Internet Classico #2 – Slip on grapes and crush dignity? No.

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.

Sources used in this article include Know your meme & complex 

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Marc is busy defining the word idiot, which is handy because that is how he is generally referenced by people. He writes. He does a couple of comic characters. He is also what you might call a sit-down stand-up - if you can call 'sitting down' falling asleep.

1 Comment

  • If she would have just owned this fall she could have harnessed it to do a bunch of different, fun things. I’m sure Tosh.0 would love to have her on for a berry stomping contest, for instance. If she could allow herself to relive that moment and laugh at herself for just a small interview, she could ride the fame. It would probably do wonders for her psyche as well: It doesn’t sound like she likes being remembered for this. Hiding from the fame that this has created just makes the monster bigger! There is a reason this is one of the first internet memes: People love their schadenfreude! And of course people want to know what happened to her. That’s why I’m here!

    Also, I gotta say that really don’t believe that “Totally Real Expose” interview is real. Read the whole interview and you’ll also think that a high school student is trying far too hard to be funny. If it is a real interview, the person doing the interview should have his ribs broken on live television to see how he deals with it. Not being able to breathe is one of the more pleasant results of that super-fun experience. Moving – even if only to straighten your leg – will cause sharp, shooting pains that you can hardly believe is within the limits of human endurance. You pray that the next time someone bumps you or elbows you in the chest you pass out instead of having to go through the animalistic panic that only an extraordinary amount of pain can cause. The network is lucky expletives weren’t used when she fell! That would have been the first of many colorful responses out of me!

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