With the season of the grifter and accusations that Jussie Smollett may have staged a hate crime against himself fresh on our minds, it's clear we can't get enough of a good hoax (alleged or otherwise). To sate our appetites, here are four of pop culture's best grifters, cheaters, liars, and hoaxes.
Justin Bieber and the Sideways Burrito
When everyone, even the leader of the free world, uses Twitter to launch typo-laden vitriol, it's almost a relief when the entire internet can forge ahead, together, and take a stand against injustice. On October 25, 2018, injustice was thrust upon the digital sphere in photographic form: an image of Justin Bieber, alone on a park bench, tearing into a burrito, middle-first. The photo was picked up by multiple outlets, all dumbstruck by the epicurean quirk of the Canadian pop star. Alas, the photo turned out to be a fake—nothing more than a lookalike staged by the YouTube channel YesTheory who came clean in a video that is, for some reason, 12 minutes long.
We Fooled the Internet w/ Fake Justin Bieber Burrito Photo www.youtube.com
This hoax has it all. Regular couple desperate for attention? Check. Exploitation of a small child in hopes of a reality TV deal? Check. A rogue 20-foot, saucer-shaped helium balloon? Check. County-wide search and rescue effort that included a Black Hawk helicopter? Check. A six-year-old boy accidentally blowing his parents' cover on live TV? Check. That same boy vomiting not once, but twice, also on live TV? But, of course.
On the afternoon of October 15, 2009, people across the country watched as a homemade flying saucer drifted over the greater Denver area. At approximately 11:00 that morning, self-proclaimed UFO enthusiast Richard Heene had accidentally launched the transportation device prototype from his Fort Collins backyard without realizing, he claimed, that his six-year-old son, Falcon (ok, maybe his kid's name should have been the first red flag), had climbed aboard. National television outlets covered the flight live, and viewers watched for hours as the balloon made its way to an empty field near Denver International Airport at 2:00pm—with no trace of Falcon. At 4:00pm, as Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden announced to news media that a recovery effort was underway, one of his deputies informed him that the boy had been found. Falcon claimed he had been playing in the family's garage
During a live interview on CNN that evening, Wolf Blitzer asked Falcon why he hadn't left the garage as people called his name. When he didn't immediately reply, his father stepped in, repeating the question, to which a confused-looking Falcon responded, looking at Heele, "You guys said that we did it for a show." After another 24 hours of non-stop media interviews and continuous denials, scrutiny over the veracity of family's story grew. Days later, Sheriff Alderdan confirmed the hoax theory, and Heele and his wife later confessed to orchestrating the entire story.
"Another Winner!" - Dave ManningNetflix
David Manning's Film Reviews
You may not remember Rob Schneider's cinematic triumph, The Animal (consider yourself lucky), but David Manning of Connecticut's The Ridgefield Press deemed it "Another Winner!" From 2000-2001, Manning was Columbia Pictures' biggest fan: his raves appeared on posters and ads for their films A Knight's Tale, Hollow Man, and The Forsaken. The problem? No one named David Manning worked at The Ridgefield Press, and the reviews from which his quotes were clipped didn't exist.
While reporter John Horn was investigating the world of movie junket journalism, he noticed that none of the reporters regularly on the circuit knew Manning. Horn decided to contact The Ridgefield Press. No one at the small weekly had ever heard of Manning, let alone published anything under his byline. In a June 2001 story for Newsweek, Horn revealed that Manning was the creation of a marketing executive at Sony, Columbia Pictures' parent company, who had fabricated the quotes.
Sony pulled the ads, but insisted that their right to publish them was protected by the First Amendment. Yet when moviegoers filed a lawsuit against the studio, a Los Angeles judge rejected the free speech defense. Sony was ordered to pay a $1.5 million settlement—and agreed to a $5 refund for any dissatisfied customers who saw certain films hyped by Manning—and the executive's identity was never made public.
Speaking of MTV Spring Break 1998, you can't possibly forget Springer Break when Dave's roommate confesses to hooki… https://t.co/ScTv9NbO9Z— Busted Coverage (@Busted Coverage)1489518422.0
MTV's Springer Break 1998
Because it took place during the infancy of the internet, this one requires some backstory. Back in the late '80s and early aughts, MTV relocated from its NYC headquarters to any place with a beach for an entire week. From there, the network would dedicate a week's worth of programming to 8-hour/day live broadcasts of drunk and horny college-age kids dancing, partying, and generally making asses out of themselves on national television. It was called MTV's Spring Break and it was a beautiful, hot mess.
In addition to musical performances, and, uh, fashion shows, Springer Break, a collegiate version of The Jerry Springer Show, was a staple. Springer Break was markedly more dramatic than its host's regular "tasteless talk show." There was something almost painfully salacious about these younger participants, seemingly plucked from an audience of average campus kids, sitting in shorts and spaghetti-straps with the ocean at their backs and the angry sea air whipping at their faces as they confessed "roommate secrets."
