USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘digital’
Digital
Narrative

The Story of “Kevin”

On Reddit, which is a message board type website, one of the most popular subreddits is one called /r/AskReddit, where users ask questions for all of Reddit to answer. One of the most popular stories to originate out of /r/AskReddit, and became a Reddit inside joke, is the story of “Kevin”. The story of Kevin came out of an AskReddit thread asking teachers about their most memorable student. Below is the original post, and below that I talk to my friend Will, who shares funny and interesting things he finds on Reddit with me, about Kevin.

“It’s not uncommon as a teacher to have students who are a bit behind the curve in certain aspects, but 99.99999% of the time they are keen on something. They might not understand how to identify a noun or what theme is, but they somehow know how to make a mean plate of nachos. You learn pretty quick to not judge fish for their tree climbing ability, ya know?

I thought this was the rule when I was teaching until I met Kevin. Kevin isn’t his real name, but it doesn’t matter because he can’t spell it anyway. Kevin was a student of mine during my last year of teaching. He came to my classroom with very little to show for his academic past. He had moved a few times and thus was missing a lot of typical test scores that we use to try and ballpark their ability (Don’t worry, it was a ballpark…..we didn’t make major decisions until we actually had a chance to talk and work with a student for a bit.) I thought “That’s fine. I’ll just do some one-on-one with Kevin and see what’s up” One on One with kevin was like conversing with someone who’d forgotten everything in a freak, if not impossible, amnesia incident. There was no evidence that he had learned anything past the 2nd grade….and now he was in 9th grade. Flabbergasted, I figured we needed to get more serious with this. If he was going to be in my class, I needed to know why and how.

I decided to meet with him, his guidance counselor, his parents, and another teacher to see what was really going on. This is where it all became clear. It was by some incredible fluke that his family hadn’t been wiped off the face of the Earth years ago. Odds are his entire heritage was based on blind luck and some type of sick divine intervention that saves his family every time a threat presents itself. Kevin was the genetic pinnacle of this null achievement. Even my instructional lead, a woman who could find a redeeming trait in a Balrog, failed to see any reason this kid or his family should be alive today.

So here’s a list of events that made it abundantly clear that god exists and he’s laughing uncontrollably:

Kevin frequently forgot when/where class was. On more than one occasion, I had to retrieve him from other classrooms.

Kevin ate an entire 24 pack of crayons, puked, and then did it again the next day. This is 9th grade. I have no idea where he got crayons.

Kevin’s dad wrote tuition checks and mailed them to me…his English teacher. This was a public school. When I gave it back to Kevin, voided, to give to his dad with a brief note explaining that this is a public school, Kevin got in trouble for trying to spend it at 711 after school.

Kevin was removed from the culinary arts program after leaving a cutting board on the gas stove and starting a fire….twice

Kevin threw his lunch at the School Resource Officer and tried to run away. He ran into a door and insisted it wasn’t him.

Kevin stole my phone during class. I called it. It rang. He denied that it was ringing. (Not that it wasn’t his, not that he did it…..no, he denied that the phone was actually ringing). He tried it three times before the end of the year.

Kevin called the basketball coach a “Motherfucking Bitch” during gym. Basketball tryouts were that afternoon. Kevin tried out. It didn’t go well.

Kevin’s mom could never remember which school he went to. She missed several meetings because she drove to other schools (none of which he ever went to)

Kevin tazed himself in the neck before a football game

Kevin kept a bottle of orange koolaide in his backpack for about 4 months. He thought it would turn into alcohol. He drank it during homeroom and threw up.

Kevin say the N-word a lot. Kevin was white. The highschool was 84% black. Kevin got beat up a lot.

Kevin stole another student’s Iphone….and tried to sell it back to them.

Kevin didn’t understand that his grade was dependent on tests, quizzes, homework, classwork, and participation. Kevin finished his first semester with a 3% average. He tried to bribe me with $11.

Kevin spit on a girl and said “You should get out of those wet clothes”. The girl was the Spanish Student Teacher.

Kevin didn’t know dogs and cats were different animals.

Kevin tried to download porn onto a computer in the library…..at the circulation desk….while he was logged on.

Kevin asked a girl to prom (he was in 9th grade and freshmen don’t go to prom) by asking for her phone number and then texting her his address

Kevin got gum in his hair, constantly.

Kevin regularly tried to cheat on assignments by knocking the pile over, grabbing one before I had picked them all up, and then writing it name on it wherever there was room.

