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Mathew Cullen, director of Weezer's 'Pork and Beans,' shares some secrets

01:48 PM PT, May 29 2008


(Weezer is flanked by the Daft Punk Bodies, Liam "Kelly" Sullivan, Tay Zonday, Charlie the Unicorn and 3D Disney and King Kong. Photo by Jack Green ASC, DGC/Interscope)

Weezer's Pork and Beans, now at more than 4 million views on YouTube, is a seminal homage to viral video, integrating dozens of viral stars, references, nods and winks -- enough to make it a valuable cultural, maybe even literary, document of YouTube's viral roots.

Mathew Cullen of the Motion Theory production studio in Venice, Calif., directed the video. He shared some thoughts with me yesterday -- and a couple of the video's secrets.

What's "Pork and Beans" about?

The song is about the idea of being yourself, of being happy with who you are: "I’m gonna do the things that I wanna do/| I ain't got a thing to prove to you...| I'm fine and dandy with the me inside."

When did you realize that viral video stars fit in with that message?

Almost immediately. I wanted to put a spotlight on what was going on now with people being their own brands and channels. I wanted it to be a celebration of the creativity and individuality that’s being expressed through that. And on the opposite side, I wanted it to be a redemption for those that had been unintentionally embarrassed by it.

Like Mark Hicks, the Afro Ninja (who landed really badly in a botched backflip attempt), and Miss Teen South Carolina, and Chris Crocker who -- regardless of what people think, is putting himself out there to the world and just being himself.

The video is like the next chapter of the Afro Ninja -- you get to see Mark Hicks sort of get his revenge (by beating up some ninjas). Miss Teen South Carolina gets to blend the questions she was asked in the pageant in a BlendTec blender. And Chris Crocker gets a hug from Rivers. (Cullen noted that the hug was also a nod to the mega-viral Free Hugs Campaign.)

There were a lot of stars in the video -- anyone that couldn't make it?

Yeah, we reached out to the Star Wars Kid. But he doesn’t do any appearances or anything.  He’s unfortunately -- his life has been negatively impacted by the power of the Internet. But that doesn’t mean... hopefully there’s still some redeeming qualities in the video for him.

There are so many memes and references in here -- must have been quite a project to catalog them all.

There’re only a handful of clips left on YouTube that I haven’t seen [laughs]. It definitely became my main form of entertainment for the past month.

It was very hard to get everything that we wanted to get in there, just because of time. We tried to get in as much of the ones we love and the people we love.

For those people that don’t have a computer or haven’t been on the Internet in a while, this video is like a web Cliff Notes to Internet pop culture. I think of the video as a living thing -- it'll be changed and mashed up over the years. People will do their own versions and mashups of it -– just like we did our own mashup of YouTube.Gunghoweezer_2

Are there any obscure references that no one's picked up on yet?

The GI Joe parody:  Gung Ho has a Charlie the Unicorn tattoo. And the kids in the shot are the band (meaning, Weezer). It’s also a hybrid of the Ray Ban catching-the-glasses on the face viral –- I don’t think many people have picked up that the kids are actually the band.

There’s probably a dozen more like that, easily.

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David Sarno is the Times' Internet culture and online entertainment writer.
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