Brad’s Wife: Meme or Meaningful?

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Six words launched a million memes.

It’s been nearly a month, and the arc of outrage/comedy caused by Brad’s simple tweet to his local Cracker Barrel is beginning to fade.

What started as plaintive anguish incited a social media flash mob of lunacy and wisecracking one upmanship that dominated social media, late night television, and human interest news stories.

As the comi-controversy raged, a lot of us wondered “How is Cracker Barrel not responding to this?” Each day brought new, ever more outrageous swipes at their expense (a personal favorite? The ’employees’ heading on Cracker Barrel’s Wikipedia page briefly read “not Brad’s wife”), yet corporate remained mum.

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To people in the digital world, this makes no sense. Then again, in most self-referencing ad circles, electing the president we did also makes no sense.

The fact is, as much we may care about Twitter and Facebook sentiment, Cracker Barrel’s core audience isn’t that engaged. Add to that corporate’s legal restrictions against responding and the intrinsic, no-win “big bad guy vs. little good guy” set up of the story, and not responding proves the wisest course.BradsWife3

We’re starting to see patterns with these social media firestorms. With a nonexistent cost of entry for expressing outrage, the masses pile on, making them burn white hot. But they cool just as quickly, fading into a dependably regular series of outrageous incidents to dominate a few news cycles before the circus moves on.

If you think of Brad’s wife as an actual human being instead of a punchline, you empathize. But in the popular mind, she doesn’t even have a first name. In the end, the inciting incident is just too small to leave long-lasting damage on Cracker Barrel. To bastardize Macbeth, this should prove yet another tale told by idiots, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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