When the young lifeguards working at Southern California’s El Monte Aquatic Center decided to produce a parody video of the wildly popular Korean pop video Gangnam Style, they thought they were just having some fun during their down time. Instead, they were fired for the stunt — and now they’re fighting back.
The original “Gangnam Style” is a catchy dance single from the South Korean pop star Psy. The song’s video has become a huge hit — arguably the best meme of late summer 2012. Psy appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards earlier this month, and taught Britney Spears his moves on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” today.
Because it’s 2012, “Gangnam Style” has inspired its share of parodies and remakes. So “Lifeguard Style” features the El Monte guards imitating Psy’s catchy dance moves underwater, on diving boards, in hot tubs, and on water slides at the pool that until recently employed them. It’s silly, peppy, funny, and strictly PG (ok, mayyyybe PG-13). They posted it to YouTube on August 26, and it’s earned almost a million views.
The city of El Monte is not a fan, however. It views the the video as evidence of unauthorized use of a city facility. In a statement provided to a local news affiliate, the city said:
There was a clear unauthorized use of city resources and property, including the use of city issued uniforms during the making of this unauthorized video. The city maintains that it holds all employees to a higher standard.
Fourteen lifeguards were fired over the incident, including pool manager Gabriel Gonzalez, who doesn’t even appear in the video. The lifeguards say that all the footage was recorded off the clock, during breaks and other free time. Thirteen of the 14 are college students. “To be blunt, this was my only job and my only source of income in terms of paying for books and contributing to my schooling,” fired lifeguard Michael Roa told the station. “So as of right now I guess I’ll be back on the job hunt and I don’t even know if I’m going to get any good recommendations now with this going on.”
The lifeguards have set up a Facebook page called “Bring back the 14 El Monte Lifeguards” that already has an impressive 10,000 supporters. They also started a petition for their cause at Change.org. And in case petitions and “likes” can’t save the cheeky lifeguards’ jobs, they also plan on trying the old-fashioned way: They’re attending the El Monte City Council meeting next week.