Things got very heated during one such segment of "Roommate Confessions," when roommates Matt and Dave got into a fistfight after Matt revealed that he had been sleeping with Dave's girlfriend, Caitlin, who was conveniently seated between the two right there on the Springer Break stage. Tensions were so high that producers insisted the two men leave the set separately.
Yet just as swiftly as their fists flew, Matt, Dave, and Caitlin—three friends from Georgetown University—quickly confessed that it was nothing but a ruse to "get on TV, have fun, whatever." This may seem inconsequential in a post-Catfish, deepfake, "alternate facts" world, but at the time, it was a huge deal. That three, ordinary kids from Long Island, NY could bamboozle one of the biggest names in daytime TV was as audacious as it was inspiring.
Rebecca Linde is a writer and cultural critic in NYC. She tweets about pop culture and television @rklinde.
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Dante Basco Talks About His New Role on "Artificial" and the New Frontier of Interactive Storytelling
Basco talks about his upcoming project and his status as an Asian-American icon, Rufio in "Hook."
Now in its third season, Artificial, the first live scripted audience-interactive sci-fi series on Twitch, has invited actor Dante Basco to be a guest star.
The plot of Artificial focuses on the challenges and consequences of humanizing a self-aware AI —reminiscent of the film Ex Machina, but with the interactivity of the Netflix series Bandersnatch. The episode structure pivots between two different formats: world-building episodes where the audience coordinates with the showrunner to determine what will happen next, followed by story episodes where their decisions are brought to life. A real AI component called LifeScore also changes the music of the show in real time based on the mood of the chatroom, adding an additional layer of interactivity to the experience.
Basco has been a fan of Artificial creator and showrunner Bernie Su's work for several years, and he closely followed his previous projects like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and Emma Approved. Su was even featured as the keynote speaker at the February 2016 meeting of We Own the 8th, an arts collective founded by Basco to support and guide Asian American creatives. Both Basco and Su had been looking for an opportunity to collaborate for some time, but it wasn't until the pandemic that they finally got the chance to work together. When Su asked him if he would be interested in joining the third season—produced entirely remotely—Basco jumped at the opportunity.
The PlayStation 1 era of video games, lasting from 1995 until the PlayStation 2's release in 2000, was defined by its JRPGs.
Unlike most other genres of the era, Japanese role-playing games were largely story-based, weaving epic tales that proved video games could be more than just mindless diversions. Gameplay typically revolved around turn-based combat, relying more on tactics than hand-eye coordination. Due to their reliance on plot and menu-based mechanics, many JRPGs stand the test of time even after decades of graphical improvements. Let's take a look at nine of the best JRPGs that the PS1 had to offer.
Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy 8, and Final Fantasy 9<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjgxMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MTUyOTk2M30.e05q_Fr-JXf46sYXCv2P0gzFJ_PPmuqSIaxHG3-5Akg/img.jpg?width=980" id="dfc99" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8a3f28c9c4dec7e8fea12d81237bdfb0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Final Fantasy 7" />
Square Enix<p>Let's just get the obvious out of the way first. <em>Final Fantasy 7</em>, <em>Final Fantasy 8</em>, and <em>Final Fantasy 9</em> rank amongst the most beloved games history. <em><a href="https://www.popdust.com/how-final-fantasy-vii-remake-redefines-what-a-remake-can-be-2645973706.html" target="_blank">Final Fantasy 7</a> </em><a href="https://www.popdust.com/how-final-fantasy-vii-remake-redefines-what-a-remake-can-be-2645973706.html">redefined what a video game could be for an entire generation of gamers</a>, while <em>Final Fantasy 8 </em>and <em>Final Fantasy 9</em> took big risks, shifting their game mechanics enough to feel completely distinct from every other game that came before them and overshadowing pretty much every other game on the PS1. If you like video games in general, all three of these are must-plays. If you've already played them, they most likely rank amongst your favorites already.</p>
Lunar 2: Eternal Blue<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjgxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTcxMTEzMX0.RHOv48sXCc4tJrqp190WdWdOSybNaTCo-eds-zLpcxA/img.jpg?width=980" id="378f9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1932ee8092fe2272ca693bf8319991d4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Lunar 2 Eternal Blue" />
Entertainment Software<p>Featuring fantastic character designs, full-blown anime cutscenes, and one of the best soundtracks in any video game ever, <em>Lunar 2: Eternal Blue </em>easily deserves far more recognition than it gets. <em>Lunar 2</em>'s gameplay is classic RPG perfection, with each party members' play style feeling incredibly distinct (one of them is a gambler, and his best move hinges on a dice roll). It also had a <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Lunar-Eternal-Complete-Official-Strategy/dp/0966299337" target="_blank">gorgeous hardcover guidebook</a> that would run you a few hundred dollars if you were to buy it nowadays.</p>
