Often times I find myself in the position of trying to explain pop culture to some theoretical Rip Van Winkle who had fallen asleep some twenty or thirty years ago. For example, Rick Astley and Rickrolling, and the humor of it, would be hard to explain to someone in 1990.
And such it is with the Bed Intruder Song, which is fairly complicated to explain even to a modern day, internet-savvy person. And the explanation might fall on deaf ears, since the song turns out as quite different than its ingredients would suggest.
The story begins in late July of 2010, in Huntsville, Alabama. A home intruder climbed into a second story window in a housing project, and attempted to rape a young woman. The woman's brother, Antoine Dodson, fought off the intruder. He was soon after interviewed by the local television station, and gave a rather colorful interview. The clip of him speaking made its way around the internet, and before long was taken up by Autotune the News, an internet program where autotuning is used to turn speaking into music. And from that, "The Bed Intruder Song", a song that consisted of the electronic alteration of a man's denunciation of his sister's attempted rapist, entered the internet's consciousness.
If you haven't seen or heard the song, you are perhaps thinking what I was thinking before I did so: "how bizarre and tasteless can the internet be?". But for several reasons, some explainable, some not, the song does not come off as tasteless or exploitive. Some people have objected that it is, for several reasons. One of the foremost being that Antoine Dodson is black, and homosexual. Thus, taking his attitude and exaggerating it could be seen as a mockery of both of these traits. On top of this, he has just been through a traumatic experience, and making a music video of someone who has just survived a home invasion could be seen as extremely insensitive.
However, one of the reasons that it works so well is that Antoine Dodson is making it clear that, as the cliche goes, he is not a victim. In fact, in his aggressive, even flamboyant delivery, he actually reverses the role. "You don't have to come and confess: we gon find you." While some initial responses to the interview were that it showed poor black people in a bad light, Dodson's interview has nothing objectionable in it. He is not drunk, insane, or spewing profanity. He is just very upset, and determined. All it has is some slang and some unusual delivery. I think what some people might object to is the fact that the crime of rape is not being addressed with hand wringing shame. This isn't to say that Dodson and his family aren't hurt, just that they refuse to treat the act as some matter of personal shame. Some of the usual responses are reversed, which is why it was possible to make an upbeat, viral video out of something that on the face of it seems so ugly.
And as a happy coda, Dodson used some of the profits from the video, as well as from selling t-shirts with his catch phrases, to move his family out of the projects.