When the latest viral video craze, the so-called Mannequin Challenge, hit the internet, it was easy to write off its popularity as the product of a random whim of the hive mind of the web.
The success of the Mannequin Challenge was particularly perplexing because of its goal — or lack thereof. To take on the “challenge,” people freeze while being filmed. That’s it. The end. Nothing else to see here.
But as it turns out, the challenge’s lack of technical difficulty was the key ingredient for a viral, impossible-to-miss video sensation, according to experts.
Like the internet trends that came before, such as the Harlem Shake or Ice Bucket Challenge, the videos began exploding from all directions: Professional sports stadiums, red carpets and high schools all froze en masse and recorded the results.
Considering its popularity with teens, the original Mannequin Challenge video came about not much differently than you’d expect — some teenager, somewhere, telling some other kids something like, “Let’s just pose and film it.”
That teen was Jasmine Cavins. The high school junior was in class at Edward H. White High School in Jacksonville, Florida, when the Mannequin Challenge was unwittingly born.
“One day my friend walked to the front of the class and just stood there, so me and my friend joined her and we started doing crazy poses, so my friend was like, ‘We can make this challenge,’” Jasmine told The Post.
Jasmine, 16, posted the video to her Twitter account about three weeks ago, and soon other classes and nearby high schools started making their own.
Celebrities began catching on when rapper Rae Sremmurd — whose song “Black Beatles” is the background music for all of the videos — took up the challenge at one of his concerts. Before Jasmine knew it, so had Hillary Clinton and her campaign on the night before Election Day.
“We thought it would just be a local trend and different high schools started doing it,” Jasmine said. “I think it realized it [was popular] when Beyoncé did one.”
And Beyoncé is just one of the big names to take up the challenge. Britney Spears created a video while rehearsing for a show, and Stephen Curry tried his hand at the challenge at a restaurant. Blac Chyna and assorted Kardashians taped a challenge while she was in labor. If that’s not viral, it’s hard to say what is.
But Jasmine is still holding out for a few other celebrities as her tweet sharing the original video keeps gaining traction — now up to nearly 5,000 retweets.
“I think it would be neat if the cast of ‘Pretty Little Liars’ did it because I like them, or if Barack Obama did it,” she said.
Kevin Allocca, YouTube’s head of culture and trends, told The Post that the site has seen the challenge take off exponentially — and he’s not surprised at all.
In ways, he said, it has mirrored sensations such as last summer’s Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised money for ALS, or the Hundred Layer Challenge, where people film themselves adding coats upon coats of makeup to their faces.
“In the last two years in particular, we’ve really seen the challenge format take hold and become popular,” he said. “What are the ones that really take off? Ones that are easy to reproduce, but allow you to be creative.”
Besides the “one-upmanship” appeal, he said, another aspect of the challenge’s popularity is how it lends itself to different locations, from social clubs to sports stadiums. Its lack of sophistication explains the challenge’s pull with celebrities, who are looking for fun content to share with their fans.
“You can do it in your home, [or] you can do it in a TV studio, but at the same time, you can add your own kind of creative take to it,” Allocca said.
For teens especially, jumping on a new challenge is now second nature.
“Younger people [are] more common to make things really quickly … It has become a natural thing to be like ‘There is a new thing to do and we should do one too,’” Allocca said.
As to whether it has reached its peak, now that a Beatle, a presidential candidate and football teams have caught onto the trend, that’s still to be determined. There could be a lot more juice to the Mannequin Challenge yet.
“It totally varies,” Allocca said. “There is a ceiling to these things. After a few weeks, it can feel like we’ve exhausted all of the possibilities here.”