Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 17, 2010; 12:00 PM
In evaluating the year's best memes and viral videos, it's tempting to look to the slick and big-budget -- the flash mob "Hallelujah" Chorus, for example -- the things that make you go slack-jawed and wonder howdidthey...
But this year the memes that stuck with me were the ones that captured unplanned human emotion and unexpected joy.
Antoine Dodson's local television interview was prompted by tragedy, inspired by poetry and lifted to absurdity when Auto-Tune the News made a digitally remixed song out of Dodson's warning, "Hide your wife; hide your husbands ... They're raping everybody out here."
Critics debated whether Dodson was being exploited or exulted ("Bed Intruder" resulted in a wave of merchandise that ultimately allowed the family to move out of the projects), but everyone was mesmerized by the intersection of spontaneous live footage, polished production and fabulous hair. See also: The Rent Is Too Damn High!.
BP Public Relations
Environmentalists seeking updates about BP's oil spill in May were flummoxed by the company's apparently tone-deaf Twitter account: One tweet read:
In truth, BPGlobalPR was an anonymously created satirical account that doled out piercing criticism 140 characters at a time, and ultimately raised thousands for clean-up efforts. Culture jamming at its best.
Listening to a grown man dissolve into hysterical sobs over the beauty of a rainbow forced us to examine our own discomfort with hysterically sobbing men and public displays of emotion. Also: Nature is gorgeous. Thanks for reminding us, Rainbow Man.
After photographs surfaced in June of Keanu Reeves glumly munching a sandwich, the Internet leapt to cheer him up. A Photoshopped Sad Keanu suddenly began confabbing with Queen Elizabeth, storming the beaches of Normandy, picnicking with a bear. Conceptually, it was no more than a digital "Where's Waldo?," but it was "Where's Waldo?" with creativity and surprising heart. Whoa. See Also: Cigar Guy,Prancing Michael Cera.
General Larry Platt opted to audition for "American Idol" using a self-penned rant against low-slung trousers. It was funny, but became funnier when other artists used it as a launching point for their own performances. I especially appreciated Jimmy Fallon doing Neil Young doing Larry Platt.
You provide the dialogue, sites like Xtra Normal or Voki provide animation and disembodied voices, together you create a strange little movie.
Text-to-animation services arrived in 2009, but this year users discovered the software's best use: creating deadpan vignettes about the small soul-sucks of everyday life. See: "So you Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities." In October Xtra Normal went mainstream when Geico nicked it for car insurance commercials.
The man your man could smell like became a successful pioneer in TV/Internet crossovers when he started responding to user tweets with more videos. His virtual love affair with Alyssa Milano is especially sumptuous.
Rick K. and the Allnighters is a gig band specializing in synthesized covers and gold lame jackets. But their drummer, Steve Moore, is a magnificent rock god waiting to be freed from his Kool and the Gang handcuffs. Watching Moore thrash and headbang his way through cheesy cover songs is a testament to the ways we all rage against our cubicled lives.
The Internet truly has something for everyone, but we appreciate having it all neatly organized.
And the worst...
Memes are a way we make sense of and comment on the world around us, but they feel slimy when it's unclear whether the subjects are in on the joke. For the worst memes of 2010, I put forth Tennessee gubernatorial candidate Basil Marceaux and Epic Beard Man, whose wig-out on a city bus was presented without the context of his possible mental illness.