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Talking and Not Talking in Front of Cameras: A Study

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            Moritz nudged open the door to his friend’s room. “Hey, so, I was wondering if-“

            “And besides, the real way to prevent people from abusing welfare is by raising minimum wage so fewer people have to be on- Hey! Moritz!”

            Melchior was filming. Of course Melchior was filming; Melchior was always filming, and now he would drag Moritz into his-

            Melchior walked over to Moritz, grabbed his arm, and pulled him in front of the camera. “Hey, guys, so Moritz just showed up.”

            Moritz awkwardly waved to the camera.

            “We were just talking about the complaints by some about the abuse of welfare and people buying products with food stamps that they don’t think should be bought with food stamps. What do you think?”

            Sometimes, Moritz really hated being in Melchior’s videos. Melchior’s viewers seemed to like him, but he wasn’t exactly the most outgoing person, and it was nerve-racking to be suddenly put on the spot in something that would be seen by millions of people. Melchior always edited out anything Moritz told him to, and he never brought Moritz into his videos if Moritz indicated that he didn’t want to be in them, but it was always difficult to come up with something interesting to say without any notice.

            “Um, I think it’s bad.” Moritz tried to look into the camera, because Melchior said that was what you did, but it was difficult, and Melchior was still holding onto his arm, and he ended up staring at a spot on the wall above it.

            “What’s bad?”

            Moritz forced himself to look at the camera. “People care more about a few people using welfare when they shouldn’t be than helping people not be poor so they don’t have to use welfare.”

            It must have been the right thing to say, because Melchior’s face lit up. “That’s exactly what I was saying! See-“

            Moritz had just come into the room to get a textbook. He resigned himself to having to sit through the entire video.

 

            Melchior’s fans seemed to think that he and Moritz should be together.

            They said this over and over in the comments of Melchior’s videos, they talked about it on Tumblr, they drew fanart of them, for Christ’s sake-

            Whenever he and Melchior talked about the channel, he pretended to be completely ignorant of this fact, as did Melchior. Neither of them had ever addressed it in any format. Moritz knew that Melchior knew- he had to, there was no way he didn’t know- but he had never acknowledged it.

            Moritz had mixed feelings about this- what did they call it- this ship. Did it make him feel good that millions of people wanted he and his crush to get together? Yes. Of course it did. But people shipped other youtubers, too. They shipped Dan and Phil and Tyler Oakley and Troye Sivan and Markiplier with someone, and none of them had ever gotten together, or given any indicator that it would. Maybe the ship thing was a bad thing, dooming Moritz to a life of thinking that maybe it could someday happen and continually being disappointed.

            Moritz’s dad had no idea that people wanted Melchior Gabor, youtuber, to get together with his son. Moritz really wanted to keep it that way.

 

            Moritz preferred this kind of involvement in Melchior’s videos. Filming meant that he got to see what was happening, and be a part of it, but there was no pressure to be witty in front of the screen.

            Melchior was at an anti-marriage equality rally. For once, he wasn’t there to troll all of the participants. His plan, as he had told Moritz, was to go around talking to people carrying the signs in an attempt to show the ridiculousness of these people’s standpoints. It was nothing that hadn’t been done before.

            There were a lot of people at the rally. A lot. It was discouraging. Seeing them all there, with their signs and their shouting and their adamancy, made Moritz want to shrink into a little ball and roll away. He felt like an imposter, a spy in an enemy camp. Logically, there was no way any of them could know Moritz was anything but a perfectly straight Christian boy, but… He was tempted to pick up one of the “Marriage= one man and one woman” stickers they were handing out to blend in, but he knew Melchior would get mad if he did, and the idea of wearing one of those things repulsed him enough to put the thought out of his mind entirely.

            Melchior was wearing a sticker. It was a little flag with the pansexual colors that he had ordered online.

            Melchior was scanning the crowd now, looking for his first victim. Not victim. Melchior was just talking to them, this time. He headed over to a woman with a “A child needs a mother and a father” sign.

            “Good morning, ma’am,” he said. She turned around. Upon seeing the camera, she looked wary.

