Am I the Only One Who Finds the “I Quit” Video Sad and Depressing?

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Harvesters (1565). The peasants enjoying the good life in the sunny scene are only on a lunch break. Another shift is already hard at work in the fields.

AS MANY OTHER VIDEOS gone viral on Youtube, this liberating, mildly choreographic effort to say “goodbye” to a despotic boss made me release more depressant toxins that it apparently did to other million viewers.

The story behind it is now a popular fabula: Marina Shifrin, 25, was employed by “an awesome company” (her words) that produces animation videos. “For almost two years”, she explains, “I’ve sacrificed my relationships, time and energy for this job”.

It’s 4.30am and she’s still at work. It doesn’t seem to be an exception. She positions the camera in strategic spots, looking straight into it with her thick glasses, then unexpectedly starts her dance around the office. Lonely yet glowing. “I quit”, is the caption flashing multiple times under her moves.

The gruesome bibliography of America is replete of chronicles of fugitive slaves. White historians and physicians labelled as “Crazy Negroes” those who rebeled against the fifteen-hous days in plantations and tried to flee, sometimes after destroying the crop while in convulsions, before being recaptured and hanged.

Of course, it was other era. In her video, Marina doesn’t destroy or damage anything. How could she? She could spend years in jail even only for one smashed monitor. Her company is based in Taiwan and  Taiwanese justice is notoriously harsh. Her co-workers would have probably ditched her. While on strike,  Italian Marxist-Leninist unions used to interrupt working shift in assembly lines by clanging metal bars and throwing heavy bolts on the scabs. Sabotaging factory equipment and breaking into factory offices was a widespread practice back in the 1970s. Their slogan was: “Shitty Work for a Shitty Salary” [1]

But now? Which tools of sabotage does Marina possess? The land of cubicles is a  true “hell frozen over” of misery and bore, and her only weapon seems to be just enough post-modern irony, to navigate a glacial-cold environment. Like a schizophrenic patient in isolation, she puts on a show on her own helplessness, even smiling about it, as if mocking her own induced “insanity”.

What’s worse: perhaps unconsciously, she is speaking the Master’s language: despite her miserable condition, her cutesy manners seem to mirror to the same corporate “smartassness” that exploited her and others in the first place. The same aspiration to a superficial, de-politicized, easily comprehensible, “viral” popularity that leads companies to humiliate individual intelligence.

And you know pretty well what is going to happen, after: once we have escaped our office, guzzled down a drink too much in some sports bar, off we go to another office, and then to another one. “Quitting videos” on Youtube aren’t career killers anymore (the system of oppression and humiliation they expose is left untouched) but rather an opportunity, a Linkedin medal. What it is really at stake is not the message behind the hype, but the hype itself.

There is also another choice: the Temporary Escape from Civilization. “I’m going to help Africa’s children for a year”. “I’m gonna be a missionary in Thailand”, or the hundred thousand schemes for provisional self-help: industrially-generated escapism, reflecting the same greyness of office life. And the lack of truly emancipatory options in today’s existence.

During Marina’s performance, her boss is (presumably) sleeping. But rather than shaking him up, in the middle of the night, we keep ourselves busy laughing at our impotent insomnia. And dancing as we do it.


[There is probably only one thing worst than this video – and it’s the company’s official reaction: a visual representation of voluntary servitude.]

[1] “A salario di merda, lavoro di merda”


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