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Viral Fame In Guatemala
Sara Fratti, a digital rights researcher focusing on Latin America, sent me this story after Wednesday’s Garbage Day item about Nathan Apodaca, the 37-year-old man who recently became a TikTok sensation for skateboarding and drinking cranberry juice and listening to Fleetwood Mac.
In August, a Guatemalan shoemaker named Fabio Rodolfo Vásquez decided to enter the “Covi Dance 2020” contest with his wife. The couple planned to honor the memory of their 32-year-old daughter Jenifer, who died of coronavirus a few weeks earlier. Here’s the video that Vásquez submitted.
It went incredibly viral. He told the Associated Press, “I think our daughter must be happy to see us happy.”
Vásquez and his wife have spent the ensuing weeks promoting businesses around the country. Fratti told me that there are concerns, though, that the digital frenzy is beginning to verge on exploitation. There’s photos of them dancing in front of a store opening in Guatemala City. A flooring company redid his floors so he could dance better. An Apple retailer gave him a small JBL speaker at first, but when Twitter users complained it wasn’t good enough, the store brought him back and gave him an iPhone SE.
It’s one of these stories that should feel inspirational. And I think 10 years ago, it would have. It’s a perfect Upworthy headline. But as with Apodaca’s story of TikTok fame, it’s impossible to ignore the larger issues that led to Vásquez turning on his camera and doing a dance.
COVID-19 has had a profound effect Guatemala’s infrastructure. The country’s president got it earlier this month. The Associated Press reported that Vásquez’s daughter died of renal insufficiency. I cannot imagine what this couple must be going through. All of these things must coexist when talking about both the genuine and opportunistic support the family is getting. Also, it must be pointed out, they’re really good dancers!
But I cannot help but question the systems that make these kinds of stories go viral and the brands that get involved and why corporate media loves to focus on them. And I’m absolutely not saying that working people shouldn’t have their stories told, but there must be a better way. I’m happy about this couple’s new station in life and I hope that it brings them peace and some extra cash and I hope that when they get off the viral rollercoaster they land in a better place than they were when they got on.
Meet 747, The Fattest Bear
Have you all been following Katmai National Park And Preserve’s annual Fat Bear Week? It’s been a real cracking competition this week. A few weeks ago, I reported that Bear No. 747 was already so fat he was having trouble walking and was rumored to be maybe the fattest bear ever. Well, I’m happy to say my instincts for fat bears were dead on. 747 beat out all the other competitors this week.
Below are my three favorite comments about 747’s victory:
Here’s A Good Spooky Video For You
The Adoptable Drama Tearing The Furry Community Apart
Alright, so, this story is a doozy. It was sent to me by a lovely Garbage Day reader named Erika. And I’ll confess, I was sent an extremely dense r/HobbyDrama post about this, as well as a bunch more background, and it still has taken me a few days to wrap my head around the whole thing. Here goes nothing.
Certain members of the furry community — and adjacent subcultures — use what are called “OCs” or Original Characters. OCs function like a hybrid of a social media avatar and a Dungeon & Dragons character. They have names, backstories, and biodata. If you’re a furry who can’t draw, you typically find an artist you like and pay them to commission an OC for you. This practice is common in a lot of fandom communities that rely on roleplay. It’s the reason you can google “[your name] + the hedgehog” and get a bunch of custom Sonic The Hedgehog characters with your name.
What I didn’t realize is that this concept has evolved into something called “Adoptables”. Erika described them to me as, “decentralized Neopets, but the Neopets are also kind of stocks.” Adoptables are traded on sites like toyhou.se.
If you’re still having a tough time understanding what’s happening here, this paragraph from the r/HobbyDrama post might help:
That's the gist of it - the character design becomes your property and you can do whatever you want with it. Draw artwork, make stories, put them in a comic or game, you name it. I'm personally an adoptable creator as I use the money selling character designs to get by, but I'm definitely not popular by any means. Just very familiar with the community (and admittedly a sucker for drama).
So basically, you’re buying a character design from an artist and then you can use it on Tumblr or DeviantArt or Twitter or whatever. These original designs can come with terms of service agreements. They’re made in a bunch of different species, some of which are totally open. For instance, you can just draw your own Wolffox or whatever and sell it if you want. But other species are completely locked down. From what I can tell, this is all enforced by harassment and bans. I haven’t seen any evidence of actual lawyers getting involved, but I could be wrong. Furry drama is an infinite well of pettiness.
