The Hypnotoad, one of Futurama‘s most brilliant ideas, could well be an Andy Warhol creation: it’s the total media celebrity. Has an unstoppable power, access to millions of victims and… uses it so they can still watch him! It would be easy to compare it with They’re alive!, Shepard Fairey and his Obey, but his hypnosis is not critical or political: it doesn’t want anything else than to be broadcasted ad infinitum: Fame as a monotonous and dispassionate end.
Even more: if Warhol had done GIFs, they would probably be like Everybody Loves Hypnotoad, the most famous programme of the 31st century. Apart from its pictorial composition (the series is just a frontal frame with no background that shows the creature as in a catalogue), Everybody Loves Hypnotoad can be linked to the Warhol film director and his static shootings that are much longer than what’s reasonable. A chapter of Hypnotoad (the DVD of Bender’s Big Score included a whole 22-minute one) is not very different from Empire: static shot with almost no action from a pop icon that acquires its mystical dimension by occupying space and time. Is that not an essay on slow cinema or, even better, a proto-GIF?
No matter how long it runs for, time in Empire or Amazon Adventure (that’s the name of the episode) is still linear. The proto-GIF has a limit and, thus, an end. It also allows for minimum changes: in Empire the light and the reflections on the glass change; in Hypnotoad there are insertions of situation shots and laugh tracks that are heard in the midst of the annoying drone. Then we have an editing that, taking advantage of YouTube to the max, puts the creature on repeat for 10 hours: a marathon excess more Warholian than Warhol! Thus, the proto-GIF ranges between provocation and resistance test, it’s playful and subversive and it destroys the hegemony of narration and audiovisual sense.
The promise of total hypnosis is not fulfilled until Hypnotoad gets rid of the proto- and becomes a proper GIF, its natural habitat: with the infinite and Martian nature of the format it can, at last, kidnap our look towards completion. In the titillating dance of pupils there’s no discourse or will, beginning or end: only a magnetism that turns us into automats and gives the creature its fifteen (millions of) minutes of fame. All glory to the Hypnotoad.