            “Good morning,” she said slowly.

            Melchior flashed her a charming smile. Moritz felt a twinge of resentment. This woman didn’t deserve to be smiled at by Melchior.

            “My name is Melchior,” he said. “I make videos on youtube, and I’m making one covering this rally. Do you mind if I ask you a couple questions?”

            The plan was to ask them about the beliefs behind their signs, and respond with questions digging at the roots of those beliefs but not being directly aggressive. The point was to point out the holes in the thinking of these people, and maybe even get them to question their beliefs, but not to be mean about it. It was the most mature video Melchior had ever made about homophobic people in a long time.

            She was clearly wary, but she nodded. “Sure.”

            “So your sign says, ‘A child needs a mother and a father.’” Moritz dutifully zoomed in on the sign.

            “Yes,” the woman said.

            “So, can you explain that to the audience?”

            She furrowed her eyebrows. “Explain it how?”

            “What exactly does that mean. What prompted you to make the sign.”

            She straightened up a bit. “Well,” she said. “Children need mothers and fathers. They need both male and female role models. Women have a role in raising children, and men have a role in raising children, and you need both of those for the child to have a happy and complete childrood.”

            “May I ask you what exactly the roles of men and women are?”

            She looked very sure of herself. “Men have to be role models for the boys, and the women are role models for the girls. The men protect, and the women nurture.”

            Moritz would facepalm if he weren’t holding a camera.

            “And that’s why a child can’t have two mothers or two fathers, or have one of their parents be of a different gender altogether.”

            The woman blinked. “A different gender altogether?”

            “Well, looks like it’s about time to wrap things up here! This has been talking to homophobic people with Melchior Gabor!” Melchior made the cheesy finger guns motion at the camera, and Moritz’s heart fluttered a little.

            He headed over to Moritz. “Alright, who’s next?” He was rubbing his hands together.

            This was going to end badly, Moritz knew. Melchior had controlled himself on the first round, but that couldn’t last.

            The next person Melchior picked out was carrying a “God hates F##s” sign, and Moritz felt a deep sense of impending dread.

            “Hi, my name is Melchior, and I’m talking to some people here for a segment on my youtube channel. Care to answer a few questions?”

            The guy he was talking to was beefy, and he looked like he was ready to fight anyone who even slightly questioned him or his ideals. “Go ahead.”

            “Judging from your poster, I’m guessing you’re a Christian.”

            “Yes,” said the man. “I am a proud Christian.”

            “And you think that God hates gay people.”

            “I know God hates them,” the man announced. “Says it right in the Bible.”

            “Okay,” said Melchior. “Does it actually say that, though?”

            “Yes.” The man was glaring at Melchior, and Moritz was wondering if he could convince Melchior to get out of this conversation.

            “From what I’ve heard,” said Melchior, and it sounded like he was trying very hard to sound professional but on the verge of losing it, “it just says that a man shouldn’t sleep with another man.”

            “And if you break that rule, you’re breaking the rule of God. And God hates anyone who breaks his rules.”

            “But the Bible says that God loves everyone,” said Melchior. His face was still straight. “Many times, actually.”

            The man remained impassive. “God made men and women for each other. Gays are unnatural. He hates them.”

            Melchior tilted his head, and Moritz knew bad things were about to happen. “Do you eat shrimp?”

            “What?”

            “Do you eat shrimp, sir?”

            “No,” said the man. “What do I look like, a girl?”

            “Alright,” said Melchior. Moritz would have laughed at that comment, but he was too busy being worried that the man was about to break Melchior’s face.

            “Your vest is made of different materials, though.” Melchior reached out to poke the vest, then thought better of it and retracted his hand.

            The man glanced down at his vest. “So?”

            “Now,” said Melchior. “I’m no expert on types of fabric, but it appears that the torso part of your vest is made of leather, or some kind of imitation leather. The sleeves are flannel, so that’s…cotton. I believe. I could be wrong, but it’s not leather.”

            “What’s your point?”

