Monday, June 13, 2011

Debbie the crazy cat lady

This is the video that currently has the online world abuzz with speculation, in which “Debbie”, filming a video for a dating website, breaks down and cries because she just loves cats and can’t get enough of them.

The report in the UK’s Sun is typical of the kind of speculation currently making the rounds. Having described in detail the entire plot of the video, the paper admits that “some viewers have speculated it’s all an elaborate hoax”.

Well, let me just state quite categorically that this video is not “an elaborate hoax” or a “fake”. Neither is it a genuine bio for a dating site. Journalists are becoming increasingly lazy these days, it seems, and not bothering with any real research — odd, considering that these days, research can be a matter of a few mouse clicks and a bit of common sense. But this does represent an interesting departure from the norm: while the Sun has clearly missed the point, the Daily Mail actually gets surprisingly close.

The video was uploaded by somebody calling herself “hartmanncara”, and it takes a second or two to just click through to her YouTube channel profile page, where she lists her name as “Cara”. There is also another video up, which is clearly by the same young woman, this time pretending to be cojoined twins called Cara and Kara. The point here is that the “cat lady” video hasn’t been downloaded from an eHarmony profile and re-uploaded to YouTube by somebody else: it was uploaded to YouTube by the person who made it and appears in it. Who, presumably, is called Cara Hartmann.

She has now added links to her Facebook fan page, where she is listed as an “entertainer”, and her Tumblr page, which includes such stories as Rosie O’Donnell discovering that what she thought was breast cancer was actually a baked potato. Granted, those links might not have been on her YouTube profile before she became famous, but even without them everything pointed to “Debbie” being fictional.

Finally, of course, Cara (as we must assume she is called in real life) is also on Twitter as @hartmanncara (the same username as on YouTube, not hard to find), where she says nothing at all about cats, but does talk about going viral.

It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to discover all of this, which is one reason I don’t think it’s an elaborate hoax. It’s certainly not elaborate by anyone’s reckoning. And calling it a “hoax” or a “fake” implies that Cara was deliberately trying to deceive us. I don’t think that at all: there’s no real attempt made to hide her real identity (unless this is an incredibly elaborate double bluff). I think it’s a young lady with the talent to amuse just having a bit of fun, and almost certainly never expected the video to go viral. It’s well-acted, but it is so clearly a parody, it’s hard to understand why anyone would take it seriously in the first place, or why anyone would be so disappointed to discover that it’s a complete fiction from start to finish.

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