It showed up in my feed as Hurricane Irma grew in power and potency, as I sent hurried messages to friends in South Florida, Atlanta, and Charleston. A friend of yours is interested in an event, Facebook dutifully reported. It's called "Shoot at Hurricane Irma." Would you like me to put you down as interested, too? The accompanying photo depicted a stern-faced man aiming an old-timey coach gun to the sky, seemingly ready for a war with the wind.
As I scrolled down, more pages in the same genre continued to pop up. Naruto Run in Category 5 Winds. Throw hands at Hurricane Irma. Some even offered mock solutions: Everybody Point Your Fans at the Hurricane to Blow it Away.
As the impending disaster barrels down on the southern shores of the US, residents are turning to an unlikely source for comfort: ironic event pages. While other, less serious pseudo-apocalypses have inspired a similar gold rush (perhaps you recall the supposed Mayan-inspired collapse of December 2012, which inspired raucous parties and little else) this Irma-inspired fare eclipses even those in sheer volume, if not imagination.
"Living in Florida, there's always some disaster or weird-ass event," says Sabriel, who created the Throw hands at Hurricane Irma page, which currently lists 7,500 "attendees." (Sample from the page: "I have stuff to do. I don't have time for this storm nonsense.") "People make memes of such things, like the bath salts/zombies thing. That was a joke for a good two years. I felt like making a light-hearted joke about literally fighting the hurricane."
Jack, the creator of Spinning your arms really fast to push away Hurricane Irma (9,200 people currently RSVP'd "going"), echoes that sentiment. "I saw an event that was like, 'Naruto-Run Down I-95,'" he says, referring to the exaggerated, arms-behind-the-back sprint of the eponymous anime protagonist. "I thought, 'That's a terrible idea, but that's really damn funny.'" Everyone's been really great about posting on the event page and commenting. I never expected this to get so big, but I'm glad."
While some might find these jokes to be in poor taste, given the destruction already wrought and the lives lost in the Caribbean and elsewhere, the authors of the pages say they're just trying to make the best of a bad situation. Most are in the direct path of the storm—Jack is in Sarasota, on the West Coast of Florida, while Sabriel lives a few minutes from the beach.
"I'm gonna ride it out, regardless of how bad it gets," says Jack. "I'm definitely not going for dark humor. I mean we're talking about spinning your arms around like a windmill to generate winds strong enough to try to push away a storm the size of the peninsula. If that doesn't sound absurd, I don't know what is.
"I think the point of making these pages is to cope, especially as the storm gets closer," Jack continues. "People need an outlet to relieve tension, and what better way than to make light of natural disasters that could end up destroying everything you know, right?"
Sabriel concurs. "My humor is largely at my own expense, and I feel a lot of people in my generation have similar taste in that," she says, adding that she hasn't "received any hate for it, so far."
Overall, the event pages have enjoyed unqualified success, with the biggest drawing tens of thousands of pageviews, posts, and counter-memes, some rising to top of popular subreddits like r/NotTheOnion. Still, for Ryon, the co-creator of Shoot Irma, the main takeaway has nothing to do with the hurricane itself.
"There were some pretty great memes thrown together," Ryon tells me. "But, overall, I'd say the most interesting thing was seeing and realizing that a lot of my fellow Floridians are armed to the teeth."
Appropriately enough, he ends the message with a "lol."
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