            A tiny smirk was starting to emerge on Melchior’s face. Moritz wondered if faking a seizure would distract him enough to get him away from this whole thing. “Leviticus, where the rule that two men can’t sleep together is, also says that you can’t wear clothing of mixed fabrics. By your logic, you yourself are going to hell.”

            At first, the man looked like he couldn’t believe what Melchior had just dared to say. Then, rage started to build up slowly on his face. “You’re saying that I’m going to go to hell?”

            Melchior stared down the man for a few seconds. While he was staring, he slowly took one, then two steps towards the camera. Moritz thought he might have finally gained some sense and decided to get out of the situation.

            Melchior grabbed the arm that wasn’t holding the camera, drew Moritz towards him, and covered Moritz’s mouth with his.

            Moritz let out a strangled sound and dropped the camera. Melchior caught it, smoothly, then turned back to face the man. He looked like he was going to murder Melchior.

            Melchior was still holding on to Moritz’s arm. “Should we walk away?” he asked.

            Moritz somehow regained the capacity to speak. “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, we should.”

            They didn’t run. Running would mean that they were scared of the man. But they certainly walked faster than normal.

 

            Reactions to the video were insane. Moritz thought it must have gotten more views than Melchior’s past three videos put together.

            Logically, Moritz knew that he himself hadn’t given the video most of its views, but it seemed like he had. He watched it over and over again, trying to recall the feeling of that one fleeting moment.

            A lot of people had commented on the noise Moritz had made when Melchior kissed him. Moritz wished they wouldn’t.

            The general consensus in the comments seemed to be that Melchior and Moritz were not together; Melchior had just kissed Moritz to prove a point, but that everyone wished they were together. Moritz had to say he agreed with them.

 

            Melchior was filming a reaction video, and he had asked Moritz to be in it. Moritz had said yes. He didn’t mind reaction videos. You didn’t have to talk to the cameras; you just had to say everything you were thinking about whatever you were watching or doing. Moritz could do that. A lot of the time, he got too into the whole “say whatever comes into your head” thing, and his comments ended up being pretty weird, but the viewers seemed to like that, so that was alright.

            Melchior was playing a popular horror video game. He had asked if Moritz wanted to play a couple rounds. Moritz didn’t; he was fine with just sitting on the couch next to Melchior while he played.

            “I know very little about this game,” said Melchior. “Almost nothing, in fact.” He sounded very proud of himself.

            Moritz had to sit pressed against Melchior for both of them to see the laptop screen and be seen by its camera. Which may or may not have been part of the reason he agreed to be part of this video.

            Moritz looked up at Melchior. “Why is that so good?”

            “Well,” said Melchior, who was buying the game and installing it on Steam, “it’s incredibly popular. Possibly the most popular horror game in existence. There are multiple Youtube communities based around this one game. It’s hard to not know a lot about it if you’re on certain types of social media.”

            “Ah,” said Moritz. They sat in silence for a moment. Melchior was fiddling with the camera. “So, what is it?”

            Melchior furrowed his eyebrows. “Oh, did I never tell you that? It’s called Five Nights at Freddy’s. It’s a survival horror game, and I’m pretty sure the antagonists are some kind of weird animals. Beyond that, I don’t really know anything.”

            Moritz nodded.

            Melchior reached forward and turned on the camera. “Hey guys, I’m Melchior, and today I’m doing something you guys have been asking me to do for a long time. He glanced at Moritz and reddened. “I mean, I’m playing Five Nights at Freddy’s.”

            Moritz stared at Melchior, incredulous, and he continued.

            “I don’t actually know anything about this game, which I’m pretty proud of, because it’s so popular here on youtube.” He pointed to Moritz. “Moritz is here.” Moritz waved. “He said he didn’t want to play, but he’ll be watching and reacting along with me. So let’s get started.”

            He opened the game, then slightly winced. “That’s a giant teddy bear. A little creepy. Okay.”

            Moritz couldn’t see the screen well from his angle. “Wait, I can’t see it.”