Kevin had several allergies, but neither his parents nor he could remember what they were. They were very concerned that “the holiday party” (it’s high school, we don’t have those) would have peanuts. When they finally got a doctor’s note….he was allergic to amoxicillin

Kevin and his parents took a trip to Nassau (how the fuck did they even get airline tickets?) and forgot all their luggage at home. I didn’t believe him when he told me until I talked to him mom, who told me 1st thing when I saw her at the bi-weekly meeting.

Kevin’s grandfather apparently died in a chainsaw accident. I can only assume God was looking the other way that day.”

Will: Which one are we talking about next.

Me: Kevin.

Will: Oh fuck, yes!

Me: So, Will, thoughts…

Will: How the fuck is that kid alive?

Me: [laughs] I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me why you like this story?

Will: Isn’t it obvious? It’s probably one of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard in my life. The things this kid did, and the way the guy wrote it.

Me: You know, there are some people on Reddit that think it was made up.

Will: No. No. Everything that was written that kid did. I mean, how did that guy come up with some of the shit he did? You’re a screenwriter. Could you think of that stuff?

Me: Kevin is what I like to call a ‘gift from God’, because everything he does it gold and it makes writing easier. You are frustrated though, because you wish you could come up with that kind of stuff.

Will: But you can’t, because if you did you’d be just as dumb as Kevin.

Me: So do you think Kevin was just dumb?

Will: Yes. Extremely.

Me: I feel bad for him.

Will: Why?

Me: I mean, that’s his life, right? He has to be Kevin all his life. What’s he going to do?

Will: Ignorance is bliss, dude.

Me: Yeah, I guess you’re right.

I’m always interested in this story because it always gets two different reactions: people either think the story of Kevin is real, or they think whoever wrote it is just a really creative writer. As mentioned above, Will believes Kevin is a real person, and in a way I do as well. I think Will might believe in Kevin because in a way he likes to think that a person like that can exist. I think we’ve all met somebody who was a bit of a “Kevin”, and it’s nice to be able to put a name to that kind of person.

Digital
Narrative

“The Smiling Man”

The following is a story my friend Will sent to me that he found on Reddit. The subreddit, a small community of people interested in a similar subject, he found this on was called /r/nosleep, where people write their own scary stories and share them with people around the world. He sends me a couple that he enjoyed, and he said this was his favorite. Down below after the story, I ask him about why he likes this story. The story is titled “The Smiling Man”.

“About five years ago I lived downtown in a major city in the US. I’ve always been a night person, so I would often find myself bored after my roommate, who was decidedly not a night person, went to sleep. To pass the time, I used to go for long walks and spend the time thinking.

I spent four years like that, walking alone at night, and never once had a reason to feel afraid. I always used to joke with my roommate that even the drug dealers in the city were polite. But all of that changed in just a few minutes of one evening.

It was a Wednesday, somewhere between one and two in the morning, and I was walking near a police patrolled park quite a ways from my apartment. It was a quiet night, even for a week night, with very little traffic and almost no one on foot. The park, as it was most nights, was completely empty.

I turned down a short side street in order to loop back to my apartment when I first noticed him. At the far end of the street, on my side, was the silhouette of a man, dancing. It was a strange dance, similar to a waltz, but he finished each “box” with an odd forward stride. I guess you could say he was dance-walking, headed straight for me.

Deciding he was probably drunk, I stepped as close as I could to the road to give him the majority of the sidewalk to pass me by. The closer he got, the more I realized how gracefully he was moving. He was very tall and lanky, and wearing an old suit. He danced closer still, until I could make out his face. His eyes were open wide and wild, head tilted back slightly, looking off at the sky. His mouth was formed in a painfully wide cartoon of a smile. Between the eyes and the smile, I decided to cross the street before he danced any closer.

I took my eyes off of him to cross the empty street. As I reached the other side, I glanced back… and then stopped dead in my tracks. He had stopped dancing and was standing with one foot in the street, perfectly parallel to me. He was facing me but still looking skyward. Smile still wide on his lips.

I was completely and utterly unnerved by this. I started walking again, but kept my eyes on the man. He didn’t move. Once I had put about half a block between us, I turned away from him for a moment to watch the sidewalk in front of me. The street and sidewalk ahead of me were completely empty. Still unnerved, I looked back to where he had been standing to find him gone. For the briefest of moments I felt relieved, until I noticed him. He had crossed the street, and was now slightly crouched down. I couldn’t tell for sure due to the distance and the shadows, but I was certain he was facing me. I had looked away from him for no more than 10 seconds, so it was clear that he had moved fast.

