Weasels riding woodpeckers, identical strangers and that dress – why are the digital world’s most shareable items so odd?
The most famous people in 2015 weren’t just Donald Trump, Taylor Swift or Pope Francis, they were also a Birmingham dress designer, a college student from New York and a hobby photographer from Essex – but you probably don’t even know their names.
They are the people who went viral this year.
Why You Always Lying? is a Vine and an Instagram video by Nicholas Fraser about that mate who always cancels at the last minute, or that friend who brags about their designer gear. It lasts just a few seconds, of Fraser dancing in his back yard, replacing the lyrics to the chorus of Next’s Too Close with “why the fuck you lying? / why you always lying?”.
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The vine has 52m loops and counting, and a screen grab of his smile in the video has become a symbol for when you you want someone to “stop lying”.
The 21-year-old college student, who lives in Queens, New York, said he had trouble explaining to his parents how his grin had spawned its own meme.
“It felt so fake, I didn’t even know how to feel,” he told the Guardian of his Vine’s ubiquity. “I’ve never seen anything like that. My mom didn’t think it was real until I explained it to her.
“I’ve been offered multiple TV and movie appearances, as well as interviews. My dad just told me to be careful with whatever comes from this.
“My biggest ambition is to continue to make people laugh; I’ve seen the impact laughter has, as you can see by what I did, laughter brings people together from all backgrounds. I’m glad I can be the cause of that laughter.”
One of the most shared pictures of 2015 was a weasel hitching a ride on the back of a woodpecker in flight – the work of an amateur photographer from Essex.
Martin Le-May took the image during a walk with his wife, Ann, at Hornchurch country park in east London.
His wife had been eager to try to spot a green woodpecker, he said. Using binoculars, both spotted one of the birds, but noticed it was squawking and making odd jerking movements.
The tale is not one of two woodland pals, a friendly woodpecker giving his weasely friend a lift. The weasel had attacked the woodpecker, which took off in panic.
“I heard a distressed squawking noise and feared the worst,” Le-May told BBC News. “I soon realised it was a woodpecker with some kind of small mammal on its back. I think we may have distracted the weasel as when the woodpecker landed it managed to escape and the weasel ran into the grass.”
Le-May told photography website Wex Photographic his original tweet had over 19m impressions, and was retweeted by singer Katy Perry and rapper Neyo. Many later suggested the picture was photoshopped, but Le-May published a series of blurrier prints taken in sequence which also captured the weasel on the back of the woodpecker.
“A naturalist in the States thought they were fake and actually suggested they look like two stuffed animals,” Le-May said. “I went back to him with a couple of the other photographs, where you can see it’s out of focus but you can still see the weasel and the woodpecker in a different position, and he then did tweet that he thought they were real. So if it’s good enough for him, I assume it’s good enough for most people!”
The picture was also humorously photoshopped numerous times, including one showing a topless Vladimir Putin riding the weasel riding the woodpecker.
A week before the wedding of Grace and Keir Johnston, Grace’s mother, Cecilia Bleasdale, texted her daughter some options of dresses she planned to wear. Grace replied that she liked “the white and gold one”, which confused her mother.
Surely the dress was blue and black? Bleasdale’s partner Paul Jinks agreed the dress was blue and black. So Grace decided to settle the matter by posting it on Facebook, asking what colour friends thought the dress was.
A friend, Caitlin McNeill, was similarly confused and reposted the picture to Tumblr. And it became the biggest viral phenomenon of 2015. Hashtags related to the dress – #thedress, #whiteandgold, #blueandblack and #dressgate – trended for days.
The first Buzzfeed article about the dress received more than 38m hits. Celebrities joined the debate, with Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato and Kanye West seeing it as blue and black, while West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, said she saw white and gold, as did Julianne Moore and Katy Perry.
Roman Originals, who made the dress, sold out of the blue and black version within 30 minutes. One Texan man even got a tattoo of the dress.
After the viral fame, Bleasdale engaged solicitors to chase up royalty payments for her photo of the dress, though the money received so far has not yet paid off the solicitors’ fees. It caused a brief falling out with her daughter, though both are on better terms now.
Bleasdale wore the dress to her daughter’s wedding on 21 February, and hasn’t worn it since. “Should it be on display somewhere?” Bleasdale said in an interview with the Guardian. “Should it be in a vault or whatever? It’s still got sweaty marks on, though. It needs a clean.” At one stage, they were in talks to auction it and split the proceeds with a charity “but that never really took off”.
Neil Thomas Douglas, a 32-year-old photographer from Glasgow, was travelling to Galway via Stansted one night when he saw there was a man sat in his assigned seat. A man who looked like his exact double.
Guy on right is the husband of my friend @elrottencrotch. Guy on left is a STRANGER he met on a flight last night! pic.twitter.com/kwBFOOEoMc
That man was Robert Stirling, 35, who was going to Galway for a holiday with friends, in the same town Douglas was also heading to for a wedding shoot. Things got even weirder – both were booked into the town’s Jury’s Inn hotel, and bumped into each other again at a pub called the Quays.
On the plane on the way home, Lee Beattie, director of Wire Media and a friend of Douglas, posted the selfie the men took together. “Guy on right is the husband of my friend. Guy on left is a STRANGER he met on a flight last night!” she tweeted. “I can’t stop looking at it. They are the same man.”
The tweet has been shared more than 23,000 times and the pair have made appearances on several TV shows, though when they are standing, they have a considerable height difference.
Horrified commuters on the New York subway spotted a rat attempting to carry a slice of pizza almost double its size down a stairway in September. One whipped out his camera to film a 14-second clip of the rat, as a man shouts at the industrious rodent “live your best life!”.
Matt Little, the comedian who shot the video at First Avenue station, told the New York Post the rat had already got the pizza down numerous steps before he whipped out his phone to record it.
“I think what happened was it was a late-night meal and at some point he had to weigh, was it worth taking this home, with all those calories? You know, like we all do,” Little said. His YouTube video has more than 8m views.
Pizza Rat became a huge internet meme – and an allegory for perseverance in the face of extreme obstacles.
CONCRETE JUNGLE WHERE PIZZA RAT'S DREAMS ARE MADE OF THERES NOTHING IT CANT DO
It's no surprise to me that every freelance writer I know is captivated by pizza rat because that rat is basically a metaphor for who we are
Pizza Rat is a better NYC ambassador than Taylor Swift 🍕🐭🍕