Winnebago Man revealed
by Sheena Manabat
Ben Steinbauer’s Winnebego Man follows the documentary filmmak- er’s search for Jack Rebney — real- life YouTube star of the viral video featuring the “Winnebego Man” — and his subsequent attempt to find out who the man behind the video really is.
The viral outtakes video from 1989 documents the hilarious and profane outbursts of Jack Rebney during an industrial vid- eo promoting Winnebago motor homes. Circulated through VHS for over a decade, the clips finally surfaced on YouTube in 2005. Online, they were viewed by millions who dubbed Rebney “the angriest man on earth.” Even Hollywood films referenced the video. Steinbauer, a fan of the clips, became intrigued with the idea of learning how the notoriety of the viral video had affected Rebney.
Having searched everywhere for Rebney with no leads, Steinbauer hires a private investigator to locate the elusive Winnebago Man. He eventually finds Rebney in a remote area of California living an ascetic life- style, unhappy about the clips. Who he finds is someone far more complex but just as angry and hysterical as the Winnebago Man of YouTube fame.
Steinbauer gives us a heartfelt and honest portrayal of an aging Jack Rebney and his relationship to the video and its audience. Rebney’s bitterness and anger throughout the film is not only hilarious, but endearing. The film will have you laughing out loud at Rebney’s profanity,wit, and sarcastic remarks and will make you feel frustrated at the obvious difficulty of filming such a stubborn subject.
More than just a depiction of the life of one man, the documentary explores the effects of viral videos on their subjects. Because they become notorious, the effect on their lives can be detrimental. Notably, the film names the viral video “The Star Wars Kid” who initially filmed himself swinging a golf ball retriever around as a weapon. The video circulated all over the web, with people adding special effects (i.e. light sabers) and it soon became an Internet phenomenon. As a result, the teen from the video sought psychiatric care and filed a lawsuit against the uploaders of the video because of the harassment he received from it. While viral videos may be a continual source of entertainment, the film begs the viewers of viral videos to be mindful that the subjects in the videos are real people with real feelings and lives that are not unlike our own.
Definitely a documentary worth seeing, Winnebago Man is a film that will not only reso- nate with those who are already acquainted with the Winnebago Man clips, but especially with those who possess a good sense of humor and a love for hilari- ous viral videos. Winnebago Man plays at the Uptown Stage & Screen.