The "Shrek"/"Bee Movie" Dichotomy

Read to the end for one more "Morbius" thing

I Hope The Summer Of Morbius Never Ends

Sony rereleased Morbius over the weekend, following weeks of “It’s Morbin’ time” memes spreading across the internet. They even got the movie’s star, Jared Leto, to make a “Morbin’ time” video. (It’s cringe.) And, hilariously, the movie flopped again.

TMZ framed the second flop as an instance where the memes “failed” and wrote that “memes don't mean sales,” which, is not actually what happened here. But that seems to be the same mistake Sony made actually.

If you, either, missed all of this, or have only been following it in random pieces, the memes about Morbius are not being made by fans. They’re being made by internet users making fun of the fact that Morbius was a movie that was never going to have any actual fans. The movie was clearly made as a way for Sony to hold on to the Spider-Man intellectual property rights and all of the jokes about the “summer of Morbius” are lampooning that. Morbius is a C-tier Spider-Man villain and Jared Leto still has a tremendous amount of fandom stink on him because of how ridiculous and embarrassing his portrayal of the Joker was in Suicide Squad. Which turned Morbius into the perfect memetic storm. Sony didn’t seem to understand any of this and just assumed “memes = popular,” which has never been true, but is especially not true in 2022.

Garbage Day columnist Allegra Rosenberg in an issue last week compared the camp ironic embrace of Morbius to other famously so-bad-they’re-good movies such as The Room. Which I agree with, but there’s another interesting dimension to what’s happening around Morbius. It’s what I’m going to call “the Shrek Vs. Bee Movie rule of meme movies”. Some movies that are memes are memes because people actually love them and some movies become memes because they’re dog shit. Morbius is the latter.

Shrek was released in 2001. It spawned numerous sequels, and, most importantly, a torrent of merchandise and marketing. In the 2000s, there was Shrek stuff everywhere. In fact, the over-marketing, and franchisification of Shrek, was immortalized in an incredible series of unofficial promos for Shrek The Third created by comedians Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. The grotesqueries of capitalism were at the heart of the joke. It’s also why I think so many memes involving Shrek also have him kissing Sonic the Hedgehog characters, another overly-marketed and cashed-in-on franchise responsible for a lot of cultural detritus in the 2000s.

In 2007, though, the ironic visual language that internet users were creating to make fun of the Shrek movies ended up being fertile ground for a movie that seemed even more soulless and hollow than the subsequent Shrek films — Bee Movie. It’s an honestly deranged film where Jerry Seinfeld plays a bee who falls in love with a human woman. It’s nuts! And the internet responded by shitting all over it. There’s an entire genre of YouTube content dedicated to finding more and more bizarre ways to remix the Bee Movie script.

Over the years, internet users have sort of lost interest in Shrek memes. Meanwhile, there’s also been a pretty dedicated movement on sites like Letterboxd and Tumblr aimed at reclaiming the movie and celebrating it for actually being pretty darn good. Two decades after the soulless marketing blitz died down, it turns out there’s a lot of love for Shrek. That has not happened with Bee Movie. It’s a really bad movie that doesn’t make any sense. It’s not funny really and when it turns 20 in a couple years, I’d be surprised if it garners the same reaction that Shrek’s 20th garnered last year. Sony thought Morbius was a Shrek, but it was actually a Bee Movie.

What’s funny is that there are probably ways Sony could have cashed in the Summer of Morbius. Maybe. Typically, with this sort of thing, the meme dies when companies do that. But one of the easiest things would have been fast-tracking the movie to digital platforms, where it could be quickly be remixed for TikTok and YouTube. Maybe they could have stopped DCMA’ing the GIFs that people were making of the entire movie. Maybe Sony could have just let the Discord they started for the movie grow naturally for a bit longer before doing something to celebrate the meme. Who knows!

This is all pretty silly. We’re talking about goofy memes about a fairly unremarkable vampire comic book movie. But it’s a lesson worth learning for movie studios who want to harness viral energy around their movies. Internet culture is pop culture now — or at least a distorted funhouse mirror of pop culture — and it’s also becoming more and more connected to financial success. Understanding what online signals mean is, at least in this instance, the difference between letting your kind of terrible movie gain a fun second life as a cult oddity or flopping in theaters for a second time for no reason. To come back to the two big points I always make: Everything is fandom and if everything is fandom then everything is community moderation.

