Discover more from Garbage Day
Oh your brand tweet caused an international incident?
Read to the end for breakcore garfplane
On Brands And Memes
At this point, it’s almost impossible to remember how Barbenheimer, as a meme, started. According to Know Your Meme, the first tweet to ever use the phrase was from entertainment journalist Matt Neglia, who coined the term in April of last year. Though it didn’t really start to latch on to the zeitgeist until IndieWire’s David Ehrlich used it in a tweet in January. From there it has ballooned into an undeniable phenomenon.
And, up until this week, it seemed like one of those rare cultural objects where user creativity and mass marketing were both aligned around something that people actually enjoy. It turns out both movies are pretty good (I’m seeing Barbie tomorrow and I only watch Christopher Nolan movies on planes).
Then, at the end of July, the official Barbie Movie account responded to a tweet about Barbenheimer with, “it’s going to be a summer to remember 😘💕.” Which would eventually sit at the center of the #NoBarbenheimer controversy currently playing out in Japan.
The Barbenheimer outrage in Japan first kicked off last week when Preston Mutanga, the 14-year-old animator behind the Lego scene from Across The Spider-Verse, did a Lego version of Barbenheimer, which depicted the bomb going off with a pink mushroom cloud. After that, Japanese users began digging through Barbenheimer content until they found the “summer to remember” tweet.
One Japanese user Google Translated a comic about the Japanese reaction to Barbenheimer, explaining that the Japanese reception to the meme changed when fan art started depicting the bomb going off and, crucially, when users discovered the official Barbie Movie Twitter account was replying to tweets about it. After #NoBarbenheimer started trending, Warner Bros. released a formal apology in Japanese and the Barbenheimer tweets were deleted from the Barbie Movie account, but that hasn’t quelled the controversy.
Because every country on Earth now is the same kind of brain sick from internet discourse, the #NoBarbenheimer hashtag, of course, became a huge gift to Japan’s ultranationalists. It also produced a 9/11 Barbie meme that I have to admit goes extremely hard a piece of protest art.
Mishima Kitan, a queer Japanese translator and localizer, put together a great thread about how Japan’s reactionary right has seized on Barbenheimer as a culture war weapon, writing, “One of the worst things coming out of this is that [Japanese] conservative pundits (imagine guys like Ben Shapiro) are taking this opportunity to entirely delegitimize [Barbie] and its message, saying that the movie isn't worth anyone's time, while riling up people in nationalistic fervor.”
Which sucks! And it didn’t have to happen like this.
Tumblr users, who are much more comfortable with months- or years-long meme cycles, have done a bunch of good analysis of Barbenheimer, and most often compare it to the fake hype around last year’s Summer Of Morbius and Goncharov, the fake Martin Scorsese movie they invented that went viral around the same time. And in the case of all three, Hollywood studios and their marketing teams initially became excited about the meme, while never fully realizing they were the butt of the joke. In fact, Sony famously misread the Summer Of Morbius so badly they re-released the movie to cash in on it, only to have Morbius flop a second time.
Morbius, Goncharov, and Barbenheimer, as I see it, all play on the same comedic tension that you see with the baby-girlification of (usually male) characters from shows like Breaking Bad or Succession. The joke is about deflating The Serious Man archetype and, also, about deflating — or at least challenging — how prestige is defined by Hollywood. That’s the joke. A movie about a doll is being released on the same day as a big biopic about the man who developed the nuclear bomb and it’s directed by the film-broiest-film-bro director of the current era. Isn’t that funny? Oh, they’re both actually equally good movies? That’s even funnier.
But brands still don’t understand that memes are large-scale inside jokes and are, more often than not, making fun of them. Hell, I’m willing go even further and say that all memes exist, at a base level, in direct opposition to marketing and, yet, brands still think they can safely co-opt this stuff and convert it into money. When in reality it’s much more like trying to safely ride a bucking bronco. I don’t think the Japanese reaction to Barbenheimer, which I should add is pretty reasonable, ultrantionalists aside, will break through to the average internet user and “kill the meme” or whatever — partly because nothing can “break through” anymore because America no longer has a coherent mass media apparatus. But I do think Barbenheimer is a great example of how little control these aging industries still have. Warner Bros. was given the easiest layup of a random viral lightning-in-a-bottle moment you could ask for and still managed to turn it into an international incident.
The following is a paid ad. If you’re interested in advertising, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s talk. Thanks!
Explainable is a newsletter about AI and creativity. Navigating the good, the bad and the daft of AI tools and content.
Explainable is also an agency for creatives and brands who want to use AI without losing their unique spark.
