For as long as it’s been a place of news, commerce, and vital information, the internet has also been inundated with the strange, the surreal, and the darkly comedic. For many of us, early viral videos like “Salad Fingers” and “Let’s Get Some Shoes” were instrumental in both the development of our sense of humour and our understanding of what the internet is. These days, the latest YouTube sensation captivating millennials and younger generations alike is less overtly weird yet somehow more unsettling. Troom Troom, which boasts almost six million subscribers on YouTube and 1.4 million followers on Instagram, is hard to describe. Ostensibly, it’s a collective of young women who produce, in the words of their Instagram bio, “easy DIY video tutorials.” But the reality of Troom Troom is so much more.
What seems to have indeed begun as a fairly straightforward channel, touting step-by-step instructions for recipes and cutesy crafts, at some point morphed into one centred on pranks and bizarre “lifehacks” like the installation of a zipper into the middle of a lemon. The colours turned from pastel to bold and oversaturated, and the mysterious women in the videos, known only to fans by nicknames like “Curly Sue” and “The Blue-Eyed Girl,” became objects of fascination among viewers. Other examples of Troom Troom’s offbeat sense of humour include a step-by-step on how to prank your teacher by removing the middle from their sandwich and filling their hard-boiled egg with paint (?), a tutorial on how to make your lips look like the inside of an orange (??), and numerous guides on how to sneak food into school, including one that suggests bringing a sausage into class via a sandwich bag and a package of Wet Wipes (???).
“I’ve been watching them for several months now. I have no idea when their channel devolved from maybe-useful tips to the chaotic mix of fact and fiction it’s become now,” John Hallman, a Troom Troom superfan who has evangelised to friends about the channel, tells Refinery29 by email. “After I discovered them, I sought some kind of solidarity and sanity in knowing that these videos were equally as enjoyable and rage-inducing to other people. I needed to know that I wasn't missing a point and other people would be as perplexed and fascinated by this group of women building an empire out of hot glue."
This level of mystery seems to be something the people behind Troom Troom are intent in preserving. They failed to respond to numerous requests for comment on this story from Refinery29, and have seemingly taken the same stance with other curious outlets. Yet, as Hallman points out, they nevertheless assume heavily constructed personas that seem designed to pique interest. They also vacillate between seemingly sincere and parodic content, confusing and aggravating some viewers in the process. Basically, they’ve drawn significant attention to themselves, only to then subvert it.
“I have a half-baked theory that it’s actually run by a savvy millennial in San Francisco who contracts these Eastern European women to play out this perfect mix of DIY and insanity to get the peak number of views and followers,” Hallman says.
Jessica Rocha, who describes herself as “obsessed” with Troom Troom, also has some fan theories. “One is that someone has the Troom Troom girls trapped (either via contract or physically locked in a house) and is forcing them to mass produce these insane videos,” she tells Refinery29 via email. “If they don’t meet their view quota their food is taken away and replaced with fondant and unflavoured gelatin. Is someone making them do this?”
“But to answer your question, that’s definitely part of the appeal,” she continues.
In any case, Troom Troom’s elusive creators are doing the right thing by differentiating themselves from the competition, according to Evan Asano, CEO and Founder of MediaKix, a social media influencer marketing agency. “YouTube is unbelievably saturated in almost every category. Female-oriented channels like beauty, lifestyle and DIY are among the most saturated category,” he tells Refinery29. “There are hundreds of thousands of these channels and creators trying to stand out. From the start of YouTube, personality was one of the primary channel growth drivers.”
But for all the people amused and entertained by Troom Troom’s bizarre antics, there’s a growing contingency that is not. A quick search for Troom Troom on Facebook produces groups such as “Troom Troom is Doom Doom”, which boasts 766 members, and “Stop Troom Troom Now!!!”, with 129 members. Twitter is also filled with screeds — some clearly meant in jest, some not so much — against the collective. People have made YouTube videos just to rant about how dumb these other YouTube videos are.
