Sunday, May 5, 2013

Bed Intruder

The video is old news on the internet. When his sister confronted an attempted rapist, Antoine Dodson ran in to help her. His interview when the police came went viral because he was a little... well, I guess you could say flamboyant. The video really earned a niche in pop culture when someone auto-tuned Dodson's interview and released it as a song, "Bed Intruder" on itunes. It became a popular meme.

Why did we find Dodson so hilarious? The fact that his over-the-top motions conformed to certain stereotypes? The fact that the way he speaks isn't the same as us? Dodson is over-the-top, but he's talking about the near-rape of his sister. And we're laughing.

But maybe we're not laughing at the way he speaks, we're laughing at the sheer incongruity of the seriousness of the situation and the ebullient reaction. Maybe we know how serious an attempted rape is, and the sheer unexpectedness of the interview in light of that makes us laugh. Laughter is a coping mechanism.

But it's more than that. What makes me squeamish is the huge cultural divide between Antoine Dodson and the people who are sharing and listening to "Bed Intruder." He comes from "the projects," while we're watching from suburbia. Because of that it's easy to "other" him and disconnect the danger of a rapist-at-large from a conversation we think is kind of funny. Their danger is not our danger. What concerns me is that there IS no concern about the story behind the video.

If a main-stream singer released a song where the lyrics were "they're raping everybody out here," would our reactions be different? What if a white woman from an affluent neighborhood found the "bed intruder" in her room and her brother talked like a broadcaster from the midwest? Would we know the story? Would we care?

Anyone savvy on the internet can sing you this song. Most people don't think it's a problem. But I wonder what it means that we'll give 15 minutes of fame to someone who we think talks funny. I wonder what it means that we're okay with laughing about attempted rape. Are we having fun at someone else's expense? Or are we reacting to a scary, unpredictable life in the best way we know how-- by laughing at it?

Something to think about. (Now that the song's stuck in my head.)

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