It’s not everyday you meet a mother who’s proud when her son is called a scumbag.
Then again, Susan Boston’s son, Blake, is no ordinary scumbag.
He’s Scumbag Steve, the inspiration for the ubiquitous image macro used to describe that guy who habitually owes you money, wants to borrow your car, and drinks the last beer. And she’s at least partly responsible for the 22-year-old’s Internet fame. The photo from which the Scumbag Steve meme derives was one she took and posted online seven years ago. She had no idea that total strangers would—or even could—re-appropriate the image for laughs.
“I felt like I took a crash course in online culture when Blake first discovered the scumbag steve meme,” she told the Daily Dot, with a distinct Boston accent.
“I really don’t think I would have been able to handle my picture portraying a scumbag posted around the world with such humor and nonchalance.”
Slowly but surely, the rest of his adopted family is learning to laugh at the meme as well.
“My 88 and 83-year-old parents are fine with it,” Susan Boston said. “They get it believe it or not.”
That wasn’t always the case.
Last year Susan Boston was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying, “I could no longer protect my son.” Boston claims she was misquoted when she said the photos made her sick, though at the time the meme had a far more negative effect on the family.
“I still have family members who think we can control the meme. They think if we had just ignored it, it would have disappeared. I don’t know if they understand the scope of memes. It’s really hard to explain memes and ‘going viral’ to someone who’s not so familiar with the Internet.”
Boston, 55, is certainly more hip to the ways of the Web now than most suburban Massachusetts moms might be. She’s an active redditor and on Twitter. In fact, if you tweet a Scumbag Steve meme at @BlakeBoston617 and Blake isn’t around, it might be her who uses the handle to reply.
A woman with a big personality and silvery blonde hair tied back, Boston overflows with maternal pride. At the recent ROFLcon, a Web culture convention, she praised Blake to this reporter so bombastically that the two of us were asked to leave a panel.
“He’s always liked performing,” she told me. “He doesn’t have a shy bone in his body. When he was three, we were at a concert and we were in the front row. Blake ran and climbed onto the stage and stood there swaying to the music. The whole crowd loved it.”
Boston said that since Blake’s an adult, she doesn’t have a role in managing his career, though the family—her husband Stephen Boston and 23-year-old daughter Patsy—was filmed by MTV last year for a potential pilot, and they do draw looks in public.
“When we go places and he’s recognized, it’s funny,” she said. “Of course I sometimes get weirded out when I see someone sneaking a picture. I’m a redditor so I know what can happen when someone posts a picture.”
And sometimes, she admits, “the mom in me” still comes out when she sees people spreading untruths about her son online.
“I want to take out a billboard and say, you all who think you know… don’t,” she said. “How can you have such disdain for someone you’ve never met? Try and reflect a bit and think about what you write, and who you judge. Blake just laughs it off.”
And he uses it to fuel his brand. Most recently, he launched Scumbag Thursdays, a weekly series of rap videos on YouTube. This week’s installment is a bit “embarrassing” for his mom to listen to, but she justifies it saying, “the sexual element just goes along with rap.”
Blake continues to amaze his mom every day, through both his musical pursuits and his simple inability not to get beat down by being called “scumbag” everywhere he goes.
“I guess he’s always been that kid.”
Photos via Susan Boston