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The Real Protestors of Toronto G20

So Tommy Taylor, who wrote the harrowing account of his detention, posted a video on his facebook of the cop cars getting torched at Queen and Spadina. It is really interesting to watch as the so-called anarchists, who torched the cop car, are dressed like American tourists. The group at the end sure looks like cops, but hey, they could also be disgruntled Republicans.

What caught my attention in this video was not the supposed undercover cops, but the appearance of “The Dude” otherwise known as “Crazy Yoga Guy”. This guy is one of various characters that will be engrained in internet culture due to memes, which will undoubtedly continue long after people forget about the injustices that occurred this weekend.

The two characters that I believe will go down in internet history are “The Dude” and “Zombie Police Lady” (AKA Scary Cop Lady).

“The Dude” was obviously looking for attention as he started his day perched on a statue.
"The Dude" looking for an audience

He then got into the unlocked cop car on Queen and Spadina.
Officer Dude

The Dude was then rescued from near destruction by a good samaritan.

Poor Dude!

The Dude was not very popular and my friends cheered when he was arrested, but I still love you Dude!

The other real star of the G2 was “Zombie Police Lady”, who was a plain clothes police officer wielding a baton at the crowed at Queens Park.

She is actually far more popular than Dude and already has numerous memes dedicated to her.

Here she is superimposed on a bottle of vodka.

One of the best meme's of Zombie Police Lady

Here she is next to Chuck Norris

Texas Ranger Zombie Lady

My personal favourite is this passionate one from the facebook group dedicated to her

Even zombies can make love

I am just waiting for Bravo to create a show with these two, hey I would watch!

The Weird and Wonderful World of Housewives

June 18, 2010 2 comments

Today I will address the pop culture phenomenon that is the Real Housewives franchise, which airs on the American version of the television network, Bravo (here in Canada it is called Bravo! and it does not air The Housewives). The New York Times had an interesting piece a couple of weeks ago regarding the Real Housewives franchise, and the change of direction in the original programming of Bravo in the States.

The American version of Bravo was like the current Canadian version. It used to focus on showcasing the performing arts and art-house films. NBC-Universal purchased the network in 2002 and changed the direction towards a reality based theme. They continued to pitch to the urban/rich demographic, by creating programming that people will actually watch, not just pretend to watch. Like True Blood, Bravo decided to make shows that were guilty pleasures for the educated class. The first of these guilty pleasures was Queer Eye for the Straight Guy airing in 2003. The show featured five gay “experts” on five subjects:  food, fashion, beauty, home décor and pop culture. The show was a huge success amongst Bravo’s target audience, and executives decided to create other reality based shows surrounding the five subjects on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Bravo has a specific target audience and they spend countless hours interviewing people in order to create programming specifically for them.

From the New York Times piece discussing who their audience is:

For one, there are “Wills and Graces”: the “true cosmopolitan, Upper West Side man or woman, very into food, very into fashion, also very upscale — not all gay, but we know we have a strong following among gay men,” says Tony Cardinale, a research executive at Bravo. Then there are the “P.T.A. Trendsetters,” suburban moms who are “relatively stylish and trendy,” he says. “Metrocompetitors” are “more male, young, urban social climbers who like pop culture.” And the “Newborn Grown-Ups” are “20-somethings who are fully out of college mode, buying their first couch, establishing what’s going to be their house wine.”

Bravo doesn’t cast its net any wider than that. “We only talk to those very specific groups,” says Mr. Cardinale. “We want to make sure that what we do is important to them.”

On some of the research Bravo does:

It surveys chatter on social media sites — inviting live comments during shows in what it calls the “talk bubble” — to see what audiences think. Researchers also scrutinize Bravo’s message boards and Web boards at other entertainment sites, writing reports on their themes.

“We do a lot of passive listening, lurking on the Web, interpreting the themes we see on our message boards, etcetera,” says Mr. Cardinale. “There’s more information we have now than we’ve ever had before.”

Bravo has created some great successes that appeal to their base, including Project Runway (fashion) and Top Chef ( food), Flipping Out (home decor), Shear Genius (beauty) and of course The Real Housewives (pop culture).

The Real Housewives started as many pop cultural phenomenons do, in Orange County (See Modern Conservatism and The Hills franchise). It has since branched out to numerous cities including, New York, Atlanta and New Jersey and Washington, which is currently in post-production.

My personal favourite incarnation of the Housewives is New Jersey (with Atlanta a close second). The Real Housewives of New Jersey first aired in May 2009 and had some of the highest ratings the network has seen. The New Jersey version is the perfect example of Bravo’s marketing strategy because it has basically become the reality version of The Sopranos. They have even brought in a real life mobster this season.

Bravo hit pay dirt as the series includes drama inducing characters in the form of Danielle Staub and Teresa Giudice (who are the highest paid cast members in Housewives history). There are also appearances of mob connections with Teresa’s husband “juicy Joe” working in construction, and the father-in law of the Manzo sisters, Tiny Manzo, murdered and found in the trunk of his car.

Teresa and Joe "juicy" Giudice

There is also Jacqueline’s husband who looks exactly like Jackie Aprile, and has a safe filled with guns in his basement.

Chris Laurita with his guns

Jackie Aprile from The Sopranos

A perfect example of the drama of New Jersey is the famous table flip scene, which gave us the wonderful phrase, “prostitution whore”.

You see Danielle Staub was arrested 20 years ago under her real name Beverly Merrill for kidnapping and extortion, you know the usual youthful indiscretions. She somehow got involved with the Colombian Drug Cartel and it really wasn’t her fault! Anyway, as a result of signing up for a reality show this information became public and someone (I am sure it wasn’t the producers) gave the other women a book, about the case, entitled Cop Without a Badge. In the table-flipping scene she confronts the other women for spreading the book around town (apparently she didn’t realize she was on a reality show and the book would be on TV)

Beverly Merrill AKA Danielle Staub

Bravo has ramped up the drama for the second season and has cast Danny Provenzano as Danielle’s sidekick. Provenzano was convicted of racketeering and is the nephew of Anthony Provenzano; a captain in the Genovese crime family, who was connected to the murder of Jimmy Hoffa. Danny seems to have a lot in common with Christopher from The Sopranos (Danny was apparently a “consultant” on the show) as he made a movie that seems to be a thinly veiled story of his life called, This Thing of Ours.

Here he is on Jimmy Kimmel in one of the oddest groupings of people: Kathy Griffin, Danny Provenzano and either a child or a little person playing with an etch-a-sketch

Danny has already proved to be an entertaining addition to the show as he brought Hells Angels to protect Danielle at a benefit for a baby with cancer (you know because their protection worked out so well at Altamont).

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Danielle, Danny and The Angels

He also brought Danielle to dance at a strip club that looked suspiciously like the Badda Bing.

Danielle claims she was a burlesque dancer and not a stripper when she hung around the Colombian Drug Cartel

You can say what you will about Bravo’s change of direction and the reality phenomenon. There are definitely problems with it, but I am willing to admit I find it entertaining, and as a student of pop culture I find it fascinating.