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Fred on YouTube: Could someone please explain to me WHAT THIS IS?!

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I’ve resisted writing about “Fred” for several months now, but I can put it off no longer. For those of you (blissfully) unaware, “Fred” is (1) a wildly hyperactive 6 year old with an absent, alcoholic mother; (2) the fictional creation of now 15-year-old Lucas Cruikshank, a Nebraska kid with a camcorder and apparently a lot of free time; and (3) for the last nine months or so, the most popular web series on YouTube ever. Seriously. Several of his videos have been viewed over 9 million times (thems better ratings than pretty much the entire CW network), and his “channel” on YouTube has registered over 28 million total views. “Fred” posted his most recent episode last night. Here it is. See how far you can get through it before you have to stop.

On the one hand, Fred is a perfect encapsulation of what is possible now with the Internet: A kid, barely in high school, living in a rural part of the country that’s geographically and culturally pretty much as far from media hubs Los Angeles and New York City as you could imagine, posts videos to YouTube that win him near-overnight fame and a massive fan base. On the other hand, I have no freaking clue what this is. What makes this character, as opposed to so many other Internet personalities, so off-the-charts popular? The “Fred” channel has more than 843,000 subscribers — that’s almost five times as many as Barack Obama’s YouTube channel boasts, and nearly twice as many as the Jonas Brothers‘ channel has. So does that mean, like, “Fred” should be hosting Saturday Night Live? What do his fans understand that so utterly escapes me? I mean, I know I’m late to the party in asking this question, but what…what…IS…this?!

I’m serious: Tell me, please!

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