The Legend of Dragoon<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjgyMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTk1MzA5OH0.2mlVO0qY1KYgdCCqyl1zgkhgEsZ2OaMcKH1i9YF51cE/img.jpg?width=980" id="82d26" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e102d36c0b23d3d3321496d73a1153dd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Legend of Dragoon" />
Sony<p>Culturally eclipsed by the release of <em>Final Fantasy 8</em>, <em><a href="https://www.popdust.com/video-games-remakes-2646360023.html" target="_blank">Legend of Dragoon </a></em><a href="https://www.popdust.com/video-games-remakes-2646360023.html">never achieved the mainstream success of its contemporary</a>, but nevertheless picked up a cult following that sings the games praises even to this day. Alongside a great story, the best part about <em>Legend of Dragoon</em> was its Dragoon Transformation mechanic, whereby your characters could temporarily transform into legendary winged warriors with enhanced move-sets and powerful special attacks.</p>
Xenogears<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjgyNy9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Mzk1NTUzOX0.VqokfSxeeZ_nAtZWXgJSAXwd3tdE0iPXv9wkPte92NQ/img.png?width=980" id="d95b8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="433b7414dcc9a4e392d26c5c0b4e8a45" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Xenogears" />
Square Enix<p><em>Xenogears </em>was the spiritual predecessor to the <em>Xenosaga </em>and <em>Xenoblade </em>games, meaning that it's all about two things: anime and robots. Okay, that's simplifying things a lot. In actuality, <em>Xenogears</em>' plot is amongst the deepest and most complex in any video game, even standing out amidst a genre that prioritizes storytelling. If you like great video game storytelling, there are few games that will ever even come close to <em>Xenogears</em>.<br></p>
Suikoden 2<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjgzMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNDc2OTMxMn0.Jfpuiv6GrqlYsj0O4QG-bAXgqhV7BjTM_LnlkilzbRw/img.jpg?width=980" id="d2c99" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bd841af76e17ce0d8d2759209b61900f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Suikoden 2" />
Konami<p>While <em>Suikoden 2 </em>didn't make a huge splash upon its release, many JRPG fans retrospectively consider it the single-best title of its era. The <em>Suikoden </em>franchise's big gimmick is that, instead of having a roster of five to 10 playable characters, your character roster clocks in at 108. <em>Suikoden 2 </em>makes great use of the variation in its characters, resulting in a game that can be played over and over again in countless different ways. The old-school, 32-bit graphics, which worked against it at the time of its release, have also served to make <em>Suikoden 2</em> game look a lot better than its 3D contemporaries all these years later. As a side note, if you like <em>Suikoden</em>, be sure to check out the <a href="https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rabbitandbearstudios/eiyuden-chronicle-hundred-heroes/description" target="_blank">Kickstarter for its spiritual successor,</a> <em><a href="https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/rabbitandbearstudios/eiyuden-chronicle-hundred-heroes/description">Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes</a></em>.</p>
Persona 2: Eternal Punishment<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjgzNi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMjg2MzY3M30.J7NW173dRiHByU2pR8CpIuzmV0Dp0EIAa5wY5jjft1g/img.png?width=980" id="fa0bd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9ec9fc90447cfff8b1dc940aabd48048" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Persona 2 eternal punishment" />
Atlus<p>Technically the third <em>Persona </em>title, <em>Persona 2: Eternal Punishment </em>is the sequel to <em>Persona 2: Innocent Sin</em>. <em></em><em>Eternal Punishment</em> improves upon its predecessor's unique gameplay mechanics, specifically the rumor-based system wherein rumors spread throughout the city, changing how your character interacts with other people. This would go on to heavily influence the mechanics of future <em>Persona </em>titles. And yet, unlike the later <em>Persona </em>games, <em>Eternal Punishment</em>'s deeply unsettling art style is still in the same vein of the series it spun off from—<a href="https://www.popdust.com/shin-megami-tensei-2646445668.html" target="_blank">Shin Megami Tensei</a>.<span></span></p>
Final Fantasy Tactics<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyNjg0NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzg4ODc0NH0.CHSi48sL_MHNXOGzLKXUAlgarEWmrTPfPr8d8PfUhMM/img.jpg?width=980" id="f0688" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4b36f1c1829d0676b59995068ba6a181" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Final Fantasy Tactics" />
Square Enix<p>While traditional JRPG combat relies solely on menu-based battle options, Tactical RPGs add on grid-based positioning wherein your units must move around a battlefield in order to confront opponents. These games also typically feature perma-death mechanics, so if a unit dies, they die forever. There have been plenty of great Tactical RPGs over the years, but none have surpassed <em>Final Fantasy Tactics</em>, which boasts an incredible story <em>and </em>the single-coolest unit in any game of its genre—<a href="https://finalfantasy.fandom.com/wiki/Cidolfus_Orlandeau" target="_blank">Thunder God Cid</a>.<em></em></p>