While You Were Offline: The George R.R. Martin/Taylor Swift Mashup of Your Dreams

It was the best of times and it was the worst of times when it came to the Internet this week. There were events proving that not only are people terrible (or, at the very least, lazy and motivated more by self-interest than anything else), but also that they could be kind and helpful and, sure, enjoy making parody videos and rushing to be first with the news despite not having all the facts. Whatever your take on the human condition, it’s almost certainly going to be both challenged and supported by the past seven days’ worth of world wide webbery. We’re so, so sorry. Or maybe you’re welcome.

Because Tumblr Demanded It, Even If It Didn’t Realize It

What Happened: Webmath 101: George R.R. Martin + Taylor Swift = Internet Gone Wild.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Look, we might not understand why we’re getting a “Blank Space” parody video starring someone pretending to be George R.R. Martin right now—the original Taylor Swift video came out in November last year, and Game of Thrones is off the air until mid-April—but there’s absolutely no denying that the Internet is very happy that it happened. It was covered almost everywhere, with only the What If Wes Anderson Directed The X-Men? video coming anywhere close to that level of ubiquity. (No, really, that was also everywhere.)

The Takeaway: All it needed was a couple of escaped llamas and a color-changing dress, and this would’ve been peak Internet right there. Wait, wait: What if we did a video that was Wes Anderson directing Taylor Swift in Game of Thrones? Somebody call our agent. Or maybe get us an agent first.

The Boy Who Facebooked Wolf

What Happened: A man told social media that he was being kidnapped as it was happening, and social media responded exactly as you’d hope. The problem was, he was lying.

Where It Blew Up: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Adam Hoover is a gay rights’ activist best known for creating what was called “the largest rally for marriage equality in the Midwest” at the age of 17—or, at least, that was what he was best known for, before this message appeared on his Facebook and Twitter feeds this week: “Please help me I’m in the trunk of my ford escort red 2000 gbh 2812. They said they are going to kill my family please call 911 I don’t want them to hear me. Please please call. I don’t want to die.”

Before too long, social media had mobilized in reaction; the hashtag #FindAdamHoover was all over Twitter, and Hoover was located by authorities safe and sound. Twitter was jubilant with the outcome:

Hoover was charged with making a false claim, a first-degree misdemeanor, prompting a round of reports about the story (including this must-read one by Dan Savage), but surprisingly little response on social media. That may be due to postings on Hoover’s Facebook page from his mother, explaining that what had happened was “my son’s way of REACHING OUT for help [and] he is truly sorry if he has hurt anyone with his actions,” and asking those on social media to remove mentions of the event.

The Takeaway: There’s a lot going on here, not least of which the emotional breakdown that led to the hoax. Beyond that, there’s some pride in the way that social media responded to the hoax before it was known that it was a hoax, and maybe just a little concern that everyone was taken in so easily. But which is better: having people react so quickly and selflessly, or being a little bit more cynical and suspicious when it comes to this kind of thing?

Self-Interest Versus Public Interest, The Twitter Edition

What Happened: Which do you think got more attention on Twitter this week: the release of the new Avengers trailer, or the release of the Department of Justice’s report on the Ferguson Police Department?

Where It Blew Up: Twitter

What Really Happened: Here’s something to make you feel good about the Internet at large: Following the release of the Justice Department’s report into the Ferguson PD, Twitter was flooded with more than 170,000 tweets in response. It makes sense; the report revealed that people of color were arrested more frequently than whites, often as the result of a focus on revenue demands rather than, you know, anything to do with justice.

Twitter released a graphic of mentions of #FergusonReport on the service for March 4, showing that mentions peaked at 12:30 Pacific that day, with 760 tweets a minute. That’s pretty great, right?

Well, here’s something to make you feel a little less good about the Internet at large: When Marvel Entertainment demanded that fans tweet the hashtag #AvengersAssemble in order to “unlock” the third trailer for this May’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, that reportedly unleashed a rush of online interest that resulted in an average of 8,100 tweets a minute across the just-over-four-hour window it took to hit its goal. With a little math, that means that #AvengersAssemble got about 10 times as many tweets per minute on average as #FergusonReport got at its peak. It’s a good thing that everyone’s realized that fake heroes fighting monsters are more important than real world justice.

