If you haven’t yet seen Antoine Dodson, you absolutely have to. He became an internet sensation a few weeks back when he spoke to a TV news crew about an attempted rape on his sister. His comments, already poignant, were then remixed into a surprisingly catchy tune.
Here’s the original news report:
And the popular song:
I was amused, but hadn’t given it much more thought. Then I heard an interview with Dodson on NPR’s “Tell Me More.” He says people now stop him on the street and call him the “YouTube guy.” The makers of the remix have agreed to share what profits they make with him.
That’s about where the interview gets interesting. He sounds rather cartoonish in the news clip, but on NPR Dodson was surprisingly well spoken. While reconsidering my original opinion about him, host Allison Keyes began asking questions about the attack, about his difficult life (the 24-year-old is the oldest of six siblings), about getting out of the ’hood. What began as just a silly song transcended its original boundaries and touched on issues of race, poverty, sexual violence, family responsibility and controlling your image in a runaway media.
Dodson is deftly maneuvering the notoriety he received from the videos in an attempt to better his family’s life. “I said, Kelly, this could be an opportunity for our family to get out of the ‘hood,” he said. “I took it and I was running with it… and I’m still running with it.”
Keyes then spoke with “Tell Me More” technology commentator Mario Armstrong and comedian Baratunde Thurston about Dodson. They touched on the YouTube 15 minutes of fame paradox, but quickly moved to the other, more sensitive issues Dodson brought up earlier.
Race and controlling one’s media image:
When you look at you can see white people putting afro wigs on and do-rags and trying to talk like they think Antoine’s talking. It’s just highly uncomfortable. And for a lot of black people who I know, and many of others who I’ve read online, it was just a little too close to home for people who’ve never really had control of their media image, have always been defined by someone who wanted to paint a very specific, narrow picture of what black people are not, Antoine got a bit close to that for them. [Thurston]
A serious issue – an attempted rape – simplified to something funny:
But as Baratunde mentioned, I totally agree with him that the raw content, the raw issue, was being overpassed. I mean, it just wasn’t being seen for what the real issue was. It was transforming into something that he couldn’t even stop. He couldn’t stop the train and I think that’s what got people excited. And so I do think it comes down to people wanting to watch something that they think is funny, not something that they think is a real serious issue. [Armstrong]
Taking an opportunity to make a better life:
I have a lot of feelings about this video. But the more I have followed Antoine on Twitter and Facebook, the more admiration I have for him, because I think, collectively, if you want to make this about race and there’s also an element of sexuality in this. There’s a southern thing going on. There’s a lot of things happening in this story. But if you want to look at the race angle and the quote/unquote “embarrassment factor,” I think what he’s been able to do by grabbing control of his own mean and identity and really riding the wave and helping direct it and extract money from it and getting his family out of the ’hood, is the story that collectively many black people have not been able to do. [Thurston]
And you thought it was just a remix video.