Nomo, Momo!

Dave Ferry

By now hopefully, all TO readers are back to their regular sleep schedules since last week’s Thursday edition creeped everyone out.

I am referring to the front page story about The Momo challenge featuring the image of a sculpture apparently created by a very talented Japanese artist whose work is in no way associated with whoever is behind Momo. A quick glance into its provenance suggests it may have originally been created for an art show or film project.

In any case, the mere suggestion of that being a possibility quickly takes a lot of power away from the image itself. Indeed, this image, or something like it, certainly would not look out of place among the pages of Tim Burton’s sketchbook.

I had no second thoughts about putting it on the front page. There was no doubt to me that it is important to warn people about this type of thing.

With some time to reflect on it, it occurred to me that some may not have appreciated waking up to that image on their doorstep. I can relate since while most everyone else was waking up to it, I had to try falling asleep the night before after staring at it all night. Even in context, after you’ve read it, it’s still an effectively messed up visage.

While that definitely crossed my mind, the underlying principle of educating people about what can be seen and used to inappropriately influence people seemed like the right thing to do.

This has nothing to do with scaring children. It’s about how we interpret our world. The truth is, this kind of thing goes way beyond just The Momo Challenge.

There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet earth. And almost every single one of them has better internet than we do. That’s a lot of people, with a lot of time on their hands to come up with weird stuff. The internet is humanity in writing and it’s a lot to take in. There’s both the good and the bad and it is all a part of the same whole.

You can be inspired by its beauty or cast into despair moving from one moment into the next. It’s exhilarating and terrifying. It’s true you have to look for the beauty but you also have to be able to recognize the beast when you see it.

The general idea surrounding The Momo challenge is deeply unsettling. The very thought that there is some, thing, out there trying to coerce people into dangerous situations makes me feel hateful toward them. Them, who are a part of the same humanity in which we are a part of and engaged in eternal conflict.

Exposing this very stupid idea brings to me a sense of justice.

The better the access, the more likely we are to see something we never saw before. Being able to interpret what we encounter online is a skill like any other. In fact, one of the reasons I wasn’t worried about the image scaring kids is because many of them are way more sophisticated with the internet than adults.

Parents are rightfully freaked out by what children can be exposed to when they’re not around. After all, they have their own sets of ears and eyeballs that you will never be able to see out of. The courage it takes to let them out of the house and to live their lives is the ultimate act of love. But it’s what people do.

It’s not just kids who seek guidance. We all need it in one form or another. It’s not about monitoring or restricting or avoiding. It is about knowing the truth when we see it.

The Momo Challenge presents a great opportunity to learn about different ways to interpret something like this. For all of the obvious evil that exists in the world, there’s just as much hidden in plain sight.

When taken apart, Momo becomes an extremely strong symbol of the differences between facts and lies. There are so many strong and subtle ways to manipulate feelings in our consumer culture that we are often not even fully aware of. The speed of our lives forces us to restrict what we allow in and the speed of the world is always trying to throw more at us.

Every now and then we are all going to see something we can’t unsee. It imprints onto our subconscious and depending on the individual’s starting brain chemistry, shakes up like a cocktail. Some may laugh, some may cry, some may have PTSD.

You can never know what you are going to get.

I truly hope no one is amongst the traumatized over the Momo image.

It’s important to me to note that in addition to exposing this stupid idea, we’ve also bought justice to the artist whose work was criminally misappropriated. It also underscores the effectiveness of the image as it was designed for its intended purpose. The creepiness factor is EXTREMELY well done.

Closer inspection makes me see something undeniably Muppet-ish about her. Jim Henson brings to mind The Dark Crystal (1982). I never really got over how much that movie messed me up.

It could also be funny as a behind the scenes of the VH-1 Behind the Music documentary: Janice from Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem. After things took a bad turn.

Fortunately, it is the way in which the image was used that is the problem, not the image itself.

In fact, the sculpture has been elevated to a higher meaning than originally intended.

One thing for sure is that Momo is likely just a passing fad like Y2K or Tickle me, Elmo. So, for what is likely equivalent to The Blair Witch Project of internet urban legends, it’s not a bad idea to be prepared is and when something worse comes along.