Monday, August 19, 2019


The ongoing adventures of Florida Man

He is remarkably durable in his ubiquity, his stupidity, his quirkiness, and never at a loss for incredibly obtuse ways of bringing momentary fame, if not crippling injury and a police record (if he doesn't already have one) onto himself.  

As Logan Hill of the Washington Post reports:

Since Florida Man was first defined on Twitter in 2013 as the “world’s worst superhero,” many men (and it’s almost always men) have assumed the mantle. He is a man of a thousand tattooed faces, a slapstick outlaw, an Internet-traffic gold mine, a cruel punchline, a beloved prankster, a human tragedy and, like some other love-hate American mascots, the subject of burgeoning controversy.

Most memes--from planking to Tide Pods--fizzle fast. Florida Man has only grown stronger. There are so many stories about [such] men  that a “Florida Man Challenge” went viral this March, in which millions of people Googled their birth dates and “Florida Man,” finding a near-endless list of real news headlines for all 365 days of the year:

  • “Florida Man Steals $300 Worth of Sex Toys While Dressed as Ninja.”
  • “Florida Man Tries to Pick Up Prostitute While Driving Special Needs School Bus.”
  • “Florida Man Drinks Goat Blood in Ritual Sacrifice, Runs for Senate.”
I’ve laughed at headlines like “Florida Man Arrested for Calling 911 After His Cat Was Denied Entry Into Strip Club.” I’ve gawped at stories like “Florida Man Removes Facial Tattoos With Welding Grinder.” But over the years I’ve also started to get a queasy feeling of complicity when I click on headlines that play up the quirks of horrific crimes for Web traffic, like “A Florida Man Beat His Daughter For 40 Minutes While Listening To Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines,’ ” a 101-word BuzzFeed story that found room to tastelessly embed the supermodel-studded music video.

The meme has grown beyond the inside jokes of Twitter and Reddit, spawning scores of late-night comedy routines, queues of podcasts, multiple band names, an episode of the FX show “Atlanta,” an “X-Files” comic book, a documentary and, soon, a docuseries from the producers of “Get Out.”

At its most comical, the Florida Man phenomenon encapsulates the wildness of both America and the Internet.  At its most salacious, it’s a social-media update on the true-crime TV of “America’s Dumbest Criminals” and the gallows humor of tabloid headlines.  At its most insensitive, Florida Man profits by punching down at the homeless, drug-addicted or mentally ill.  Florida Man has become an American folk hero with all the contradictions of his predecessors, who, from John Henry to Buffalo Bill, were always a mix of what [recently celebrated Florida Man Lane Hatfield]  calls the “half of what happened” and “half of what didn’t.” What those old folk tales and our new viral memes have in common is that they tend to reveal more about the kind of stories we want to share than the people they’re ostensibly about.

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