Skibidi Toilet: what is this bizarre viral YouTube series – and does it deserve the moral panic? | YouTube

Alex, I read a headline saying Russian Cops Forced to Investigate YouTube’s Famous ‘Skibidi Toilet’ Series. As a series of words, what does that mean?

Brrr Skibidi dop dop dop yes yes, Steph. Skibidi dobidi dib dib.

I think that pretty much explains itself.

Thanks, I hate it. But it has 135m views (!) and I’m going to need more info.

Fine. Skibidi Toilet is an ongoing animated YouTube web series by Georgian content creator Alexey Gerasimov. Since it began in February, his YouTube channel, DaFuq!?Boom!, is now just outside the top 100 YouTube channels in the world by number of subscribers. There are now more than 70 episodes, with new videos uploaded every few days – although the time between new episodes has gotten longer as their length and production quality increases.

Skibidi Toilet’s popularity is mainly being driven by children under the age of 13 – it’s the first meme that members of gen Z are lamenting not understanding because they’re too old. The young age of most Skibidi Toilet fans, combined with the show’s unsettling aesthetics and violence, make it perfect fodder for a new moral panic over how the internet is poisoning children’s brains.

Parenting websites and TikTok influencers, particularly in Indonesia, are already warning about the apparent dangers of “Skibidi Toilet Syndrome” – and the Russian authorities have gotten involved.

Skibidi Toilet Syndrome???? What are the symptoms please?

Look it’s not yet recognised in the DSM-V – it’s more a catch-all term for what parents believe is concerning behaviour their children display after watching the show. Parents have documented their kids becoming “obsessed” with Skibidi Toilet, upset or angry after being restricted or banned from watching it, or sitting in baskets or boxes and acting like the Skibidi toilets, which seems more cute than terrifying but what do I know.

Police in Moscow got wind of it after a father asked authorities to investigate whether the videos “have a detrimental effect on children”. Russian lawmakers have been especially prone to looking for signs of moral decay in internet culture – in 2015, the Duma passed laws forbidding memes that mock or satirise public figures.

What’s the show actually about?

The first few episodes show a city and its inhabitants steadily being taken over by the Skibidi toilets, the terrifying animated heads that live in toilets and continually sing a mashup of the songs Give It to Me by Timbaland and Dom Dom Yes Yes by Biser King. The cameraheads – well-dressed men with CCTV cameras for heads who serve as the series’ protagonists – emerge as an underground resistance movement; it quickly becomes an all-out war between ever more powerful and destructive variants of both sides.

This is odd to admit, but I found myself pulled into the world of Skibidi Toilet. There’s a clear narrative arc developing and there are plot twists, betrayals, humour, killer action scenes and a couple of moments where I probably felt more than I’m supposed to.

You mentioned “a new moral panic over how the internet is poisoning children’s brains”. I feel as though there’s one of these every few months?

Handwringing about the internet turning kids into psychopaths has become a recurring feature of the contemporary news cycle. In the last few years social media has been blamed for making kids and teenagers eat laundry detergent, steal items from their schools and develop symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome.

There’s a political element too. Far-right politicians in the US and elsewhere are fundraising and campaigning off ludicrous claims that TikTok is brainwashing kids into questioning their sexual and gender identities, supporting Hamas or becoming bait for child sex traffickers.

None of this is new. Millennials will remember the pearl-clutching around weird internet ephemera such as Slender Man and bigger cultural markers including the Grand Theft Auto video game series. This isn’t to say there isn’t online content that children should be protected from, such as the disturbing bootleg YouTube videos of Peppa Pig being mauled at the dentist. But if every piece of content that kicked off a moral panic merited one, the internet-using kids of the world would long since have become the Children of the Corn.

So the verdict on Skibidi Toilet?

It’s kind of fun! There are definitely parts that a small child might find frightening (a lot of the episodes end with a Skibidi toilet lunging at the camera) but once you get past the red-eyed toilet monsters it’s a lot less creepy than much of the discourse around it has made it out to be.

In any case, a lot of the best kids’ entertainment is weird and dark. Roald Dahl’s books are full of murderous school principals and kids getting mutilated in comedic ways. Hansel and Gretel had to push a witch into the oven! If you’re worried about your kid suddenly acting like a singing toilet, watch some Skibidi Toilet with them – it might even become a guilty pleasure.


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