The branded content ouroboros

Read to the end for some Monster mash

The Meme In The Moment is coming back for a second live show in New York City on October 27, 2021 (my birthday). It has some amazing speakers including Dr. Jamie Cohen, Digital Void, Kalhan Rosenblatt, NBC News, Makena Kelly, policy reporter for The Verge, Rachel E. Greenspan, digital culture editor for Insider, and freelance culture writer Moises Mendez II. And if you come in a meme-themed costume you might even win a prize! Click here for more details and Garbage Day subscribers get a special discount code.


The Future Of Branded Content Is Here

“Fandom” as a concept has become increasingly formalized over the last five years. We’ve had Stan armies forever, but before Twitter, they spent their days waging cyber warfare against each other in the comment sections of small blogs. There also really wasn’t a set criteria of things that a fandom did. Sure, many wrote fan fiction or created other kinds of works and tributes to whatever they were interested in, but, for the most part, online fandoms were islands that all kind of did their own thing.

About seven years ago, fandoms started moving from blogs and less visible platforms like Tumblr or Reddit to Twitter, where everything is indexed and, thus, observable. Around this same time, K-Pop, a music fandom defined by very specific traditions and behaviors, started becoming really popular outside of Korea. This has resulted in the weird and new idea of “fandom” as not just a shared love of something, but as a somewhat universal list of digital rituals that all fandoms perform. You make fan cams for your favorite character or band member or celebrity, you react with specific memes associated with the fandom, etc.

One ritual that has been adopted by practically every fandom is the “no context” account. Once again, I saw this kind of thing happening in the K-Pop fandom first, where fans would screencap specific moments from music videos or press junkets and hyper-analyze them for (usually romantic) subtext. This has ballooned out and you can now find a No Context account for pretty much anything you can imagine.

Very interestingly, Netflix, to promote the newest season of Sex Education, has rebranded the show’s Twitter as “no context sex education” and has been sharing “random” captioned screencaps from the new episodes. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

Now, I should say here, I really liked the newest season of Sex Education and I actually think a lot of the tweets are pretty funny. But also I thought this take on the whole thing from Twitter user @chrishortt was also extremely astute. “The official handle restyling itself as a ‘no context’ account really feels like saying the quiet part loud re: how these shows are conceptualised,” he tweeted.

@chrishortt’s tweet echoes a common compliment that a lot of Netflix shows, particularly ones aimed at teenagers, are essentially just an algorithmically-generated string of Twitter share bait, more focused on moments that will clip well for social media than telling any kind of coherent story. Which I think might be true for some Netflix properties, but I think what’s happening with the Sex Education Twitter is something much weirder and more interesting. Here’s a fancam it tweeted out yesterday:

The reason I titled this item “The Future Of Branded Content Is Here” is because I think this is a very curious evolution of the branded Twitter account. When brands first started popping up on Twitter, they basically just acted like a mix of a print advertisement and customer service. The McDonald’s Twitter account would tell you about the new Big Mac and apologize to you for the broken ice cream machine or whatever. But after the Oreos Moment in 2013, suddenly these accounts all started pivoting towards more human-like behavior online. This trend would eventually hit its endpoint with the Denny’s Tumblr and the Wendy’s and Steak-umm Twitter accounts.

Meanwhile, as I said above, online fandoms have become more ritualized and formal and, in a sense, now operate like brands themselves, but decentralized. This can be awkward and confusing when the fandom of a brand deviates from the direction of the brand, i.e. Star Wars or Supernatural.

So, basically, for the last few years, we’ve been living on this weird internet where brands are shitposting like people and people are banding together to act like a brand. Which makes Sex Education turning its Twitter account into a fan account for its own show so interesting (and confusing). It would be as if the Taco Bell Twitter account tweeted at itself about taking the potatoes off the menu. I assume more accounts will start experimenting with this, which I also assume, will impact how fandoms start acting. Brands kill any kind of behavior they engage with, rendering it uncool. So it should be interesting what happens next here.


There’s Gonna Be A Mario Movie

Yesterday, during a Nintendo Direct live event, it was announced that there is going to be a Super Mario Bros. animated feature film. The cast list is absolutely out of control and the internet has basically lost its mind over it. The main issue is that pretty much everyone in the whole world hates Chris Pratt and he’s now been cast as Mario. Also, many have made the very good point that if Charlie Day is Luigi, Danny Devito should absolutely be Mario. Everyone seems to agree though that Jack Black as Bowser absolutely rips. Oh, and everybody is pissed that Mario’s actual voice actor, Charles Martinet, is only a “surprise cameo,” whatever that means.