I was so shocked that I stood there for some time, staring at him. And then he started moving toward me again. He took giant, exaggerated tip toed steps, as if he were a cartoon character sneaking up on someone. Except he was moving very, very quickly.

I’d like to say at this point I ran away or pulled out my pepper spray or my cellphone or anything at all, but I didn’t. I just stood there, completely frozen as the smiling man crept toward me.

And then he stopped again, about a car length away from me. Still smiling his smile, still looking to the sky.

When I finally found my voice, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. What I meant to ask was, “What the fuck do you want?!” in an angry, commanding tone. What came out was a whimper, “What the fuu…?”

Regardless of whether or not humans can smell fear, they can certainly hear it. I heard it in my own voice, and that only made me more afraid. But he didn’t react to it at all. He just stood there, smiling.

And then, after what felt like forever, he turned around, very slowly, and started dance-walking away. Just like that. Not wanting to turn my back to him again, I just watched him go, until he was far enough away to almost be out of sight. And then I realized something. He wasn’t moving away anymore, nor was he dancing. I watched in horror as the distant shape of him grew larger and larger. He was coming back my way. And this time he was running.

I ran too.

I ran until I was off of the side road and back onto a better lit road with sparse traffic. Looking behind me then, he was nowhere to be found. The rest of the way home, I kept glancing over my shoulder, always expecting to see his stupid smile, but he was never there.

I lived in that city for six months after that night, and I never went out for another walk. There was something about his face that always haunted me. He didn’t look drunk; he didn’t look high. He looked completely and utterly insane. And that’s a very, very scary thing to see.”

Me: So, Will.

Will: Can I curse in this?

Me: Yeah, man. Just be yourself.

Will: Yeah, but how much of myself?

Me: Like 25%.

Will: [laughs] Okay.

Me: So, “The Smiling Man”. Where’d you first find this story?

Will: I think I first read it, maybe in 2013? I was a junior, and it was before Cass and I started dating, so I had a fuck ton of free time. I started binge reading the nosleep subreddit, and this was the one that always stuck in my mind.

Me: Why?

Will: It’s scary as fuck, dude. I think it was because I always loved the idea of going out on walks by myself at night. They always seemed so peaceful. Then I read this story and was like “I’m Audi!” [Audi is how Will says “I’m out”]

Me: So when you walk to Subway do you get scared you’ll see that Smiling Man?

Will: If I do I’ll just kick him. You’ve seen my sweet kicks.

[Will then demonstrated to me how high he can kick. He cannot kick very high.]

Me: So, do you tell this story to people?

Will: Yeah. I went camping with a few friends last summer and I told them this story.

Me: Did they think it was scary?

Will: Not really. Cass did though.

Me: I was going to ask you what you would do if you ran into The Smiling Man, but I guess you already…

[Will demonstrates his kicks for me again]

Me: I’m not putting this in the report. [I did.]

I can completely understand why Will likes this story. As he said, he has always liked the idea of going out for walks at night, and for as long as I’ve known him he still does. I think this story was a bit of a warning to Will: not that he was going to run into “The Smiling Man”, but just about the dangers of walking alone. This might be while he was so affected by the story and likes it so much. In a weird way, he can see this having happened to him.

Digital
Game
Humor

Deez Nuts

The “Deez Nuts” cyber-lore is an internet sensation found in video and meme formats throughout the internet and social media. People began mashing up videos using a segment of an Instagram video in which a black man in the video prank calls someone and answers “Deez Nuts!” when the person on the other line asks who is calling.

 

“I saw it from Instagram, everybody made like, different memes and videos about it. My friend sent me a survey about it and said it was for class and when I opened it…it was just talkin about, bout deez nuts. *giggles*”

 

My informant encountered the mash-up in a different format than usual, having been introduced to it through a survey and not an Instagram video. One of her friends sent her a link to https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/9NDGKP6 after he had told her to take a survey for class, which she proceeded to open only to find out that it wasn’t actually a class survey, but a meme with the text “Deez Nuts”.

 

Analysis: When looking at this piece of cyberlore, I found that it is used primarily as a means of playing a practical joke. Though the video itself may not be particularly funny on its own, when used in a context that “pranks” other people, the pranksters and the pranked find the scenario funny because they “got someone” by getting them to open something seemingly important, only to find out that the only message is that they’ve found “Deez Nuts”. I also thought it was interesting the way that thus particular cyberlore spread and evolved. The “Deez Nuts” reference can be found in a variety of different formats, from video, to memes, to quizzes, which hints at how quickly and easily things can become varied and spread on the internet.

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