            “Hold up, everyone,” said Melchior absentmindedly. “Moritz can’t see it.” Melchior positioned himself and the computer at a better angle, which meant that he was sitting even closer to Moritz than he had been before. “That better?”

            Moritz was sure he was blushing. He knew he was blushing. The viewers would point out that he was blushing and then put the gifs of him blushing in gifsets with romantic quotes superimposed over them. “Yeah.”

            “Great,” said Melchior. He clicked New Game, and a little newspaper article saying that Freddy Fazbear’s Pizzeria was looking for  employees, with a creepy looking picture of one of those singing animals like at Chuckee Cheese’s next to it.

            “Oh, we’re working the night shift. In a place that apparently has things like that. This is smart. We’re smart.”

            “I had a teddy bear that looked like that when I was little.”

            Melchior stared at Moritz for a second. “Did your dad give it to you?”

            “No, some creepy aunt.”

            “Surprised,” said Melchior as he refocused the attention on the screen. “I wouldn’t put it past him to give a child a possessed toy.” Melchior hated Moritz’s father. The feeling was pretty much mutual.

            “Starts at midnight,” said Melchior as the game started up, and a scene of a small, crowded office appeared. “Classic.”

            “I kind of want to take some of this stuff off the walls. If this is our office now, can we take some stuff off the walls?”

            “I can’t believe you would want to remove drawings, made by young children-“ The phone rang. “How do I pick this thing up?” asked Melchior. He moused over it. “Yes, I’m trying to answer you, but-“ The phone answered itself on its own. “Ohhh.”

            “Hello! Hello, Hello!”

            Moritz sympathized with the guy on the phone. He, too was prone to repeating himself and being awkward while greeting people.

            Melchior used the arrow keys. “What, so I can’t move? How do I play, then?” He moved his mouse to the bottom of the screen, and a video feed popped up. Both he and Moritz jumped a little. “Oh, okay.” He made a face at the robot animals the feed was displaying. “Those are creepy. I’m guessing this is important. Are we supposed to be watching those robot things? What-what do you call them?”

            “Don’t remember,” said Moritz, who was transfixed by the little map. “Shh, this guy’s gonna tell us how to play the game.”

            “Right,” said Melchior. “There’s no tutorial, so this is it.” He scrolled away from the map.

            “…I’m actually finishing up my last week now, as a matter of fact.”

            “See,” said Melchior. “Clearly, you know what you’re doing. I feel like you could have stayed, and not left us to the mercy of these robot animals.”

            “I don’t blame him,” said Moritz. “I wouldn’t want to work here either.”

            Melchior snapped his fingers at Moritz. “True.”

            “…there’s nothing to worry about.”

            “Of course there’s nothing to worry about, phone guy! That’s why we’re playing the game, right?” Melchior started flipping through the map again.

            “Fazbear Entertainment is not responsible for damage to property or person…”

            “That’s great,” said Melchior. “That’s what you want to hear, at a new job.”

            “On discovering that damage or death has occurred…”

            Melchior and Moritz both made a horrified face, and then another at “the carpets will be cleaned and bleached.”

            “Ugh,” said Moritz.

            “Remind me why we’re working here again?”

            “Now, that might sound bad, I know…”

            “It does!” said Moritz. He was getting into this. “It sounds pretty bad!”

            “The animatronic characters here do get a bit quirky at night…”

            “Animatronics,” said Melchior. “That’s what they’re called.”

            “’Quirky,’” said Moritz.

            “Do I blame them? No.”

            “I do.” Moritz shifted a bit closer to the computer and to Melchior. “I blame them.”

            “The characters do tend to…wander, a bit.”

            Melchior raised his eyebrows.

            “…it’s amazing that the human body can live without the frontal lobe.”

            Melchior’s looked horrified. “It cannot! The human body cannot live without the frontal lobe! I know this for a fact! I don’t want to work here anymore!”

            “…they’ll probably try to forcefully stuff you into a Freddy Fazbear suit.”

            Moritz grimaced.

            “But hey, first day should be a breeze!”

            Melchior and Moritz exchanged looks.

            “…have to save power.”

