News



August 19, 2010, 4:39 pm

‘Bed Intruder’ Rant Earns Family a New Home

Updated | 7:46 p.m. It began with unlikely fodder for music, comedy or pop culture stardom: a local news report about an attempted rape. But then the victim’s brother stepped before the camera and delivered a lecture to the stranger who had tried to attack his sister one night last month in Huntsville, Ala., that somehow managed to be both deeply angry and oddly compelling.

Within hours a viral video franchise was born when a copy of that report, about the intruder found in Kelly Dodson’s bed, and her brother Antoine’s reaction, was posted on YouTube and quickly shot up the viral video charts.

Soon enough Mr. Dodson’s warnings to Huntsville residents — “Well, obviously we have a rapist in Lincoln Park; he’s climbing in your windows, he’s snatching your people up, trying to rape ‘em, so you all need to hide your kids, hide your wife, and hide your husband ’cause they’re raping everybody out here” — racked up millions of views and attracted the attention of the Gregory Brothers, who transform news clips into songs for their popular “Auto-Tune the News” series.

That led to their reworking of Mr. Dodson’s rant as “The Bed Intruder Song,” which has now been seen more than 10 million times on YouTube and reached No. 3 on the iTunes R&B chart.

That song, in turn, has now spawned dozens of covers and remixes on YouTube, including this one, performed by a North Carolina A&T marching band:

What distinguishes this surprise hit from other viral videos is that its accidental star, Mr. Dodson, is sharing in all the profits from the auto-tuned version and hopes that his new fame could be a route out of the projects for his family.

In an interview with Wired about their hit, Evan Gregory said, “Antoine is participating in all of the revenue from the sale of anything we do [with the song], 50-50.” His brother, Michael, added:

We’re really breaking ‘unintentional singing’ ground, so we’re trying to set precedents by making it so that Antoine, or whoever that artist might be in the future, has a stake not only as an artist but as a co-author of the song. It’s like you said: He wrote the lyrics, he’s the one who put it out there. What we’re doing on iTunes and on any other sales, we’re splitting the revenue after it gets through Apple down the middle.

For his part, less than three weeks after the original report was broadcast, between media interviews, Mr. Dodson is now selling “Hide Yo’ Kids, Hide Yo’ Wife” T-shirts on Facebook, bantering with thousands of followers day and night on Twitter, asking visitors to his Web site to donate money to a “Help the Dodson Family” account on PayPal and responding to questions from his fans on YouTube:

While Mr. Dodson told ABC News this week that his sister’s attacker was still on the loose, he also said that he has made “a nice amount of money,” from his various new income streams: “enough to move my family from the projects.”

In a report on Mr. Dodson’s sudden Internet fame, the Huntsville television station that first put him before the public reported that some African-American viewers had called to complain that “interviews with people like Antoine reflects poorly on the community.” Jonathan Capehart of The Washington Post wrote that he understood that reaction, since “Dodson’s cringe-inducing performance was something I — and whole bunch of other folks — thought only existed in the comedic minds of Eddie Murphy and Tyler Perry.” But, Mr. Capehart argued, after reflection it seemed unfair to criticize Mr. Dodson for his spontaneous outburst or flamboyant manner:

[W]e must put aside our judgments and remember that we don’t know Dodson, his family or their story. Like millions of families across this country, the Dodsons appear to be proud people who are making their way the best they can. They crave security and comfort. And no matter where you live, when that sense of safety is shattered, you lash out. Fo’ real.

Update: Baratunde Thurston, The Onion’s Web editor, and a co-founder of the blog Jack and Jill Politics, which brings “a black bourgeoisie perspective” to discussions of American politics and culture told Andy Carvin of NPR that when he first saw the original news report on YouTube, “I thought it was amazing and embarrassing and hilarious and tragic. One of my commenters pointed out the Auto-Tune the News remix and I posted that as well with the same set of feelings.”

He added:

As the remix took off, I became increasingly uncomfortable with its separation from the underlying situation. A woman was sexually assaulted and her brother was rightfully upset. People online seemed to be laughing at him and not with him (because he wasn’t laughing), as Dodson fulfilled multiple stereotypes in one short news segment. Watching the wider Web jump on this meme, all but forgetting why Dodson was upset, seemed like a form of ‘class tourism.’ Folks with no exposure to the projects could dip their toes into YouTube and get a taste.


Recent Posts

August 20

The ‘Merchant of Death’ Diet Plan

Two years in a Thai prison might have little to recommend it to most people, but a stint behind bars might, at least, have helped Viktor Bout, accused of running guns to some unsavory customers, shed some pounds.

August 19

‘Bed Intruder’ Rant Earns Family a New Home

It began with unlikely fodder for music, comedy or pop culture stardom: a local news report about an attempted rape. But then the victim's brother stepped before the camera and a viral video franchise was born.

August 19

Bull Leaps Into Crowd at Spanish Ring

Dramatic video showed chaos at a bullring in northern Spain on Wednesday when a bull injured 40 people on after it jumped into the stands to attack the crowd.

August 18

Attempts to Tame Indus River Contributed to Disaster in Pakistan, Expert Says

A scholar has suggested that attempts to tame the Indus river, beginning during British rule in the nineteenth century, laid the foundations for the deadly floods that swept Pakistan this month.

August 18

U.S. Sends Muslim Center Imam to Arab World to Promote Religious Tolerance

On Thursday Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a sponsor of a planned Muslim center in Lower Manhattan, begins a mission from the United States government to promote religious tolerance in the Arab world.

About The Lede

The Lede is a news blog that remixes the day’s top stories, adding information gleaned from Web sites around the world or gathered through original reporting by writers, editors and readers of The New York Times, to provide fresh perspectives on events and to draw readers in to the world-wide conversation about the news taking place online.

Readers are encouraged to take part in the blogging by using the comments threads to suggest links to relevant material elsewhere on the Web or by submitting eyewitness accounts, photographs or video of news events. Read more.

About The Lede Blogger

Robert Mackey is The Lede's editor and main blogger. Read more.

Archive

Subscribe

Blogroll

Analysis, Features and Documentaries
Blogs
News Sites
News Video