The Takeaway: Maybe in future, we can drive attention to important news stories by partnering with movie studios and requiring people to read about current events in order to get trailers released. Let’s comfort ourselves with the fact that there was a lot more conversation happening elsewhere about Ferguson, just not tagged with that particular hashtag. (But still.)

Internet Connectivity Becomes Another Hurdle to Diversity in TV

What Happened: HBO launched a new program intended to find “emerging writers from diverse backgrounds.” Unfortunately, it was too successful for its own good.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, media think pieces

What Really Happened: Last week, HBO announced something called the HBOAccess Writing Fellowship which, it claimed, is “designed to give emerging, diverse writers the opportunity to develop a half-hour or hour script suitable for HBO or Cinemax.” Submissions were to open March 4, with those looking to apply needing to submit applications, resumes, and a screenplay through a specially-designed online portal. You can all see where this is going already, can’t you?

The portal crashed.

Those frustrated with the flawed process took to Twitter to voice their complaints:

A suitably-embarrassed HBO released a statement explaining that the portal was “unable to handle the volume of activity at the time of launch,” noting that as a result, HBO was planning to “expand the number of applicants it will review and grant waivers to some who were unable to access the site at the time of launch.” And if that doesn’t work, well, apparently there are always alternatives:

The Takeaway: On the plus side, at least everyone now knows that there are definitely a lot of new writers out there trying to be heard. If only someone could work out a way to let them find an audience.

Memo to Fugitives: Stay Off Facebook

What Happened: Here’s a tip to any wannabe criminal masterminds out there: When Johnny Law posts something on Facebook about wanting to locate you, don’t reply.

Where It Blew Up: Facebook, Twitter

What Really Happened: On March 2, the Butler County Sheriff’s Office posted the following on Facebook: “BCSO is looking to apprehend ANDREW DALE MARCUM on numerous warrants. He has previously been known to reside on Route 4 in Lemon Township, but also tends to commit crimes in Hamilton and Middletown.” The post listed some highlights of his criminal career, along with some photographs of Marcum, and contact details for the sheriff’s office for anyone who knew where he could be found.

Four-and-a-half hours later, Marcum himself commented on the post, writing “I ain’t tripping half of them don’t even know me.” Cunning taunt or inexplicably stupid move? We’ll leave that decision up to you, but the sheriff’s office saw its chance, responding to Marcum by saying, “If you could stop by the Sheriff’s Office, that’d be great.” The next day, apparently emboldened by the success of its Facebook pleas, Richard K. Jones—the Butler County Sheriff himself—took the issue to Twitter:

Apparently, it worked. Marcum turned himself in later that day, leading to his mugshot being posted on Facebook with the message “Andrew Dale Marcum will be off Facebook temporarily, because there is no social media access in the Butler County Jail.”

The Takeaway: At least our streets are a little bit safer because of this. Not that Marcum was dangerous, per se, but someone who doesn’t seem to realize how Facebook works might have accidentally have been a danger to himself and others if left unattended.

“I Love You.” “I Know.”

What Happened: Harrison Ford was in a plane crash on Thursday afternoon. Depending on when you saw the news, he was either in critical condition or just fine, thanks very much.

Where It Blew Up: Twitter, blogs, news reports

What Really Happened: The race to be first with the news on the Internet can mean that, sometimes, things like “facts” get a little lost in the rush. On Thursday, Harrison Ford proved that truism when a small plane he was flying crashed into a golf course in California. Initial reports made it sound as if Ford was near death as a result:

But, as more details became known, the extent of his injuries lessened:

As the intensity of the crash lessened, social media responses went from concerned…

…to, well, not so concerned:

The Takeaway: Look, we’re not really over losing Leonard Nimoy, if we’d lost Harrison Ford as well, we’re not sure the collective Internet could have handled it. Happily, it’s looking like Ford will make a full recovery. But nonetheless, we don’t like this slow ramping up of “Harrison Ford Reminds Us That We’re All Mortal” thing that is going on. Last year, it was injuring himself on the set of the new Star Wars movie, now this. We’re already dreading what he’s got planned for next year at this point. Can’t someone just get him to sit down and take it easy for a while?

