2023's Wildest Internet Stunts
By Ivan Guzman and Tobias HessDec 28, 2023
If 2021 was the year of pandemic malaise and 2022 the year of our tepid freedom, then 2023 was the year of the stunt. 2023 wasn’t quite the beginning of the roaring ‘20s that so many of us yearned for while trapped inside our COVID bubbles, but the year did mark a return to sheer audacity and all-out chaos. This chaos was undergirded by a verifiably new internet. With TikTok here to stay, a new owner and name for Twitter (RIP), and the popularization of AI, all of the rules of our bygone eras were thrown out this window.
All decorum, pleasantries and truth itself thrown by the wayside, it became incumbent on hustling celebs and influencers to put it all on the line to get some coin and followers. Lil Tay faking her death. A criminally horny gay senate staffer. Pinky Doll. In a year of unparalleled cynicism and boundless greed, it’s hard to narrow down the year’s biggest moments of narcissistic extremes. But we are here to try.
When leaked footage of Senate staffer Aidan Maese-Czeropski dropped, depicting the young politico bent over in the Senate hearing room, receiving what can only be described as a flag pole-sized appendage, the collective gay internet shrieked in dread and giddy excitement. Now it is no surprise that gay men are out here doing the absolute most for no reason other than hedonism and hubris, but every gay guy should also know the cardinal rule: trust nobody, especially fellow homosexuals! Aidan, you posted about your rendezvous on your Close Friends and you have the audacity to assume these craven DC gay guys will not immediately share this with the entire nation? These men went to Georgetown! They believe in nothing! Oh, Aidan... sweetie. I can forgive some public play, but I cannot forgive the ignorance! All judgement aside, this is undoubtedly one of the biggest stunts of 2023, even if it will require Aidan to report to Twink Jail for 40 days. Oh, and Aidan, if I have your attention, see you next year? I have some questions and a job at a magazine!
If AI edits and ChatGPT’s creeping sentience didn’t give you the unnerving sense that we’re in a particularly bad episode of Black Mirror, then the surrealist performance of TikTok streamer Pinky Doll probably didn’t help. I’m not sure how the Montreal-based literal mother, whose real name is Fedha Sinon, figured out that pretending to be an NPC (non-playable character) was sure to be digital gold, but it seems like the whole internet just could not get enough of her this year. Responding to TikTok gifts with a complex language of responses (“yes, yes, yes,” “so good!”, licking an imaginary ice cream cone, ”ice cream so good”), Pinky Doll made more money than God and even showed us a new way to make popcorn (kernels between a hair straightener). Performing thoughtless acts for money is a gig as old as time, but 2023 surely showed one new way to do it. A stunt with staying power: welcome to late capitalism, baby!
Yum Ice cream so good 🍦 #viral #pinkydoll #fyp #pourtoipage #foryoupage #Pinkydoll #ptp #fashionnova #icecreamsogood #queennpc #queen
There was dark magic afoot on the set of Wicked. Pop star Ariana Grande, set to play Glinda the Good Witch in the upcoming movie adaptation, found herself to be the Bad Witch in the eyes of the internet after having an alleged on-set affair with her castmate Ethan Slater, Broadway’s former SpongeBob. Slater, who was married at the time and had just had a baby, became subject to outrage and ridicule, both for his possible infidelity and for being, dare I say, a seemingly weird nerd. As someone who has historically dated weird nerds, I say: “I see you, Ari.” And as someone who doesn’t judge nor care about people I don’t know, I say, very simply: wow, the gaul of theater kids persists! Points for chutzpah and wishing you all the best!
If the 2010s were the decade of the notes app apology, will the 2020s be the time of the ukulele apology? Colleen Ballinger, AKA Miranda Sings, reeling from reports of grooming her adolescent fans, responded to these accusations, not with refutation, but by singing a strangely simmering song with some help from her handy ukulele. “Toxic Gossip Train” — immediately iconic — was inscrutable, unsettling, ballsy, and genuinely scary. As she ridiculed the proverbial train that has smeared her, she also smiled through it and gave us one of the most puzzling and catchy internet anthems of recent history. While I fear Miss Ballinger, I have to say: she seems to have no shame and is unafraid to face the darkness of internet cancellation with sheer boundless, attention-seeking cynicism. It’s what our dystopia deserves.
Lil Tay’s thing has always been a little sketchy. It’s hard to believe that the viral internet star and self-proclaimed “youngest flexer of the century” first entered the chronically online consciousness five years ago at just nine years old, flaunting her wealth and cussing out haters in luxury cars and suspiciously empty mansions. After a few years of radio silence following an alleged custody battle between her emotionally abusive dad and real estate agent mom, she re-entered the hivemind again in August this year with a statement declaring her “sudden and tragic” passing. Her Instagram was “hacked,” she says, and the following month a glowing Lil Tay was resurrected as a full-fledged pop star with “Sucker 4 Green.” And to be honest, the song isn’t bad. If Dua Lipa is flatlining, at least Lil Tay is giving us something to talk about while still serving that disco-pop sound. All I can say is, she knows what she’s doing.
Congress confirmed that UFOs are “in our airspace.” Those hilarious photos of mummified alien corpses were touted as real by the Mexican Congress. There was even that one chilling story of nine-foot aliens crashing into a Las Vegas family’s home and looking through their windows. The beings got a total rebrand and, amid increased public excitement and public objects flying through our skies (Chinese spy balloon, anyone?), seem closer than ever. Personally, I’m down to clown with the aliens. Like a lot of other things this year, they really challenged our ideas of what is real and what’s not. And honestly, their quasi-confirmed existence isn’t even the wildest thing to challenge humanity in the past 365 days.
Photo via Architect of the Capitol/Getty