Gasping in horror at EUTube.

Gasping in horror at EUTube.

Gasping in horror at EUTube.

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July 13 2007 6:00 PM

EUTube

When bureaucracy and Web video collide.

EUTube. Click image to expand.
EUTube

What does Europe want? In the 14 years of its existence, the European Union has earned the derision of its citizens, skeptical glances from the United States, and who-knows-what from the scary Russian bear. As the New York Times' Alan Riding alerted us earlier this week, it's now seeking more of the same from each of those quarters—plus a symphony of giggles from the Third World to the moon—with a new Web video promotion. It's on YouTube and called … EUTube! Somehow, it's all downhill from that title—a carnival ride through Continental self-image.

Many of these 50-odd clips will merely weird you out, or stun you with their passionate efforts to make supra-Orwellian bureaucracy look as foxy as a Jason Bourne film, but the most sensible of them simply bore you to death. The majority of sentient beings are feeling rather green-spirited these days; they won't be sentient much longer after taking in such minor hits as "Flying and the environment—the EU leads the way." Its British narrator tells us that the European Commissioner for the Environment wants to see aviation take on its share of the effort to combat climate change. And then the European Commissioner for the Environment tells us that he wants to see aviation take on its share of the effort to combat climate change. Despite some footage of planes taxiing down runways and shots of the commissioner's secretary shuffling paper around her desk, there's no way around the fact that the video keeps going on like this for 10 minutes.

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Far more succinct, an animated piece called "Everyone Can Save The Planet" compresses a whole day's bad LSD experience into 41 seconds. This one kicks off when a housewife with a Marge Simpson beehive turns the thermostat down and then becomes a superhero, shedding her frumpy dress to reveal a get-up that Barbarella herself would surely find de trop. It ends when a man moving down the street with the aid of a walker finishes a canned beverage, belches, feebly tosses the empty can in a recycling bin, and then transforms into a turtle and, spinning in his shell, ricochets off a Dumpster. In between, you don't want to know.

But the EU devotes its most risible efforts to shilling its movie industry. Never have European films looked more doggedly Eurotrashy than in these brief clip jobs, accidentally self-parodic montages in which all the finest clichés of many national cinemas receive an enthusiastic airing. "European films—what a joy!" consists of quick-cut art-house bits that find folks skipping, dancing, reveling, frolicking, and lifting their arms in the victory salute. All a movie needed to do to earn inclusion was to feature any slight moment of ebullience. Thus, a happy moment from Lars von Trier's wrist-slitting Breaking the Waves gets gaily rescored to music from The Triplets of Belleville.

And then—at the bottom of the barrel, from the back of the id, and at the top of the viewership charts—comes "Film lovers will love this!", which shuffles glimpses of carnal knowledge together with supreme looniness. The Times: "In just 44 seconds, it presents flashes of 18 heterosexual and homosexual couples having steamy sex, accompanied by breathless groans and climactic screams." It's now been viewed 3.5 million times (compared with 220 for "Europe wants well-informed consumers"). I cannot provide a more fine-grained analysis than the collective critique of the many hundreds of commenters who've already had at the spot; one vinnyflint counsels the European Union to "grow up & stop acting like horny teenagers." Nonetheless, I would observe that in its pace and its reliance on unhinged euphemistic imagery—note the jiggling egg on that croque madame—the video is the Gauloise-smoking double of the famed montage from The Naked Gun, with the flowers and the booster rockets and the oil drill. Searching for its identity, the E.U. has tried to go highbrow-risqué—and landed at Leslie Nielsen.

Troy Patterson is Slate’s writer at large and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine.