From friends to lovers, from bait to canon
Read to the end for some cool plant jams
Here we go, everybody! Here’s the first mini-column from the new Garbage Day resident, Allegra Rosenberg. Go tell her on Twitter how great it is.
Happy Destiel Is Canon Day
Where were you on this night last year? How long did it take you to tune in to the fact that something absolutely insane was going down? No, I’m not talking about Georgia flipping blue. I am talking about #DESTIELGATE.
If you have no idea what I’m referring to, A) I am so happy for you and B) I will explain. On the third-to-last episode of the CW’s long-running drama Supernatural, airing November 5th, 2020, fan-favorite character Castiel confessed his love to protagonist Dean. (Their ship name is “Destiel” and they have been the most popular ship on AO3 for years). Immediately after that, he died a dramatic onscreen death.
It’s difficult to fully describe the evolutions in fan culture that have taken place in the intervening years between Castiel’s introduction in 2008 and his last appearance in 2020. It’s a whole new world out here. Livejournal fell; Tumblr rose, and then that also fell. The Archive Of Our Own came into prominence as an essential fanfic platform for ship-centric media fandoms; the MCU and Star Wars brought “geek culture” (sigh) into the mainstream once and for all. And, perhaps most crucially, LGBTQ characters became a common sight on other CW network shows like Riverdale and Legends of Tomorrow.
Yet Supernatural, the home of Destiel a.k.a. [Taylor Swift voice] “the last great American queerbait,” remained more or less as staunchly bro-y as it had been at its launch, in the antediluvian aeon of 2005. It was believed by many diehards that Destiel, despite various textual nods over the fourth wall at the shippers, would remain “bait” forever.
But THEN—Castiel straight-up said “I love you, Dean,” on TV. No takesy-backsies. The alchemical combination of this unbelievable event, plus the election news, on top of the continuing stress of the pandemic, proved irresistible. Thousands of long-dormant former teen Superwholockers with degrees and jobs were activated like Manchurian candidates at the news that “DESTIEL IS CANON NOW” and logged into their creaky, abandoned Tumblr accounts for the first time in years. The entire site screeched back to life and went collectively insane. As a demonstration of the affective power of a perfectly-timed blast of pop-cultural nostalgia, it was a stunning display, and a night we will never forget.
Just A Real Nice Internet Thing
Yesterday’s Extra Garbage Day was a truly lovely chat with All My Friends Are Dead. author Avery Monsen and we didn’t mention the metaverse once! Instead, Monsen told me a delightful story about his formerly Tumblr-famous book going viral with a new generation of internet users — K-Pop fans.
Monsen caught the attention of fans of the South Korean girl group BLACKPINK after one of its members, Roseanne Park, or as she’s known, Rosé, posted an Instagram photo posing with All My Friends Are Dead. The ensuing viral storm that Monsen has found himself in is one of those quintessential nice internet stories. A moment of weird spontaneous synchronicity that feels like you’ve just landed on an alien planet. Or in Monsen’s case, have that planet land on you.
I asked him if he thought his experience said anything about the current state of the internet. Sure, it was a fun weird thing that happened, but is there a big takeaway for him in all of this? Here’s what he said:
I feel a little unqualified to answer that. But if I'm thinking back: I think I had just joined Twitter when the book came out in 2010. If I remember correctly, Lady Gaga was one of the most popular accounts with around 5 million followers. The difference between then and now is night and day.
A few days ago, a K-Pop star took a blurry photo with a copy of my book and I received literally thousands of friendly messages from all over the world. It's nothing world-changing, but with so many weird, bad stories coming out about social media, I'm happy to be involved in one that's weird and good.
Click the green button below to subscribe and then click here to read the whole interview. Today is the last day for the Allegra week coupon!
Hobby Drama On TikTok
The other day my friend Jenn tipped me off to a bunch of drama that’s currently happening in the origami TikTok community. It all seems very serious and also wildly impenetrable, but you can watch the video here. I’m sure for this network of users and their followers this is a very big deal, but from the outside, it just seems like a lot of infighting.
The same day my friend Jenn was giving me the dish on the origami drama, my friend Nick DM’d me about how nasty things were getting on, as he put it, “spackle TikTok”. Nick is very into home improvement TikTok, in general, and apparently spacklers are wicked petty. He says plumber TikTok is pretty chill though.
I’ve been stumbling across more and more instances of this type of content since the bee lady drama kicked off in June. I have a video about it, if you want to look at my stupid face talk through all of this.
I have a theory about TikTok that I’m becoming more and more convinced is true. TikTok’s main function is trending challenges. In fact, Ole Olbermann, the app’s global head of music, said as much during a talk at the Web Summit this week. While being interviewed by the BBC’s Mark Savage, he said TikTok’s DNA was created by Musically, the dancing and lip-syncing app for anime teenagers, bored soldiers, and super Christian influencers from California. Olbermann was saying this in relation to the app’s global dominance on the music industry right now, but I suspect it’s true for all content on the app.
Whereas Facebook, Spotify, or YouTube’s algorithms are focused on recommendations — an endless feed of more and more until the robot runs out of ideas — TikTok seems far more interested in organizing content and then presenting users with those content silos. Videos are linked together by their audios, their hashtags, their filters, and every other widget available on the platform. It seems to sort your video into a bucket with other similar content, and then shotgun blast that bucket of content at users who open their For You Pages.
To bring this back to the origami drama, the gossipy spacklers, or the bee ladies, is that, by doing that, TikTok essentially puts users in a virtual prison with other people who have the same hobby as them. Don’t you get it? I’m not doing retro recipe cooking videos in in here with you, you’re doing retro recipe cooking videos in here with me, etc.
While TikTok seems to be the biggest vector for this stuff, it’s definitely spilling over to other parts of the internet. In fact, when I interviewed Amanda Brennan, meme librarian and trend expert for XX Artists, back in April, she was, at the time, totally wrapped up in drama happening in the witch-themed soap fandom. And the Washington Post has a great story right now about similarly exasperating internet drama on skincare YouTube not really going anywhere. Also, at the end of today’s newsletter I have a wildly NSFW recent example of this from Reddit’s pimple popping subreddit.
I don’t think we’re close to peak of this stuff either. It feels like as apps race to replace Facebook’s friends and family networking, they’re using fandoms or hobbies as a replacement. And as that spreads across the industry, I suspect we’ll be seeing more and more extremely niche but incredibly intense and, for the most part, completely pointless internet drama spread across the internet.
The YouTuber Squid Games Is Coming
I wrote about this briefly last month and, shockingly, it is still on track to happen. I really don’t know how to feel about it. But at the same time, you know, if a YouTube millionaire offered to pay off my debt if I won his viral death game, I’m not totally clear I’d immediately say no?
In case you’re confused, this awful Squid Game thing is different from the massive Squid Game pump-and-dump crypto scam from earlier this week.
An Extremely Good TikTok
Click through for a great thread on all the outfits in the video!
If NFTs Are Real Assets Why Do You Have To Wear Clothes With Pictures Of Them On Them?
So I’m being snarky in the headline above, but this is an interesting tend. I saw photos of people wearing Bored Ape Yacht Club sweatshirts at NFT.NYC this week, as well. So people who are buying digital flare to show off their status are basically trying to figure out how to show off that same flare in real life. But, obviously, an NFT isn’t real. It doesn’t exist physically, so people are resorting to screen-printing the NFT design on clothes. But an NFT isn’t actually the image. In fact, when I minted NFTs over the summer, the website I used briefly glitched and one of my NFTs was minted blank. The team behind the site I used to mint the NFTs was nice enough to slap my GIF back on through their CMS. The non-fungible token that NFT refers to is a string of characters on the internet. A domain name, essentially, for where your stoned monkey JPG can be stored with a record of when the stoned monkey JPG was uploaded.
What I’m curious about with all of this is how this will evolve. Will the NFT fad die out before some kind of wearable product catches up? I think every high school in the mid-00s had the one kid who got in trouble putting swear words into the LED belt buckle he bought at Spencer’s Gifts. Is that where NFT fashion is headed? Or do NFTs just become what they already are — expensive receipts for Discord community/fashion brand hybrids. Though, if you sell the NFT that corresponds to your shirt or shoes, do you still wear the clothes?
TikTok Continues To Speedrun Through All Of Human Development
They just discovered spiritual manifestation like 6 months ago. By this time next year, TikTokers will have invented mercantilism.
Another Good TikTok
Smash Mouth, Welcome To The Resistance
Rep. Lauren Boebart posted a new ad in which she awkwardly struts around to Smash Mouth’s “All Star”. Obviously, Smash Mouth, as a band, has been having a tough time lately — not all that glitters, after all, is gold — but it was nice to see them quickly put out a statement on Boebart’s use of their song.
It’s All Kicking Off On Reddit r/Popping
Look, so here’s the deal. I have found myself in the situation that all internet culture publications eventually find themselves in. This newsletter, which literally had a picture of Sonic the Hedgehog licking someone’s foot in its first issue, is a little bigger these days and my audience is a little more broad. Which puts me in a tough spot. Do I alienate my new readers with stuff about furries and hentai or do I pivot to high-minded platform policy and influencer economy reporting? Well, I refuse to make a decision about that right now. What I will do is include this link to this Reddit post.
There is, as far as I can tell, a major scandal brewing in the pimple popping subreddit, r/Popping, over whether or not a medical-themed S&M fetishist was impersonating an actual medical professional in cyst draining videos they were sharing to the site.
This was brought to my attention this week by Garbage Day reader kestrel and it’s very awful! Though, as I said above, it’s interesting that the internet drama spread is even affecting the pimple popping community. Anyways, if you’re the kind of sicko who you wants the heavy stuff, well, this one’s for you.
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s some cool plant jams.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***