(A weird aside here, but I wanted to note that it’s strange that a green meme — Shrek — was followed up by a tan/orange meme — Bee Movie. Which is weirdly similar to the history of Pepe the Frog and Doge. I have no idea what to make of this, but it’s interesting nonetheless!)

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A Bunch Of Apes Got Stolen Again

Another day, another ape theft. This time, 32 NFTs were stolen from the Bored Ape Yacht Club Discord server via a phishing attack. The NFTs are worth several million dollars. Per Watcher News, the phishing attack was a giveaway link that would then take over users’ wallets if they clicked on it. A bunch of other NFT Discords were hit this weekend, as well, including the OtherSide and Art of Mob Discords.

Last year, as the NFT boom was in full swing, there was a lot of big talk from Web3 evangelists that NFTs were only the beginning. They would say that once NFTs caught on, Web3 communities were next. Developers, collectors, and investors moved to Discord servers and, well, haven’t accomplished much of anything, I guess. But a bunch of men with too much money and time on their hands do now get to LARP as a hedge fund with their expensive monkey pictures.

But the NFT hacks and thefts keep coming. Which means, wherever the money is being invested, it’s not being invested in building safer, better functioning communities. It’s a huge bummer and you have to wonder how much longer it can go on like this before people start losing interest.

A Good Tweet

Blizzard Is At It Again It Seems

Reddit is in total meltdown mode over a new game from Blizzard called Diablo Immortal. The game is currently in open beta for Android, iOS, and PC. Apparently, the monetization for the game is unbelievably predatory. Gamerant reports that it would cost $110,000 to max out a character. And YouTuber Zizaran called the game disgusting and noted that there’s even some language that implies that what you buy in the game could disappear if you stop regularly logging in. Most damning of all, The Verge reported that the game won’t be available in Belgium, which currently prohibits games with loot boxes.

The Subreddit Drama subreddit has a big list of all the different communities on Reddit flaming the game right now.

I did find one Reddit user defending the game, but the user deleted their account after other users noticed that they lengthy history of posting about their used diaper fetish. To which one user wrote, “Makes sense that someone who enjoys eating literal shit would be on Reddit defending Diablo Immortal.”

How Will Intellectual Property Work With A.I. Imagery?

Kristy Tillman, who has worked as a design lead at companies like Slack and Netflix, tweeted out an interesting question over the weekend. With all the various A.I. imagery apps popping up, how will intellectual property law catch up? For now, let’s ignore the larger of question of “should it?” Tillman wondered if the prompt or phrase used to generate the imagery would be what is copyrighted as IP.

Dall-E runs on OpenAI, which currently gives the copyright of whatever is made to the person who used the API to create it. And that’s sort of how I suspect a lot of A.I.-produced art will function. In fact, the US Copyright Office says you can’t actually copyright art that’s created by an A.I. Which makes Tillman’s idea all the more interesting. Much in the same way that a company could copyright a specific phrase used in a specific context, like Disney owning the copyright for “Hakuna Matata,” in relationship to The Lion King, we could end up with a similar system where a person copyrights “Apple’s annual religious ritual where hundreds of developers gather in Apple’s headquarter where Tim Cook is on stage” when submitted to the MidJourney A.I.

A New Generation Learns About Goatse

Right, so, look, there’s really no other way to describe Goatse other than by just describing what it is, alright? It’s a famous photo of a man pulling his ass open with his hands. It’s a very old meme. And people now make stuff that looks like Goatse and hide it all over the web. It’s iconic!

Garry's Mod, or “gmod,” is a sandbox game created by Facepunch Studios. Over the weekend, a creator of a series of popular add-ons for the game had a complete meltdown over being banned from Steam and changed the code for one of the add-ons so that when players started the game it would blast really loud noises and then show a picture of Goatse that takes over your whole screen.

The tampered with mods were flagged by Twitter user @Thafnine. But here’s where it gets really funny.

@Thafnine’s tweet went super viral and the replies are full of Gen Z internet users who don’t seem to know what Goatse is and are asking users what it is, which is, of course, leading to people sending them pictures of the famous ass. Causing an even bigger freakout.

Channel 5 Went To The NRA Conference

Andrew Callaghan and his team are back with a brand new video. I think Channel 5 is doing some of the best independent journalism around right now and the fact that Channel 5 went from filming in Ukraine last month to the NRA conference in Houston this month adds a lot more weight to this. Stick around for the absolutely insane RPG (the rocket kind, not the tabletop kind) salesman that shows up around three minutes in.

Some Stray Links

P.S. here’s one more Morbius thing.

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