David Firth's wonderfully horrible Salad Fingers (previously at Boing Boing) today stars not in another bleakly fascinating adventure but in an academic paper, Salad Fingers: Pre-YouTube digital uncanny and the 'weird' future of animation, by Jessica Balanzategui and César Albarrán-Torres. The authors summarize it at The Conversation.
we argue Salad Fingers was a key influence on "weird YouTube's" countercultural melange of content that escapes the aesthetic, regulatory and moral constraints of mainstream film and television. … ambiguous intentions are the combined appeal and horror of the show: the most common Google search phrases around the series are "Is Salad Fingers supposed to be scary?", "Is Salad Fingers a children's show?" and "Why is Salad Fingers weird?" Firth's series transgressed the norms of animation styles alongside other artists of the period who used web animation in an experimental way (among them, Homestar Runner by The Brothers Chaps, Neurotically Yours by Jonathan Ian Mathers, and the 2003 viral video The End of the World by Jason Windsor).
The "Pre" in "Pre-YouTube" is important. Remember things on the web that were popular at the exact moment the Web 2.0 wave crashed in and clawed everything into the sea. How about those things!