But for all the negative reactions, I actually think Tumblr user quinndolyns really nailed it with their post about what is almost certainly going to be the plot of the movie:

the mario movie is going to be an isekai movie. it’s going to start out live action with chris pratt and charlie day as poor brothers working as plumbers in new york city under the thumb of the italian mafia (led by jack black / bowser) until one day they get given some cement shoes and wake up in the super mario world. i can see it so clearly.

donkey kong/seth rogen is going to be his stoner friend who lives in the same shitty apartment building. peach/whatshername is going to be the hot girl who lives across the hall from him who he is too scared to talk to but has an obvious crush on. keegan michael key/toad is going to be his roommate. i hate it so much.

charles martinet is going to be chris pratt’s dad / uncle who taught him how to be a plumber. he will die within the first 20 minutes of the film.

Also, here’s a big Tumblr post of a ton of people who predicted that Chris Pratt was going to play Mario. Oh, one more cursed thing. The studio making the Mario movie is Illumination, who made Despicable Me, but, more importantly, made The Lorax, which introduced the world to the Tumblr sexyman version of The Onceler.


Instagram Detectives And The Gabby Petito Conspiracy

I recently learned about an Instagram influencer named Jessica Reed Kraus. She has over 300,000 followers on Instagram and, if you scan her page, you’d assume she’s your average Instagram mom. But if you head over to her stories, you’ll see “1. Gabby,” “2. Gabby,” “3. Gabby,” “4. Gabby”. In these stories, there is ominous music and title cards and the details of a sprawling conspiracy that Kraus calls the #moabmurders. These stories are incredibly long and full of unverified and, frankly, extremely dubious information that alleges that Gabby Petito’s disappearance and murder is connected to the alleged murders of other women in Moab, Utah.

Kraus made a name for herself as some kind of conspiracy theorists/citizen journalist/OSINT researcher when started making huge Instagram Stories about the #FreeBritney movement earlier this summer. All of which are similarly conspiratorial and unverified. Her followers are also venmoing her A LOT of money. I honestly don’t know how to feel about any of this.

But if you want to hear a long thing on this whole world and how it has popped up around the Gabby Petito story, check out my podcast this week.


Gen Z Really Isn’t On Facebook Anymore

Here’s a super fascinating chart from a new study called Gen Z Digital Media Attitudes, Values & Behavior. I suppose I sort of understood that Facebook was completely losing Gen Z, but I didn’t know there was this much of a discrepancy between millennials and Gen Z when it came to weekly use. One other really interesting thing here is how much Gen Z is on YouTube compared to TikTok. I would have had that flipped, but I guess for them, YouTube is like TV and TikTok would be what you flick through while you’re watching YouTube?


Everyone’s Selling NFTs Now

My friend Alan noticed this the other day. CNN is selling classic TV news moments in the form of NFTs on a section of their site they’re calling Vault. As is Time, who are selling NFTs they’re calling TIMEPieces. Also, apparently, the movie Dune was going to have some kind of NFT campaign, but it was canceled and the movie’s studio put out a super confusing statement about it:

Legendary’s passion and focus is on bringing Dune to audiences and delivering fans the epic film event they deserve. Anything less than that mission feels counterproductive and not in service of the hard work of hundreds of filmmakers and cast involved in this groundbreaking project. To that end we’ve decided to suspend the Dune NFT program and look forward to seeing everyone in theaters soon!

Unfortunately for anyone hoping to cash in on the still very-much booming NFT craze, the entire crypto market is in panic mode after China declared all cryptocurrency illegal this morning. Unclear how this newest market dip impacted the trading of Mr. Goxx, the crypto investment hamster, who has been outperforming the S&P 500.

Oh, and, I guess this is sort of a crypto thing, Elon Musk and Grimes broke up, but it seems to be amicable and they plan to coparent their baby that has a plane name.


An Interesting, But Very NSFW Reddit AMA

I came across this super interesting AMA on Reddit this morning. It’s with Suzanne Ferrari, she’s a female porn producer and director and her stories are absolutely wild. The top question is currently, “What's the most unexpected thing you've had happen on a shoot?” Which Ferarri answers and let me tell you, it is an absolute rollercoaster. Click here to check out the whole thing (NSFW).


The Great Zillow Conspiracy

All over TikTok right now there are videos claiming that Zillow is using its own data to buy properties and inflate real estate costs. This practice is called iBuying and it does happen, but if you click through into this Twitter thread, there’s a terrific explanation for why it actually isn’t as widespread or even as effective as you may assume. And here’s a lot of the same points from that thread in an article you should definitely check out, as well.


Please Go Vote For Guy Fieri In This Sexiest Chef Poll

So People’s Sexiest Man Alive thing has done a 30 Under 30 and splinted off into a bunch of increasingly niche sub-categories. But there is now a “Sexiest TV Chef” category and Guy Fieri is included. Obviously, in a perfect world, Guy Fieri should win Sexiest Man Alive full stop, but this is pretty good too. You can cast your vote here.


A Good Tweet


Some Stray Links


P.S. here’s some Monster mash.

***Any typos in this email are on purpose actually***