The XX Factor

Is the “Rapin Urrbody” News Segment Funny or Exploitative? Or Both?

The latest comedic video to gain viral notoriety is a local news report on an attempted rape in Huntsville, Alabama. Hilarious, right?

Turns out it is pretty hilarious, all because of an off-the-cuff, passionate warning issued by the victim’s brother. You’ve probably heard the catchphrase already, “Hide your kids, hide your wife, they rapin’ urrbody out here.” (Turns out it sounds great auto-tuned too! And you can “turn on the captions to sing along!”) But as Hortense points out on Jezebel , enjoying the video comes with complications. For one, as Antoine Dodson told the news station  in a follow-up interview about his sudden viral fame , he wasn’t trying to be an Internet star, he was trying to threaten the man who tried to rape his sister. Oh yeah, remember? SOMEONE TRIED TO RAPE HIS SISTER. In a matter of days, the actual attempted crime has taken second stage to the comic appeal of a gay man from the projects running his mouth to the news camera.

As Hortense smartly writes: “Perhaps the creepiest part of the local coverage, however, is the fact that Kelly Dodson’s attack is secondary to the viral video angle: an attempted rapist is still on the loose, but that doesn’t seem to be as important as noting how WAFF had a hand in creating an internet superstar. There’s also several references to “people like Antoine,” and the reporter doesn’t seem to realize the underlying subtext of such language while she pats herself on the back for being a crusader against censorship.”

Unsurprisingly, this isn’t the only news segment to come out of Alabama that’s subtly banked on the “entertainment value” of lower-class blacks while upholding the noble guise of presenting an earnest news story. A few years ago there was a local news story out of Mobile, Alabama that also became a viral sensation, it was about some blacks who thought they saw a leprechaun and started digging for gold around town . News worthy? Nope. Deliberately exploitative? Sure seems like it.