In 2017, artifice and irony are foregone conclusions -- which isn't to say that a "Leave Britney Alone!"-type outburst couldn't have blown up these past few months, just that we're far less inclined to indulge this mode of confessional as potentially authentic. And this ambiguity was an undeniable factor of Crocker's allure in that moment. He was a pioneer of the online personal brand, which, as anybody on Instagram knows, has more to do with fantasy than reality.
Meanwhile, people began to identify another important engine of virality: cuteness dosed with a hint of the bizarre. We saw, in 2007, the debut of two legendary videos that traded on this formula. The first was "The Landlord," a short comedic film in which Will Ferrell is bullied and threatened by his foul-mouthed, alcoholic, toddler landlord Pearl, played by the adorable, wobbly daughter of filmmaker Adam McKay, who fed her the abusive lines from off-camera, which premiered on the brand-new site Funny or Die. The second, "Keyboard Cat," is a 1984 clip of a cat named Fatso being manipulated into pawing a jaunty synthesizer jingle that was soon repurposed as a meme to play people off following an unfortunate gaffe.