “proof that it touches a nerve of Quebec identity,” whether we accept it… or not, analyzes doctor of semiology Jean-Michel Berthiaume.
For me it is the most important Quebec short film of the 21st century.
In this video, we Internet users immerse ourselves in a backyard party in Quebec, decorated with banners with the image of Molson Dry beer – even the spa is covered with them. The space welcomes around twenty celebrants who take turns paying tribute to the birthday boy, 24-year-old Kevin, in front of the camera.
Start of the widget. Skip widget?
End of widget. Return to the top of the widget?
Built like a crime novel, a literary genre that can be translated in French as “who made it”, the video has a story, a well-developed plot over 3 minutes and 58, filmed in sequence shot, describes Jean-Michel Berthiaume. You play one character after another that tells you something about Kevin. But all this time you didn’t know who Kevin was and you were looking for him.
There are all sorts of encounters that lead to thanks, a sausage joke, good-natured insults and even the new sentence: “Your snake is beautiful, I’ll buy it in two weeks.” You could do Les Belles-sœurs with these people again , believes the man who also teaches at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).
Open in full screen mode
Jean-Michel Berthiaume would like to see a feature film of Happy Birthday Kevin, as happened recently for Farador.
Photo: Radio-Canada / Christian Côté
I’m convinced that every minute that passes in Quebec, someone says the phrase, “Send it, Kevin, keep it up!”
In the middle of the video we experience a crucial moment, the specialist emphasizes: a man, Claude Asselin, spontaneously utters the words: “Send, Kevin, keep it up!”, a sentence to which the video owes a large part of its success.
Then it’s the big reveal: a woman at the spa admits she went to so much trouble to French him and takes a look at the famous Kevin, also at the spa.
“It’s just an attitude, you can’t write something so perfect,” emphasizes Jean-Michel Berthiaume, who doesn’t hesitate to describe the Citizen Kane video as part of Quebec culture. Orson Welles’ work is often considered the greatest film of all time, particularly because of the symmetry of his direction.
We recognize ourselves
For the doctor of semiology, “A word for Kevin” is an ethnographic document that shows the truth of Quebec identity […] in all its ambiguity and complexity.
He reminds us that to be swept up in virality, content must contain one or more elements of truth that people recognize themselves in enough to want to share.
Whether we accept it or not, we recognize a part of our identity in this little film.
In this case, people will listen to the video again and watch the video again, just like we still “23.” December” by Beau Dommage. It is part of Quebec’s heritage.
A virality that is difficult to endure
However, this virality comes at a price. Contacted by Radio-Canada, Claude Asselin, the author of the phrase “Envoy, Kevin, keep it up!”, declined the interview request, saying he had already said everything.
In 2021, he resurfaced in a video on the Internet, collaborating with clothing company Poche & Fils, which created a sweater bag with his image. “We have removed his bag from the site,” a company representative said, without providing further details.
Launch of the Facebook video widget. Skip widget?End of Facebook Video Widget. Return to the top of the widget?
One day you leave your house and are recognized everywhere because everyone shared the video you are in. […] People who have become viral phenomena without their knowledge, there is no one who can live well with that.
Jean-Michel Berthiaume himself encountered rejection while he was busy writing a book about the history of virality in Quebec: Momo from “Pas l’temps de niaiser”, “My father is rich in Tabarn***”, “I have the gift”… 100% of [vedettes de] Memes I’ve contacted so far for my book have refused to speak to me.
However, Quebec is known for its culture that respects celebrities but doesn’t limit itself too much to private life, he emphasizes.
He adds that virality is approached differently in the United States. People who appear in memes become influencers. Non-fungible tokens (NFT) also allowed these people to finally monetize all the attention they received.
Open in full screen mode
In a documentary, Ghyslain Raza, also known as the “Star Wars Kid,” emerges from the shadows to reclaim his digital double.
Photo: Screenshot / Documentation “In the Shadow of the Star Wars Kid”
A Quebec meme star recently broke his silence in a documentary. This is Ghyslain Raza, aka “Star Wars Kid,” who is considered patient zero of online virality. The popular culture specialist emphasizes that you could see on the screen the sacrifices he made to appear in this documentary.
An embarrassment that can be explained by the fact that viral videos in Quebec often represent humiliation for their star. A humiliation that continues in the comments, a space that Jean-Michel Berthiaume describes as a potential landfill and dehumanization.
Under the “A word for Kevin” video, recent comments mostly wish for a reunion or still emphasize Kevin’s birthday.
We’re going to listen to this video differently. Consider it, celebrate it, outside the context of its virality to see the value of this artifact [qui nous plonge] in popular parlance, says Jean-Michel Berthiaume.
So happy birthday, Kevin, who according to our calculations turns 39 today.