Natalia, an administrator of the latter Facebook group, told Refinery29 via email: “As I continued to see more and more of their videos, it sort of dawned on me that I had an odd amalgam of hatred, horror, disgust, and an odd, banal enjoyment. We, as a tiny community, hate the double T for a range of reasons, most of those the odd blankness in the actress' eyes, the strange choices of DIYs and ‘hacks.’ It's like junk food for your attention span.”
While this is a pretty standard explanation for why anyone chooses to hate anything on the internet, other Troom Troom detractors are more sinister. For example, there’s been a lot of speculation in comment sections and on social media around the nationality of the women in the videos. Due to their looks and the fact that the videos occasionally feature, for example, a bag of Lay’s chips on which the label is written in a Cyrillic language, many speculate they could be Russian. In earlier episodes, some of the narrators’ accents sound distinctly Eastern European. Given the current political tension between U.S. and Russia, – much of it fuelled in the popular imagination by the fake news epidemic and cyber-warfare – this connection, however tenuous, seems to be a factor in some people’s dislike of the channel.
“As far as the ties to Russia... I am not entirely sure,” Natalia says. “[But] I know something is amiss with Troom Troom.”
Interestingly, while John and Jessica identify as a fans of Troom Troom and Natalia says she despises them, both expressed a similar sentiment of seeking out a community of fellow viewers with whom to discuss the videos. In John’s case, this means exposing his friends to them, often sitting around at gatherings and laughing over the videos. In Natalia’s, it means connecting with like-minded hate-viewers online.
But whether you love Troom Troom or hate Troom Troom, it seems no one can watch their videos without coming away from the experience with a slew of unanswered questions: Who’s responsible for these videos? Who are the women starring in them? Where are they from? Where are they being filmed? What’s the deal with these weird crafts? Is this supposed to be funny? Is it supposed to be instructional? And, most crucially, why? Why any of this?
“I think the biggest thing that bothers me about their videos is the quality,” Rocha says. “Someone obviously cares about it. The editing and camera work is pretty good and they clearly have a budget. There are at least 10 Troom Troom girls that I can count. Someone is seriously committed to this story line.”
Troom Troom videos on YouTube often have ads that run before them, meaning that the channel is “monetised.” Someone, somewhere is making money off of Troom Troom, which offers at least some explanation for why the mysterious people behind it have chosen to lean into its weirdness. Like so many things on the internet — from Laurel/Yanny to the Walmart Yodeling Kid — strange or seemingly random content often equals viral content. Especially in the oversaturated female-facing DIY market Asano identified.
For his part, Asano — who says he had never heard of Troom Troom before — says he doesn’t think the channel is all that bizarre to begin with. “No immediate reaction as I see hundreds of different channels of every different type so very little surprises me these days,” he says.
While YouTube content is generally considered among the more low-brow of our cultural output, “performance art” may actually be the most accurate way to understand what it is that Troom Troom does. Looked at one way, they’re spoofing a trope that, though only created over the past decade, is now pervasive across social media: the overly perky yet weirdly self-serious video tutorial hostess. Whether she’s teaching you how to contour your face, redecorate your bathroom, or make an elaborate dinner, she typically appears to have an almost startling lack of self-awareness. When viewed through another lens, they’re creating the kind of nonsensical, wholly unnecessary content that sometimes makes the internet feel like a wasteland of trolls and weirdos.
But it’s also worth noting that the idea of women playing pranks on their friends — however random — is also part of an answer to the undying stereotype that women aren’t funny. However amusing or annoying viewers find it, the Troom Troom girls filling an avocado hole with sprinkles and putting it back in the fridge for their friend to later discover, can be seen as a feminist statement of sorts. It shows that, yes, women like to laugh. And, yes, women can appreciate and take part in absurdist humour. And, yes, women can be as troll-y as men, whether or not that’s a positive thing. Whoever's behind the channel and whatever its purpose is, Troom Troom may be having the last laugh.