Chappie Is Pretty Much an R-Rated Fairy Tale

Chappie is the third feature film from South African-born director Neill Blomkamp, and the second to be co-written with his wife Terri Tatchell. Blomkamp, who got his start in special effects, is known for his obsessively detailed futuristic visuals, but Tatchell is more focused on the characters. She thinks Chappie, about a police robot who becomes self-aware and childlike, benefits from her perspective as a mother and her research into developmental psychology. She also thinks the film is less about hardware and more about magic and wonder.

“Neill is the science fiction guy and I am more the fairy tale person,” Tatchell says in Episode 140 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Neill and I disagree on this horribly, but to me it’s an R-rated fairy tale. It’s an inanimate object that’s being given a soul.”

Those sorts of creative differences among husband and wife can easily lead to an unhappy home, something the pair discovered while working together on District 9 . Afterward they swore off collaboration, and Blomkamp worked solo on his next film, Elysium . But when Tatchell heard the pitch for Chappie, she knew she wanted in. So in order to maintain a happy marriage, the pair agreed on a strict separation between home life and work.

“We didn’t ever talk face-to-face about the script,” Tatchell says. “We’d only email back and forth.”

That script, which is full of robots, gangs, and gun battles, might not seem like your average fairy tale, but for Tatchell the story harkens back to a time before Disney.

“The R-rated side of it dates back to the original fairy tales, where you get to be brutal and violent and terrifying with it,” she says.

Tatchell describes herself as relentlessly positive, and says she’s optimistic that sentient robots will be friendly toward humanity, but she also feels that darker themes often make for a more dramatic story. The darker side of Chappie was influenced by one of her favorite films, The Iron Giant , in which a friendly, childlike robot is hunted by a fearful military.

“I like the darkness,” she says. “There is darkness in life and there is light in life, and I think the darkness, the tragedy in life, makes the bright moments all the brighter.”

Listen to our complete interview with Terri Tatchell in Episode 140 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above), and check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Terri Tatchell on robots:

“We were just in Berlin, and there are lap-dancing robots in Berlin. There are three lap-dancing robots, and so of course I had to search them out and see, and I don’t know about the AI, but what robots are capable of is a lot more advanced than I thought it was. And we’re just seeing what’s out there, so who knows what’s being done behind closed doors. … I know the flavor of the month is to be dreading this, and thinking that it’s terrifying, but I tend to run around with rose-colored glasses on, and if they are that smart—I mean, the whole thing with Chappie to me is how humane he is, despite the fact that he isn’t human, and I would like to believe that if there is this superior intelligence, that behaving humanely would be a more intelligent way to be.”

Terri Tatchell on rappers Ninja and Yo-Landi:

“We wrote [the characters] as them, right from the get-go. When Neill first pitched me the idea, it was Ninja and Yo-Landi. So it’s always been them. … The first time I met Ninja and Yo-Landi was when they were playing in Vancouver at the Commodore, and we watched the show, and then we went backstage to meet them, and I’d heard that they had ‘D9′ [for District 9] tattooed in their lips, and I saw that, yeah, they did have D9 in their lips. But someone told me since then that if you get a tattoo in your lip, it’s not forever, that the tissue in your lip pushes the ink out—or whatever a tattoo is—so whether it’s still there or not I’m not sure. But Yo-Landi did get a ‘Chappie’ tattoo on her arm before the film was greenlit, and that added a little bit of pressure.”

Terri Tatchell on Neill Blomkamp:

“He’s an avid reader of anything science-based. He’s one of those guys that you can ask him about anything, and he knows the latest stats and the latest research. My daughter and I play a game of trying to find topics that we can throw at him where he won’t know something about the latest facts on it, and it’s tough. We’ll go to some female places to try to come up with some topics, and that’s about the only place we can win. … I think we got him with ovulation, something about ovulation.”

Terri Tatchell on swearing in her movies:

“Both my grandmas went to [District 9]. One of my grandmas is kind of deaf, so it was OK, she didn’t really know, but the other grandma was like, ‘Why did you have to have all that swearing in it?’ I was like, ‘That was Sharlto, grandma. He [improvised] all the swear words.’ But there’s a lot of swearing in this film too, and also Ninja and Yo-Landi decorated their own lair, and Ninja drew penises everywhere. So there’s penises all over their lair, and I’m just waiting for—my other grandma’s passed away, but the one that’s kind of deaf, she’s going to see those penises, so I’m not looking forward to that conversation at all.”