            “Oh,” said Melchior. “That’s what that thing is for. I can’t have the doors closed the whole time, because then I would run out of power.” He furrowed his eyebrows. “I feel like we could turn off that fan there. I feel like, if power conservation is so important, we don’t need that fan.”

            “Maybe it’s hot.”

            Melchior turned out to be pretty good at the game, for playing it for the first time. He quickly established a system, and the room was filled with the repetitive sound of mouse clicks, along with Melchior’s comments. Moritz stopped making all but the most infrequent remarks, and instead leaned his head on Melchior’s shoulder and watched the game unravel. Normally, he wouldn’t do something so blatantly un-platonic, but he had been sitting pretty close to Melchior anyway, and he always had the excuse of it helping him see better.

            “I haven’t seen the bear in a while,” said Moritz.

            “He doesn’t appear to be as active as the other two,” said Melchior. His concentration was completely focused at that point. “I think I’ve got it now. We have enough power to last the rest of the night, I think. There are only two hours left. Besides, love-“

            Melchior immediately recoiled, jolted out of his intensive trance. Clearly, he had not meant to say that.

            Moritz knew he should say something to reduce the tension of the situation, but Melchior was staring at him with more terror than he had ever seen Melchior express before, and he had never been particularly good with words.

            Some inhuman shriek sounded from the computer screen, and Melchior and Moritz both jumped. They slowly turned back to the video game.

            “I guess I’m dead.” Melchior laughed nervously. “That’s what happens when you don’t pay attention. So-“ He paused for a moment, then regained his composure. “So, should we do another round?”

            “Yeah,” said Moritz. “Yeah, let’s try again.”

 

            Moritz avoided the comments section for that video entirely.

 

            Moritz walked into Melchior’s living room. He had come to ask about one of the Latin Assignments, but Melchior was sitting on a couch and talking into a camera, and Moritz turned around to leave.

            “Hey, Moritz.” Moritz turned back, and Melchior was smiling at him. He gave a hesitant smile back.

            “Do you want to help me with this Q & A video?”

            He could say no. He was busy. He should say no. But Moritz found himself walking over to the camera and sitting down next to Melchior on the couch. Melchior smiled at him again.

            There was catalyst in the air. Moritz could feel it, and he knew Melchior could, too. The tension in their relationship that had been slowly building up had reached a tipping point. It could not be ignored. Moritz had known it ever since Melchior had called him “love.” He didn’t know how Melchior felt about him. He still didn’t know. But the canoe could balance at the waterfall’s precipice no longer. It would either be rowed back in, slowly and carefully, towards the river, or they could stop desperately paddling and let themselves be consumed by the rapids.

            “So,” said Melchior. He was no longer looking at the camera; he was watching Moritz. Both of them were analyzing the other’s every move.

            “This one question is from youtuber user hercthetailor76. They want to know if-“

            It wasn’t a rational decision, or a particularly good one, but Moritz didn’t let Melchior finish his sentence before he pressed his lips against his.

            Moritz could physically feel Melchior’s shock, and it took him a moment to respond. Moritz was about to pull away and try to salvage the fractured pieces of their friendship , but Melchior was grabbing his shoulders and pulling him back in and-

            Somehow, Moritz had ended up lying flat on the couch, Melchior on top of him. He wasn’t really sure how. Kissing Melchior had been overwhelming enough to hit the power button in his brain.

            They stayed like that for a couple of minutes, frozen, staring at each other.

            “I guess you shouldn’t upload that video,” said Moritz.

            Melchior laughed, and it was enough to break the film and return the world to its normal state. “Yeah, I guess I shouldn’t.” He got up off the couch and walked over to his camera, where he was presumably deleting the files.

            When he was done, Moritz caught his eye. “We’re okay, right?”

            Melchior walked over to him and kissed him again, soft and quick this time. “Yeah. We’re okay.”

 

            Having to refilm a video was always kind of a pain, but Moritz didn’t mind it that much this time. Finding the words to answer the questions somehow was a lot easier than usual, and Melchior’s hand didn’t leave his for the entire video.