Ur heinous habit

‘You are destroying urself by ur heinous habit.’

Perhaps you’ve heard of, or have even been briefly horrified by, the following phishing scam: an email message arrives, claiming your computer camera has been hacked, recording footage of you in a, shall we say, most personal moment, and that the resulting video will be emailed to your contacts if the monetary demands aren’t met. Ultimately, you breathe a sigh of relief when a quick web search reveals that there is no such video (of course) and that the widespread ploy is just an unkind way for scammers to try making a quick buck.

When such an unwelcome email landed in the US filmmaker Eugene Kolb’s inbox, it prompted him to reach out to friends to share their experiences with the sextortion scheme. In the resulting project, Ur Heinous Habit, a series of animated characters standing in for these anonymous interviewees discuss their experiences with the scam and, by extension, their perspectives on shame and masturbation. More than just revealing and quite funny, Kolb’s resulting short does something quite powerful by taking a cynical ploy designed to make people feel alone and vulnerable, and building something warm, sympathetic and undeniably human from the ordeal.

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