The problem began last year, when a user started an auction for a custom adoptable Grem design. Per the Reddit post, the first bid was $800! A DeviantArt user named caravan-outpost (or kintsugi-kitsune depending on the site) kept inflating the price until it hit $20,500. It later came out that caravan-outpost’s spending spree may have been suffering from a manic episode caused by way too powerful SSRIs and it’s unclear if any money was ever exchanged. But caravan-outpost and other users appear to have continued to inflate Grem auctions, pushing prices into the thousands.
Over the last year, the adoptables market has become a complete mess. According to Erika, artists are churning out bootlegs of more valuable characters and causing inflation in the market. People are stockpiling rare designs. It seems like there is a lot more drama happening. Apparently, the sushidog adoptables market is particularly nasty.
Honestly, I’m still not sure what to make of all of this. The idea that people are paying hundreds of dollars for furry art and trading it like a stock market is a lot to handle. It’s even harder to process that this entire economy tanked due to unstable customers, monopolistic greed, and financial hoarding. But, hey, that’s the inherent evil of capitalism, baby!
Here’s An Interesting Question About Thomas The Tank Engine
An Intellectual Discussion About The New Dungeons & Dragons Game
Early access opened this week for a new game based on Dungeons & Dragons lore. It’s called Baldur’s Gate III and it seems like the reactions have been mixed. Ars Technica was particularly brutal in their review of Baldur’s Gate III. I play very few video games, myself, but I appreciate the discourse around them. It’s always interesting following how fan reaction differs from critical reception. It seems like fans were equally disappointed with Baldur’s Gate III, but not for the same reason journalists are. The big-brained gentlemen over on Steam’s message board think they’ve figured out what’s wrong with the new game: Not enough hot women in it.
I’m not going to screenshot the whole thing because, honestly, you can probably guess exactly how the post goes. “You MUST put a hot, knockout woman into the main game in order for it to sell well. I am expecting a fine babe to be available in Act II if you expect my hard-earned $60,” the user concludes.
Well, Tumblr user dreadwollf noticed that amid the extremely misogynistic and gross responses in the thread, there was one brave user who stood up for their convictions and tried to set the record straight.
Sadly, Aarkethrix was banned for their bravery, but if you click on over you can still see users quoting it. RIP in peace Aarkethrix.
Finally, A Weird Little Twitter Mystery I Solved
This video was dropped into several group chats I’m in yesterday. It’s a very upsetting video if you haven’t seen it. A little boy eats a watermelon slice and then a seed from the watermelon goes into his stomach. Inside of his stomach, it starts to grow. Branches start growing out of his ears and nose. His blood starts to taste like watermelon juice. His pupils become seeds. His teacher tries to cut all the branches off of him and, as he runs away from her, he transforms into a watermelon boy. He discovers that as a half watermelon/half boy he has a few unique abilities like rolling around that are actually kind of cool. Then he runs around too much and breaks apart into a bunch of watermelon slices and the other children at his school eat him. The final shot is of branches beginning to grow in the other children who have consumed him.
It’s really upsetting! You can watch the original video here. It’s called “Watermelon: A Cautionary Tale” and it ends the same way. The version of the video going viral on Twitter this week is spend up and is set to a song that I found super familiar. It’s called “UNRAVEL” and it’s from an anime called Tokyo Ghoul (pretty good first couple seasons then falls off completely). As I was watching the video, I noticed that the watermelon story was actually weirdly similar to the plot of Tokyo Ghoul. The anime is about a boy who gets a blood transfusion from a demon and become part-demon. The boy then gets stronger and more powerful when he eats other demons. I wondered if that was coincidence.
Turns out, no! I did some digging around and sure enough, there’s a Know Your Meme page for the video. It was originally posted back in July, but it got a copyright takedown. It’s purposefully supposed to resemble the plot of Tokyo Ghoul. Which makes it much funnier. Or as the video’s original creator tweeted:
P.S. here’s a good Panic! At The Disco/Harry Styles mashup.
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***