If you grew up in the ’90s, of course you remember Scrumpy Buddies. Right? Who doesn’t?
What about wasting hour after hour playing Junky Town online? Or obsessing over the epic season finale of Angie’s Ghost, like every other ’90s kid?
These priceless memories, plus 19 other equally radical pieces of nostalgia, are all items on a recent BuzzFeed listicle titled ‟22 Amazing Things Only A 90s Kid Would Understand.” There’s nothing particularly remarkable about the story. BuzzFeed, after all, has built a vast, profitable online media empire atop of a endlessly churning sea of nostalgic ’90s-throwback content that’s virtually identical to this list.
Except nothing in this article, except for maybe the spork and the extremely obscure cartoon hero Marshall Bravestarr, is real. It’s the work of a BuzzFeed Community writer who calls himself Spacedog Escargot. It’s a half-spoof, half-homage to the image-driven listicles that drive the majority of BuzzFeed’s traffic (last year’s “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity” now has 14 million views).
Lots of folks have criticized BuzzFeed’s technique of forming a narrative out of random images gathered from Reddit and Tumblr, but the traffic speaks for itself. According to Quantcast, BuzzFeed brings in about 110 million monthly unique visitors globally; it’s the 176th most popular site in the world. Meaning it’s ripe for parody.
Spacedog’s other falsity-packed listicles include “9 Reasons Why 1544 Was The Most Balls-Out Crazy Year In The History Of Ever,” “13 ‛Healthy’ Foods That You Will Never Eat Again,” and “The 9 Most Balls-Out Hilarious ‘Anchorman’ Quotes (That You Probably Missed).” You can see it as a window into the psychology behind the site’s success. Or you can just see it as dumb.
If you skim these articles, you might not notice anything suspicious. Everything in them is close enough to reality to possibly be true. Maybe Nostradamus’s first prophecy, made in 1544, was actually predicting the faking of the moon landing:
The twilight of an era brings a new power / telling a tale of its envoy in the heavens / and the world of man will believe this illusion / and fail to see the heavens are in fact crashing down.
Maybe heating olive oil does create enzymes called heptid, which are linked to high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. It sounds plausible enough, right?
BuzzFeed Community isn’t official BuzzFeed content, although sometimes it’s hard to tell. Community is an odd mélange of controversial marketing, sheer absurdity, and valiant listicle attempts from BuzzFeed-writer hopefuls. All the content on the site is BuzzFeed-approved—even the content that mocks BuzzFeed itself. “After thinking about it more, we updated our policy to be more permissive of negative posts—media criticism, really—as long as they are about BuzzFeed and not other community members,” wrote Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith.
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t trust everything you read on the Internet, especially when it’s filling in the space between GIFs of The Hills.
Often, BuzzFeed itself is the best, smartest, funniest BuzzFeed spoof. So the question remains: Can any intentional act of satire ever be as effective as the self-parody of straight-faced articles like ‟13 Potatoes That Look Like Channing Tatum” or ‟The Story of Egypt’s Revolution In ‛Jurassic Park’ GIFs”?
Correction: Marshall Bravestarr, a cartoon heroes mentioned in one of the BuzzFeed lists, is in fact real. We regret the error.