- 12.30.10 - 10:00AM
- - by
- Joshua Heller
2010's Memes in the Mainstream - How Bed Intruder, Bros Icing Bros and Old Spice Guy Broke Through
In recent years news outlets have seemingly had fewer things to report on, so they've started playing "viral videos" to fill the fluff stories niche at the end of their broadcasts. National morning and day-time talk shows have begun to regularly include YouTube sensations as guests. There are hundreds of these crossover stories.
2010 is not the "year that the internet meme became mainstream." It is merely an extension of that moment where the lines between internet culture and mass culture have blurred.
I was struck by this realization when I found this picture of Xzibit and a kitty cat.
Yo Dawgs have become so ingrained in our popular culture that Xzibit's face (see him in the bottom left?) can signify "a copy of something inside of itself" without text.
Let's look at three more examples of internet culture breaking into popular culture.
1. 'Bed Intruder'
'Bed Intruder' was the first meme to ever top the Billboard charts. Local news coverage of Antoine Dodson's tirade against his sister's would-be rapist quickly spread through the web. The Gregory Brothers, previously internet famous for their Auto-Tune The News web series, turned Dodson's rant into a catchy song, a new tactic they'd developed as their C-SPAN/cable news schtick started to get stale. There was high demand for the single, so they released it on iTunes.
'Bed Intruder' debuted on Billboard's Hot 100 at number 89, just ahead of Grammy Award-winning country singer Brad Paisley. Revenue generated from the single allowed Dodson to buy a new home, and he appeared on national television.
The song has paved the way for future creators of humorous viral musical content to compete with mainstream artists. Soon, a YouTube remixer might be able to compete with Lady Gaga at the Grammys.
2. Bros Icing Bros
Bros Icing Bros flipped traditional media on its head. The New York Times, the country's paper of record, reported on a story they read about via the meme-o-sphere. Bros Icing Bros started as a drinking game on college campuses, wherein a participant must drink a Smirnoff Ice if he is offered one.
This game was submitted by Southern frat boys to College Humor. A friend from that office made "Bros Icing Bros" seem particularly fun, so I set out to document myself "icing" my friends in Los Angeles. The following week my video became popular across the web after embeds on several websites.
By May 21st, the phenomenon started by frat bros was mentioned throughout the blogosphere. The Times covered it 15 days later.
3. Old Spice Guy
The whimsical shower gel ads that captivated the world began as television spots in early 2010. They were internet ready: absurdist humor, Chuck-Norris-Facts-like bravado, short and well executed. They became an instant hit online. Then traditional media made an unprecedented move: they created hundreds of videos directed at specific internet tastemakers.
Each of these personalized videos spread within each of their own social networks, thus slingshotting the YouTube spots into viral platinum -- and making every boss at every company ask how to recreate this campaign for their own products.
Each of these is an example of the mainstream working with internet culture. 'Bed Intruder' went from local news to internet stardom to mainstream record sales. Bros Icing Bros went from a subcultural phenomenon to the annals of the most prestigious newspaper in the United States. Old Spice Guy was created with internet sensibilities for a mainstream audience, which then found success back on the internet. Internet memes and viral videos will continue to become a vibrant part of the patchwork of American popular culture.
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