In a remarkable story about three women who were rescued Monday after having been missing for about a decade, Charles Ramsey has emerged as a familiar if, exasperating, brand of Internet celebrity.
According to reports, Amanda Berry, one of the missing women, flagged down Ramsey, a neighbor, and begged him to help her escape.
In interviews with local news outlets, Ramsey recounted the rescue in colorful details, which have been widely shared on YouTube and social media networks, so much that “Charles Ramsey” has been trending on Twitter.
Ramsey’s interactions with the media have given way to various memes -- GIFs of Ramsey emblazoned with quotes, auto-tuned versions of interviews screen captures of Ramsey next to Sho Nuff from the 1985 cult film, “The Last Dragon”.
Ramsey’s exchanges with the media are blunt — uncensored, even — and funny. You could find yourself laughing and rolling your eyes at the same time.
For instance his interview with Cleveland’s ABC affiliate is about two and a half minutes of consecutive sound bites. Here’s a sampling:
“My neighbor, you got some big testicles to pull this off, bro. Because we see this dude everyday. I mean everyday.”
“I barbecue with this dude. We eat ribs and whatnot and listen to salsa music.”
And this just might be the crowd favorite:
”Bro, I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms. Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway. Dead giveaway.”
Ramsey has drawn comparisons to other Internet celebrities like Antoine Dodson, whose 2010 interview with an NBC affiliate led to the “Bed Intruder Song,” Dodson’s auto-tuned recount of how he fought off an intruder who attempted to rape his sister in their Huntsville, Ala. project. ”Hide yo kids. Hide yo wife,” he sang.
Dodson’s interview -- and his resulting fame -- was controversial. Post staff writer Philip Kennicott wrote that the song had “attracted considerable criticism for seeming to mock African American speech patterns and the poverty of ghetto life.” After watching the original interview, The Post’s Jonathan Capehart acknowledged “Dodson’s cringe-inducing performance,” but cautioned would-be critics to ”put aside our judgements and remember that we don’t know Dodson, his family or their story.”
Here’s what we know about Ramsey. He’s being hailed a hero for his role in the rescue. In addition to helping Berry slip through an obstructed front door, Ramsey placed a call to 911 that was as spirited as his interviews. Oh, and he likes McDonalds
Amy Davidson of The New Yorker argues that Ramsey’s efforts are particularly commendable since he told a reporter he initially thought he was dealing with a domestic violence dispute, which Davidson notes is often “offered as an excuse for walking away”
In a post for BlackBook, writer Miles Klee argues that people should focus on Ramsey’s heroism.
Perhaps it’s time for the world’s meme artists to stop assuming that any black dude getting interviewed on local news about a crime he helped to foil can be reduced to some catch phrase or in-joke. It’s just baffling that we’re trying to find a way to laugh about what is, in itself, a harrowing turn of events.
But perhaps it’s that harrowing turn of events — and his indisputable role in helping to save three women from years in apparent captivity— that will make us remember Ramsey as more than a meme.