Boston's Viral Internet Celebrities of 2012
These are our favorites among the bizarre Boston-area people who gained web fame in the past year.
The internet is a bizarre world, one often removed from reality. “Internet famous” doesn’t always coincide with “actually famous.” And yet, some of the stories we’ve loved best here this past year have involved the bizarre stuff that went viral —the kinds of things that turned an ordinary person into a presence on social media posts, blogs, email inboxes, or just a conversation point for a day. To reflect on the passing of 2012, this here is our tribute to the locals who achieved that weird, ephemeral fame unique to the viral internet celebrity. You’ve made us laugh, cringe, think, and share your odd story with each other. But we probably forgot you existed less than a week later. So here’s a reminder, in no particular order:
1. Aly Raisman’s parents:
U.S. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman of Needham, Mass., became an all-out celebrity this past year with her gold medal performance at the London Games. (She was named one of the Boston Globe’s Bostonians of the Year this week.) Her parents, though … well, they became the stuff of internet legend when NBC aired footage of them very energetically observe their daughter’s bar routine. The clip pretty instantly bounced from broadcast TV to blogs like Gawker, which called it, “the best video you will see from an entire weekend of Olympic sports.” Highlights: both of them contorting their body in an apparent sudden loss of motor skills, and Mrs. Raisman screaming “STICK IT” over and over in words that shall echo through the ages …
2. The Red Line Escalator Woman
We still don’t have a lot of answers about why a woman in a motorized wheelchair thought she could take the escalator at Broadway Station. Needless to say, she could not, and her attempt resulted in a passerby trying in vain to help her out while an MBTA employee rushed to press the emergency stop button. She sustained only minor injuries, but she tumbled her way into the web’s heart, earning herself a somewhat dishonorable place on the Buzzfeed list of 43 People You Won’t Believe Actually Exist.
3. Elizabeth Warren
Okay, so her celebrity isn’t confined to the internet, but the internet certainly helped get her to where she is today. The repercussions of her September 2011 viral video telling business owners that the government provided the roads and schools they used to make their money reverberated all the way into 2012 when she unseated Scott Brown. (It also inspired a far less well-phrased rewrite of the same sentiment from President Obama.) She’s continued to win the notice of the web with little things like an Easter egg appearance in a popular xkcd comic this fall.
4. Menacing Josh Romney
A screenshot of Mitt Romney’s son Josh staring blankly into the camera during the second presidential debate caught someone’s eye, who turned it into this delightful/horrifying sequence of photos otherwise known as “Menacing Josh Romney.” We’ll give you the Readers Digest version here:
Poor Josh Romney. Can’t even sit in the audience and make a terrifying face in peace. Well, now that his father isn’t running for president, we suppose he can do what he wants. Still, we’ll always remember the day when the internet could take an innocuous photo of a Romney kid and turn it into something that haunts Democrats’ nightmares.
5. Brandon Lloyd’s pearly whites
When photographer Keith Nordstrom stationed himself near the endzone, he was in position to catch one of the funnier sports photos to come out of this year’s season: Brandon Lloyd suspended in midair, catching a touchdown pass, and … grinning. The photo quickly became meme fodder (okay, so we fueled some of that ourselves.) Nordstrom told us that the photo almost didn’t happen because he was considering leaving the game, but we’re so glad it did:
6. David McCullough Jr.
Video of English teacher David McCullough Jr. telling Wellesley High’s graduating class that “you are not special,” struck some kind of chord with America, because at this point, it’s got 1.8 million views on YouTube. Not bad for a public high school commencement speech. Of course, McCullough had more to say than just chastising his former students. And he’ll have ample space to do it in the book deal he managed to get out of the whole thing.
7. Mr. Fall
Sometimes The Onion’s whole “write a news story about a totally unnotable event” schtick gets a little tired, but other times, it gets something so right. Maybe the knee-slapping was a little louder in Boston when they ran their article “Mr. Autumn Man Walking Down Street With Cup of Coffee, Wearing Sweater Over Plaid Collared Shirt,” which had a “Boston” dateline, because it rang so true here. It began:
BOSTON—The twigs and acorns crunching pleasurably beneath his boots, Mr. Autumn Man Dennis Clemons, 32, reportedly strolled down Massachusetts Avenue on Wednesday wearing a gray sweater over a plaid collared shirt as he cradled a cup of pumpkin-spiced coffee and relished the crisp October morning.
Something tells us Mr. Autumn Man would get along well with Your L.L. Bean Boyfriend.
8. Stroller Cat
A personal favorite for this writer, Stroller Cat is probably the most unlikely of the many unlikely candidates on this list for internet fame. But when a disagreement broke out between a woman who regularly transports her cat in a baby stroller on the T and a few riders, the snippy tweets that ensued caught the eye of the Boston blogosphere, and Stroller Cat was born (with a parody Twitter account to seal the deal. If that’s not fame, we don’t know what is.) Here’s the owner’s original tweet that brought the cat into all of our lives:
— Aby-a-Day (@abyaday) October 30, 2012
Stroller Cat’s celebrity was probably boosted by the fact that the fight came on an otherwise slow news day, because he made the cover of the next morning’s Boston Herald. This is a weird, weird city we all live in.
So there they are: the viral Boston celebrities we’ve loved. Most people on this list didn’t exactly seek out their fame, but we’ve got to thank them for making 2012 a bit more entertaining. Here’s to the new year of bizarre viral celebrities we have ahead of us.