The Explainable newsletter goes out every Tuesday and Thursday and you can sign up here.
Half Of Threads’ Users Have Already Left
According to a new Reuters report, about half of Threads’ gargantuan 100 million signups to Threads have gone dark. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg addressed some of the internal concerns about this recently, assuring employees that it was normal to lose half of your user base in the span of a month, and promised some “retention-driving hooks” to bring people back.
Man, idk, if you’ve already slipped into the “how do we keep people on our app” spiral after less than 30 days, you might want to reconsider what you’re doing.
According to Reuters, the one tangible idea floated to employees was from Meta’s Chief Product Officer Chris Cox, who suggested showcasing Threads content in Instagram. Alright, let’s walk through the logic here. You’re a company that owns a website with a centralized feed of user-generated text, images, and, eventually, videos. It becomes too bloated, so you buy a photo-sharing app and turn it into a centralized feed of images, some text, and, eventually videos. Then that becomes too bloated, so you roll out a Twitter-like centralized feed of text, some images, and videos. And then you….?????
Twitter Blue Subscribers Aren’t Doing So Well
Over the weekend, I saw multiple quote-tweets of this video about Gen Z “canceling” Eminem. While most of the quote tweets were from verified meme accounts sharing it as brand new, it does seem like it was originally shared ironically because it’s from 2021 and it’s just one of those things that goes around all the time.
What’s interesting about Twitter at the moment is that by paying (some) Twitter users for their traffic, without adding any other safeguards, Elon Musk has completely wiped away any incentive for factchecking — or even just ad hock self-policing — on the app. Another example of this was spotted by the BBC’s Shayan Sardarizadeh. A Twitter Blue subscriber shared a screenshot claiming that Nicole Schwab, the daughter of the World Economic Forum’s Klaus Schwab, said that permanent climate lockdowns are coming, which was excitedly blasted around by QAnon users.
Coupled with this general gold rush on internet bull shit happening on Twitter is the doomed nature of Musk’s apparent business model, which Salon recently described as “the troll-industrial complex”. Many right-wing users are beginning to audibly complain about decreasing engagement on the site. Which is especially funny now that engagement is monetized.
I mean, heck, if they can’t bait liberals anymore, why not just read and share each other’s content? Maybe Twitter Blue subscribers could collectively organize and drive all the engagement for their posts up to make more money. They could even push for salaries and benefits and maybe vacations. Just a thought.
The Greatest Food Review I’ve Ever Seen
The channel behind this video is called Joe Is Hungry and from what I can tell he exclusively reviews chains and fast-casual restaurants. His videos are perfect. Please keep watching the one above long enough to get to Joe’s temperature test.
A “Russian Catgirl” Enters The Superconductor Race
OK, I’m going to very briefly run through the context here because it is admittedly not in my wheelhouse before we get to the catgirl stuff which, I guess, is in my wheelhouse?
At the end of July, researchers in South Korea published a paper that claimed they had created a superconductor that works at room temperature and not at the extremely cold temperatures that current superconductors operate at, which is roughly −321 Fahrenheit. The South Korean paper is widely disputed, but it hinges on a substance called LK-99, which, for simplicity’s sake, is like a gray-black rock. If all of this is real, it would be a massive leap forward for computing.
As different teams around the world tried to figure out if LK-99 was bull shit or not, a self-described “Soviet” Twitter shitposter with an anime profile picture named @iris_IGB made a big long thread dunking on the paper, but also possibly proved it’s true. Then a summary of the whole thing went viral on Reddit, where @iris_IGB was nicknamed an anime catgirl. @iris_IGB has since explained that she’s not a catgirl, per se, but her girlfriend is.
It’s still unclear how real any of this is, but researchers in Wuhan, China, claim they’ve replicated it too. But, for now, we’re still firmly in the “idk” stage for all of this. But it’s nice to know that if we did just make history, we will, at least, need a footnote about catgirls.
Generative Google Search Is Here
Search Engine Land has a couple screenshots of what Google’s still-unreleased generative-AI search widget looks like. The project is codenamed Magi and it’s more or less the Bing AI search, but with Google’s stylesheet. Though, unlike Bing, it has a clearer attribution format, with links to the articles it’s pulling from and puts those links in the text itself. Bing uses footnotes.
But I have to wonder if this is really all that more convenient than what Google already offers. It feels like all this is really doing is just adding automated filler text (that is oftentimes full of errors) to a bunch of existing Google content for no real reason.
Finally, A Malort And Four Loko Cocktail
Enable 3rd party cookies or use another browser
Some Stray Links
P.S. here’s breakcore garfplane
***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***