Someone’s pain is someone’s gain? No, not really. This lady deserves an appropriately pinned medal and some requisite royalties.
“Am I embarrassed that I fell? Of course. I also broke a couple of ribs, thanks for asking. I had to spend a few weeks in the hospital under observation. I suffered quite a bit for an honest mistake, a momentary lapse in concentration, and now I’m trying to move on.”
That is reporter Melissa Sander recalling her 1998 slip while broadcasting for MyFox Atlanta (part of Fox 5) News; the quote is sourced from the syndicated internet/radio show, Totally Real Expose in 2008. This was ten years after the incident occurred.
The reportage blooper genre is one of YouTube’s most watched and if you were selecting a fine example you could have many feisty arguments with those who care about this stuff – this column is called Internet Classico after all. Few bloopers are as referenced as ‘Grape Lady’. An incident that occurred in 1998 – that made Internet publication in 2004 – that in 2014 still receives around 20,000 views a week; and has amassed well over 45,000,000 total views based on a rudimentary count. By YouTube nomenclature, this clip is MONEY. Melissa broke ribs, that is painful. So what is compelling?
As an internet video, this has everything : Capture of live television, a rural setting, two un-controversial protagonists, a calm sunny day, a soundtrack (difficult to tell if it was music from the event or if someone in the studio was mixing music into the live feed), and surely an A+ of an idyllic premise for making inoffensive daytime television. You watch and wait, the conversation between the players is easy, this is a candy floss cameo. Then a magic mix of a little cheeky cheating, a visual premonition of what might happen, the fulfilling of the premonition, and the dramatic effect of the fixed lens capturing nothing except the now characterless setting with the continuing soundtrack while the microphone broadcasts the “sonic signature of the end of life”. The convoluted reaction of the studio anchors. This happened live, and it was raw. I remember laughing at the video and possibly replaying it several times when I saw it. I’ve laughed when it’s been recounted by friends several times since.
Melissa made a sound that has become a meme. How many sound meme’s are there that can be recalled instantly? D’oh. If I tried words to describe it – it’s the sound of a lady falling on her throat while struggling to breath through lungs which have been wrapped tightly around a jagged collarbone that’s come up through her mouth. With a hangover. Ouch. Take that sound, with an empty shot of an idyllic scene and a soundtrack which seems oddly inaccurate and yet not out of place – and you have the patented ‘Tarantino’ formula.
As a compelling internet story, something isn’t quite right. There is no…justice.
By the time of the 2008 interview – Melissa Sanders still hadn’t been able to come to terms with her long trip… ‘now I am trying to move on‘. She may be bitter; in the video she is barely recognizable and there is plenty of Internet digging effort to find her and it seems many have tried. The real internet story here is that her life was changed a lot; and the transients do not echo resonantly as a happy chamber of joy due to absence of facts and acceptance.Melissa altered career direction by becoming an accredited TV meteorologist and moving to Albany, New York – and now today, she is ‘incredibly difficult to track down and does not (unless she has changed identity) continue to work in media’. The mystery grows with Internet citations of winery employees claiming that she was not hurt seriously at all (no broken ribs) and that it was a ‘production decision’ to remove the protective railings on the dais for shot integrity purposes. You still have millions of people laughing at something, watching it on replay, and thousands still commenting on it even today, and spoofs are still being produced.
Can all of that change a life? More talented writers than me will continue to write at length about what makes us laugh at misfortune. I’ll leave that alone. Melissa made a genuine pained sound that created a meme, strong enough to be referenced on both 30 Rock and family Family Guy. The video is a landmark of viral Internet content.
I’d say to Melissa this is your legacy to own. Accept it and take what’s yours. The YouTube comments? I have yet to see one YouTube comment go down as a piece of media history, or go viral or to be referenced as a time when people learned to laugh about something being shared on the Internet. I do see a lot of the same old sameness though.
Melissa, your dignity is intact. I hope you smile about it and come back. As for the bloggers that try to track you down; tell them to suck grapes.
As always, let us know what you think in the comments below.